Friday, May 13, 2005
Arbitrary but fun, volume IV
Five or six years ago I went to a University of Illinois hockey game. The visiting team took the ice first—I believe they were called “the visitors”—to the tune of the theme from Doctor Zhivago. “Ha ha,” I said to myself. “So Illinois attempts to demoralize its opponents by having them take their pregame warmup to music associated with figure skaters. Music for swirly-men. How emasculating. Ha ha ha.” But then Illinois took the ice—to the theme from Rocky III, also known as “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor.
At first I was merely embarrassed for Illinois, but on further reflection, I thought what a nightmare this would be if I were playing for Illinois. It’s not merely that I don’t like “Eye of the Tiger,” or that I think of it as practically an unwitting parody of “motivational” music. That much is true; anyone who wants to get me going by playing “Eye of the Tiger” might just as well subject me to a series of motivational posters featuring pictures of golf courses, mountains, hang gliders, and so forth. No, the problem for me would go deeper than that; it’s a visceral, not an intellectual, matter. “Eye of the Tiger” would actually derange my hand-eye coordination and turn my quadriceps to paste. There is no way I could play hockey after hearing such a song. In fact, even thinking about the song right now is messing with my fine motor apparatus and leading me to make all kinds of uncharatceristic typograhpical mitsakes.
However, “Eye of the Tiger” is not the worst sports-motivational song in the world. There is, in fact, a rich vein of crappy sports-motivational songs, the very worst of which is the Albert Hammond/ John Bettis travesty, “One Moment in Time,” commissioned by NBC for the 1988 Olympics. “Give me one moment in time/ When I’m more than I thought I could be/ When all of my dreams, they’re a heartbeat away/ And the answers, they’re all up to me.” Belted out at 110 dB by Whitney Houston, of course, to music at once turgid and grandiose. You know the Olympic creed—citius, altius, fortius, right? Faster, higher, stronger? Well, if you wanted to make Olympic athletes slower, lower, and weaker, you couldn’t do better, better, better than to write “One Moment in Time.” It’s the kind of song that would make even the great Edwin Moses stumble, fall, and crawl off into the nearest Barcalounger (no wonder Moses picked up only a bronze in the 400m hurdles in Seoul). Thanks, Messrs. Hammond and Bettis. Way to go, guys.
Then there are people who try to psych themselves up by playing Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” which strikes me as not merely counterproductive but very possibly pathological.
Now, if I’m going to listen to something to keep the senses sharp and get some adrenaline into the system five minutes before taking the ice, I’m going to listen to the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong.” I’m just saying. I understand that this is a deeply personal matter, so I won’t be prescriptive about what constitutes good warmup music. But maybe we can generate some suggestions as to which songs should be banned from all athletic competitions, or depictions or reproductions thereof, for the rest of recorded time. I’ll open with “Eye of the Tiger,” “One Moment in Time,” and “In the Air Tonight.” You folks can take it from there.