Why Music People Should Love Sports, Part 1

I have been working on this monster epic post, and it’s about to crush me! As you can guess from the title, it’s about music and sports, the two things I love just about as much as anything.* Trying to describe, let alone sell reluctant classical music types on the whole-grain goodness of sports in one blog is like trying to learn the Bach Suites in one go. I guess it’s possible, but I ain’t seen it done. So, the first in a series. Some serious, some not so serious. My main tenet is that sports and music have one pivotal thing in common: the place they touch inside of us. From tenderness to bravado and back again through the ridiculous, both music and sports provide us with a chance to touch upon the staggering potential for human goodness.

Exhibit A: Sports can be really silly.

I love mascots. There is something really great about knowing there’s a grown man or woman in an oversized suit, freaking out all over the place just to make you laugh. Piney, Stanford’s mascot, is hilarious. Although the whole Stanford band is notoriously ill mannered, it’s a test for the other teams to see if they can laugh as an 8 ft tall pine tree (sometimes a Palm, when playing an LA school) spews propaganda and takes potshots at the school through a megaphone. I can handle it because:

It’s a 19 year old dressed like a pine tree!

Here’s a close up of said tree, in a SportsCenter ad. I like how haphazardly he is thrown together.

The natural enemy of the Tree appears to be the Cal Bear.

So this is the Tampa Bay Lightning mascot, out to get people on spring break. I think I have seen this clip about 500 times. Best part is the laughing kids. And the kicking sand.

Washington Nationals thought it might be funny to have “Racing Presidents”. Here are the try outs. Watch it and try not to laugh, Mr. and Ms. Serious But I Don’t Like Sports.

Another SportCenter gem, this time with the Xavier “Blue Blob” beating Hall of Famer Jim Kelly…

So there you have it. One reason to love sports. Maybe I’ll talk the LA Chamber Orchestra into having a mascot. Sticky, the baton? MadHasset, the rogue stand? Spike, the lethal endpin? Ok I’ll stop now.

*And aviation. And cats.

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17 Responses

  1. I do love sports, although I have been soured about the effect that big money has had on sports performance. (Think A-Roid).

    Still, I have been known to catch a game on TV despite myself.

    Haven't heard of too many cellists in steroid scandals, although competition for big $$ brings out the worst in any profession, not just sports.

    Besides, cellists are professional athletes. They have the repetitive motion injuries per capita to prove it (if you rely on the stats in Sazer's book).

  2. I am absolutely with you about the steroids. Baseball is a game of stats, and I just can't see any of these guys (A Rod, Sosa, McGwire, Bonds) having a place in the Hall of Fame like Hank Aaron and Steve Carlton.

    But the thing that this series should illustrate is the sameness of the two. You're kidding yourself if you look to professional musicians to appear virtuous in comparison to sports figures. Just because the money is bigger in sports (because of a more common folks appeal) doesn't mean that the destructive combination of ego, pressure, and depravity doesn't blight the pro music world. I got into sports as a break from that part of music.

    But that's the bad stuff. And there's bad stuff to anything. My argument is that music and sports are not only equally compelling, but complementary.

    Part of this series, too, will hopefully lobby more people to the cause of classical and jazz music. Andre Rieu, of televised waltzing spectacle fame had the real take on it in an article for Strings. I'm paraphrasing, but it was something like:

    We complain that the audience is shrinking and that the art form is disappearing and yet shoot dirty looks at people who dare to clap between movements or have a good time! I say, show your enthusiasm! Make it entertaining.

    As someone who has grown up on the inside of this stuff, I can tell you that the classical community is steeped in looking down its nose at people who enjoy sports and the like. Much of that is a defense mechanism; a reaction to childhood resentments and adult neuroses. The rest, a combination of ego and ignorance. Just like sports fans who don't know anything about Beethoven and pillory those who love it.

    It's all the same! I think music could do with some good sportsmanship, and that sports could do with a touch of the Old World.

