Smells Like Team Spirit

Fist-pumping, crowd-rousing, and annoying as hell, the rock soundtrack to sporting events is becoming a genre of its own

Recognizing the importance of SJR, the professional leagues are muscling into the act. The NFL, for example, produces a library of tunes it strongly suggests its teams use.

Talk about the No Fun League. Comprising 82 songs (edited down to time-out friendly lengths of no more than two minutes) and twenty "stingers," the library includes such gems as Hammer's witty line "Hammer Time" (two seconds), Bachman Turner Overdrive's epic-by-comparison "Takin' Care of Business" (which clocks in at 55 seconds), and Huey Lewis's "I Wanna New Drug" (thankfully shortened to one minute).

We understand that the purpose of SJR is not to educate, but to entertain. Still, couldn't they slip in some Liz Phair, Lou Reed, or Frank Zappa? How about a few "spoken word" excerpts from Henry Rollins? Why not support struggling local bands and play Natural Causes's "Bomb in the Shelter" when Dan Marino hooks up with Irving Fryar? (Calls to NFL headquarters were futile A a league official denied even knowing about the existence of a music library.)

Luckily for purists, there are still pockets of resistance. Chicago's Wrigley Field for example, home of the Cubs, where a controversy erupted a few years ago when they put in lights, for chrissake. There, an organist still rules, belting out acceptable ballpark ditties like "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and "La Bamba" (a song we think should only be heard through a Hammond). And closer to home, JRS employs a full-time organist for baseball games, a move we applaud even if the guy does have to share time with Gloria Estefan stingers. It's Ritchie who co-ordinates the SJR inserts with the organ tunes so neither gets stepped on. (Although a few blasts from the live keyboards couldn't hurt some of the SJR cart songs.)

Organists' intrusions aside, the handwriting is on the outfield wall. SJR is here to stay, and with the re-emergence of New Kids on the Block as a force in popular culture, the future looks bleak.

Speaking of the future, Ritchie says the next big stadium song will be Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part Two." Penned in the Seventies, the song first broke the SJR charts a few years ago via a minor-league hockey team in the Northwest. Soon, it will be everywhere.

"That's replaced 'We Are the Champions' as the quintessential get 'em going song," Ritchie says. "I defy you to go to a stadium and not hear that song at least once at some point in the game. That's the big one now."

As hard as it may be to believe, Gary Glitter and his song were actually discussed at a conference Ritchie attended earlier this year out in Salt Lake City. Attended by 175 or so stadium, arena, casino, and convention center personnel, the IDEA (short for Information Display and Entertainment Association) conference has an impact on the cultural landscape that is nearly impossible to quantify: once-stagnant singing careers may be revived, ill-advised reunion tours by long-forgotten groups may be launched, and every day millions of office workers will absent-mindedly hum cheesy melodies at water coolers around the nation.

It could be worse. If not for the surprisingly socialistic arrangement mandated by ASCAP and BMI, Kenny Loggins could be rolling in the dough.

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