They're the solid performers who don't get their due. So we now salute a handful of songs that capture assorted sports, personalities, eras and endeavors with hooks, style and wit. We're interested to know which tunes you'd add to the pile and which ones you think are played out. Anyone had enough of "Enter Sandman" and "YMCA"?
1. Fisticuffs, Primus (1997)
Les Claypool's evocative paean to the glory days of bareknuckle boxing, with a cast of memorable characters such as James (Yankee Sullivan) Ambrose, Hammer Lane and the Butcherman. Lilly and McCoy were shy of a hundred and forty pounds/In 1842 they went 118 rounds/They begged McCoy to cash it in, he said that he would not/Got up and fought one more round then died right on the spot. Ouch.
2. Cricket, the Kinks (1973)
A charming allegory about life from the band's obscure gem "Preservation Act I," in which Ray Davies warns of the rude, shrewd Demon Bowler who is out to take your wicket by baffling you with googlies, leg breaks and offspin. And you know that that's not cricket.
3. Hockey Monkey, the Zambonis (1999)
It's hard to beat little kids, a pond and a chimp with a hockey stick on a joyful romp while teachers and the National Guard search high and low for them. From the Connecticut-based hockey nuts who also gave you "Bob Marley and the Hartford Whalers."
4. Basketball Jones, Cheech & Chong (1973)
Tyrone Shoelaces exhorts the whole stadium to stand while George Harrison wails away on lead axe in a band that also featured Carole King and the late Billy Preston. C'mon everybody, sing with Tyrone: Yes, I am the victim of a basketball jones/Ever since I was a little baby, I always be dribblin'/In fac', I was de baddest dribbler in the whole neighborhood.
5. The Lonesome Kicker, Adam Sandler (1997)
A sidesplitting epic about that diminutive sideline outcast who usually gets the blame but not enough of the glory. But I kick that ball/And I pray it goes straight/If it does, the coach says "Good job, number 8"/He doesn't even know my name is Andre Kristacovitchlalinski Jr./But that's the life I live.
6. Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?, Buddy Johnson (1949)
Joltin' Joe DiMaggio had his anthem in 1941, and Count Basie's version of Johnson's ode to Robinson is cool and smooth like the song's namesake. Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?/It went zoomin cross the left field wall/Yeah, boy, yes, yes/Jackie hit that ball.
7. Basketball, Kurtis Blow (1984)
Before Shaquille O'Neal became Shaq Fu, Kurtis Blow struck a union between hoops and music with his catchy anthem "Basketball." The lyrics are somewhat simple -- Basketball is my favorite sport/I like the way they dribble up and down the court -- but any song that references Ralph Sampson, Bill Russell and Daryl Dawkins is OK with us.
8. The Crusher, the Ramones (1995)
From the makers of that energetic arena standby "Blitzkrieg Bop" comes a song about a cowardly wrestler who chickens out rather than be torn limb from limb by the Russian Bear.
Everyone's a critic, including us, so we've taken a crack at picking the 10 greatest sports songs of all time, judging them entirely on their merits as music. Some were written specifically about sports, others have acquired their power by association, but all make for good listening even when you're not at a game -- which is why we've nixed Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
Arguably the greatest sports song by dint of its longevity, familiarity and popularity, "Take Me Out..." has been croaked by Harry Caray, butchered by Ozzy and warbled by crowds everywhere since Jack Norworth took 15 minutes to scribble the words in 1908 and Albert Von Tilzer tacked on a melody. But do you really want to hear it when you're not standing with a head full of warm, flat ballpark suds in the middle of the seventh inning? Didn't think so.
So here's our Top 10 countdown. Feel free to agree, argue or add your own.
10. My Old Kentucky Home, Stephen Foster (1853)
If you don't get dewy-eyed during the post parade for the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May, either the ponies have yet to Hoover your wallet or your heart is missing. For those who've blown the rent money by the fourth race, there's Randy Newman's curdled version (Brother Gene is big and mean and he don't have much to say).
9. Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, Alan Courtney and Ben Homer (1941)
The hit version by Betty Bonney, backed by the Les Brown Orchestra, swings as sweetly as the Yankee Clipper did during the 56-game hitting streak that inspired the song.
8. Glory Days, Bruce Springsteen (1984)
This rockin' ode to better days gone by is still as infectious as athlete's foot.
7. Centerfield, John Fogerty (1985)
A No. 1 hit that's as crisp and sunny as a day on the diamond. This song benched Terry Cashman's Talkin' Baseball as THE modern standard. You can smell the cut grass and pine tar whenever you hear it.
6. Bugler's Dream, Leo Arnaud (1958)
Better-known as Olympic Fanfare, the horn-and-tympani intro to The Charge Suite is all stirring pomp and circumstance. Updated and embellished by Star Wars composer John Williams for the 1984 Summer Games, it truly conjures the magnitude of the occasion and rivals Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man for sheer infectious grandiosity.
5. Winners, Joe Raposo (1973)
Recorded by Frank Sinatra for his Old Blue Eyes Is Back album, this is the epitome of class -- Ali in Madison Square Garden, Lombardi at Lambeau. Here's to the winners, lift up the glasses/Here's to the glory still to be. Brilliant!
4. Gonna Fly Now, Bill Conti (1976)
Of the renowned cinematic tunes, Chariots of Fire by Vangelis is a little too sleepy and now a cliché. The theme from Rocky is more accessible than the Olympic anthem, which it summons, and twice as rousing. It makes you want to drink raw eggs and run five miles while tossing jabs.
3. Sweet Georgia Brown, Freeman "Brother Bones" Davis (1925)
Hip-hop may be the official soundtrack of hoops, but no one song says "basketball" like this jaunty, finger-snapping, free-flowing masterpiece that has been the Harlem Globetrotters' theme since 1952.
2. O Canada, (Calixa Lavallee and Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier, 1880; English lyrics by Justice Robert Stanley Weir, 1908)
Yeah, it's a national anthem, but most national anthems sound like dirges and this one is lump-in-the-throat gorgeous. It summons images of gleaming ice and players on skates, heads bowed under Stanley Cup banners -- even when it's played in baseball stadiums. Lest we be accused of treason, we hereby bestow honorable mention to Ray Charles' version of America the Beautiful.
1. We Are the Champions, Freddie Mercury (1977)
Queen's bombast brilliantly captures the been-through-it-all experience of the champion and always sounds good on the radio. It's the one you reach for first after your team wins it all. The piece that precedes it (We Will Rock You) is still beating crowds to death.