  3. There is a major difference between sports and music, and that is the structure of competition.

    Victory and the risk of defeat creates excitment, and this is part of what I am purchasing. In order for this to be real, fairness, and integrity of the rules is critical to my enjoyment of the game. Scandals in officiating as well as by players trying to obtain an unfair advantage call into question the very nature of sport. Do McGuire's home run records really matter anymore? Your post on Joe Frazier shows that boxing also suffered from a lack of integrity. Figure skating scandals show we cannot really trust a committee of experts to be unbiased, either. If we can't trust who won, why pay to watch a competition?

    While it is true that both music and sports have their "bad stuff", the corruption in sports is far more toxic because it calls into question the very outcome of what it is we went to see – athletes trying their best to win a game.

  4. I liked your other comment too! 🙂

    *whispers* I am telling you, as someone on the inside, sometimes what you purchase from musicians is just as counterfeit as a Barry Bonds steroid homer. Plenty of recording artists can't actually sing. Plenty of credited "bands" are actually studio pros who record a whole album at 1am while the lead singer is passed out on some black leather couch in Hollywood in a gin coma. I know, personally, people who have snorted coke before playing Barber Adagio for Strings in front of thousands. I have performed with "live" singers whose voice coaches are just offstage doing the real singing. I have sat next to cellists who could barely hit one note in tune and then heard them bitch and moan after the concert about the indignity of having to play Mozart again. The most talented people sometimes don't get the jobs because they pose a threat. I have lost gigs because I refused certain powerful men's advances, and seen other people soar because they accepted them. If that's not cheating, then what is? If it's not fraudulent to be on a coke high during the somber, crystalline strains of the Adagio, then what is? It looks like music. It sounds like music. Barry Bonds really did hit it out of the park. But both things are not "as advertised".

    But my point here is a larger one, and I include the cheating and bad behavior in this:

    Humans have potential. It is compelling to see what happens with that potential. Whether people win, lose, cheat, give up or give out, it is all part of the human experience, and a chance for us to see what other people who are alive at the same time that we are do with their options.

    I actually think you and I are agreeing, but you are so disappointed in the failings of the people involved that it is hard to buy into the thing they sell. I certainly understand that. I used to feel the way about the music industry.

    This series of blogs is designed to change minds, and it needs more than one post, certainly not just one about mascots with an intense comments section! I respectfully ask for a little more time, some patience, and the biggest dare of all: a truly open mind.

  5. used to feel *that* way.

    Hmm. Maybe should move to WordPress. They let you go back and edit, not just delete your comment.

  6. I thought my deleted comment was too strident.

    Anyway, while there is cheating in music, this comment is from a different angle. I was working with my kid in pitching today and realized how hard it is break pitching or hitting into a series of discrete skills. It has to be a fluid motion that might even have to change mid-motion as conditions dictate.

    sound familiar?

  7. Stride away. If I can dish, I can take. 🙂 I just keep coming back to watch the presidents running. I esp. like the little skip the winner does.

    And yes, there will be a post about how hard it is to do anything right, like draw a bow or throw a slider.

  8. I was even upset about the 'Air and Simple Gifts'. Pure fakery. The New Yorker article covered it well.

  9. For every A-Rod and Plaxico, there is a Michael Jordan, a Peyton Manning, a Tom Brady, a Kobe Bryant, a Tiger Woods. The latter are true artists. If you only pay attention to headlines and forget to watch the games then you won't see the art in thousands of immaculate receptions, earth-shattering dunks, and balletic swings.
    And I don't mind that they receive lots of money. The amount of pain these athletes play with on a daily basis is astonishing. Their careers can be severed at any time by injury. NFL linemen have a life expectancy of 50 years due to their profession and they go their entire careers unheralded by fans and media. Besides that, professional athletes are away from their families 90% of the time. They miss the births of their children, countless memories, and the deaths of their parents. Is there really a price on that? And finally, what does their salary have to do with me and my life. To me, the statement "Athletes get paid too much" is blatant jealousy.
    In summation, a few apples always spoil the bunch. Personally, I get as much excitement out of watching old footage of Jacqueline du Pre tackle Elgar as I do watching Kobe Bryant elevate into a 360 degree dunk.

