A sports fan's love of playing for sports fans
Posted: Friday September 28, 2007 11:33AM; Updated: Monday October 1, 2007 4:44PM
The pedal steel guitar used to be typecast as that twangy and sometimes mournful instrument often heard in country music. Robert Randolph, 29, changed our perception. The virtuso's high-energy playing can be described as a cross between Duane Allman and Jimi Hendrix with a healthy dose of joyful funk. Randolph and his Family Band have spent this year appearing with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, the Allman Brothers Band and Dave Matthews as well as headlining their own club tour. A huge sports fan and former high school basketball player, Randolph spoke with SI.com about his love of sports just before his band took the stage for a show in New Hampshire.
On what sports mean to him:
"I'm a huge sports fan, always have been. I'm from New Jersey, so I'm a fan of the Knicks, Giants, Mets, and Rangers. I watch games every day, all day. I'll watch sports while I'm practicing guitar, with the TV volume turned down. As soon as a show's over, the band and I are on the bus watching SportsCenter. I'm really close with the owners of the Giants and Knicks, so I go to a lot of games, too. You can always find me at Giants Stadium or Madison Square Garden."
On playing high school basketball:
"I was a shooting guard at Irvington High School in New Jersey. We went to the state finals twice in the mid '90s. I played against a lot of different people like Tim Thomas, Shaheen Holloway [a big high school phenom at the time], and Terry Dehere. I played for three years -- as a freshman and then 10th and 11th grade on varsity. Then, you know how things happen...girls and music became a priority for me."
On the impact of sports on his music career:
"My band has played at the NHL All-Star Game, we did the college football theme song last year for ABC, and we've done things for the NBA. Sports has been a good outlet for us because most people who love sports are real music fans. They're not the cheesy pop fans. We always like to get in front of people in the sports world."
On the similarities between music and sports:
"There's that same kind of zone you can get in. You just get psyched up and once you get going, you feel like you're hot, that you're just good that day. In music sometimes you have those great moments and you know they're irreplaceable; it ends up being a great live recording. That's just like a great high-scoring day for an individual or team in sports."
On his most memorable sports-related concert moment:
"One time we were playing this big show in Boston in 2003 -- and this shows how crazy Boston fans are -- in the middle of the show they started screaming, "Yankees suck!" It had nothing to do with us. When a group of people get together in Boston, that's what they love to go around and chant. I'm a Mets fan, but I'm not opposed to the Yankees. I root for all the local teams."
On his proudest moment as a sports fan:
"The big point for me was when the Knicks made it to the NBA Finals in 1999 as an No. 8 seed. I got a chance to go to a lot of those big games. The Knicks are coming back this year, man. We've made some good trades this offseason and I think we're gonna make a lot of noise, surprise a lot of people. Isiah [Thomas] will make it work. I think the Knicks will definitely be in the playoffs."
On wearing jerseys on stage:
"I've been wearing jerseys at shows since like 2001. I started out wearing a Jessie Armstead jersey. He was my favorite player on the Giants at the time, a hard-nosed leader in those years, even though those were the years they weren't really that good. Then I wore Tiki Barber and [Michael] Strahan. Now I probably have hundreds of jerseys. I don't wear them as much anymore. A lot of them I autograph and aucton off."
On Barry Bonds' career home run record:
"People can say what they want to say, but he's never been caught [using steroids]. Everyone can speculate. I know a lot of people on the inside in sports. A lot of athletes cheat. Everybody's doing something. Sooner or later, they're going to be telling you that you can't eat raw eggs before games because it's high in protein and it does something for you. There's always something. So, whatever. Barry Bonds has always been great."
On being tight with athletes:
"I'm friends with a lot of different people in the sports world. I know the whole Knicks team. I've met Eli Manning, Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Jason Kidd. I love to talk about sports with them -- talk about stats and teams I hate and like. I'm in awe of them, how they play, and they're like 'Man, you can play guitar and write songs and get to tour with all these big acts'. Athletes think, 'I want to be in the music business because people in the music business are cooler.' But musicians think athletes are the coolest."