  10. I've never really understood the "disgusted with an athlete's salary" argument. It's so inconsistent. The only reason people react at all is because these salaries are reported as "news". Nobody complains about do-nothing executives at successful companies. Hell, even when the companies fail and get bailed out with tax payer money, we only complain if they are given bonuses (and even then, just for a little while).

    It has become an acceptable thing to complain about player salaries and nothing could be less American. Player salaries are all about capitalism, supply and demand and the fulfillment of the American dream. In truth, some of the proudest moments I have for my country come when I see a kid from some inner-city, who never knew his father and never got a break, whose teachers wrote him off and society largely ignored, who probably had less than a 10% chance to become a successful adult climb into a car he never would have dreamed he could own and driving to a big house that he bought for his mother (who probably worked hard enough to fill two lifetimes just so her baby could have any kind of legitimate shot in this world). I mean if that ain't the dream, then I must really be missing something.

    The NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. bring in BILLIONS of dollars of revenue. Where exactly is that money supposed to be going (in a capitalist system) if not to the people that work the hardest and put their bodies on the line to bring it in?! Believe me, between the players and the fat cat owners in the luxury boxes, I know who I think should get the lion's share. I guess I'm just weird like that.

  11. The problem I have with these "musicians are just as corrupt as professional athlete" arguments is this – it's about records. There may be performances just as fake as a Barry Bonds Homer, but they don't need to go into the record books. A bad world record can taint the second place holder who really should be the first place holder.

    And there's another issue that music doesn't have – corrupt and/or "legally blind" refs that can change the outcome of a contest. I'd be hard pressed to find an analogy in the music world.

  12. It could be musicians who earn the mega-salaries, if we'd just put our advertising dollars there instead of games.

    The mega-billions of revenue comes not through live game attendance where high ticket prices are showing that prices are near a critical point in terms of their ability to bring in revenue. Rather, it comes largely from ad revenues.

    Supply and demand is not something like the weather to which we have to submit. Remember who "demand" is. It is us.

  13. ….and stilll no comments about Jefferson biting the dust? I bet other people don't want to touch this comment section with a 10 foot pole!

  14. I'll bite! (haha – get it?) I JUST saw that video, and the almost SLOW MOTION aspect of his face plant is CLASSIC! I LOVE THAT VIDEO!!!! I'm STILL smiling!

  15. It's not fair to keep pointing to baseball and then make generalizations about all sports. It's like saying "Some rock musicians destroy hotel rooms ,are addicted to drugs, and cheat on their spouses therefore, I dislike all music." It is unfortunate what has happened to baseball but I would like to add that performance enhancing drugs are not a recent occurrence. Baseball players used to take "greenies" or amphetamines for decades before drug testing. And I have to agree with Emily…sports is not about records. It's not about who wins. It's about team. It's about collaboration and creating something wonderful together. Anyone who has ever played on a team can attest to the exhilaration of those moments when everyone is working together with one mind. I would imagine it's a lot like playing in an orchestra.
    It's also about pushing yourself. Pushing your entire body to the physical breaking point while rapidly using your mind is a fantastic thing. EVERYONE should have the opportunity to do this. Playing music cannot replicate this exact experience.
    Music and sports must be allowed to coexist and they must be given equal weight.

  16. I agree with you about most of these points about teamwork and athletic beauty, Jennifer, and still feel that the integrity of the game must be preserved. Things like fairness are critical in order to have all these other things that you want to have.

    And your point about corruption in sports being eternal doesn't really help the case for sports.

    Basketball is not immune, as the Ref scandal with Daunaghy shows. Other sports may be permanently beyond repair in terms of being able to trust the outcome.

    If I pay $50 for a ticket, I want to see teamwork and beauty, too. What I won't tolerate is a farce. I can stay in the theatre district for that product.

    Sports are about more than winning, but we can't have great moments in sports unless people are willing to play by the rules. That has to come first.

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