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8/21/2008 02:01:00 PM

Top Five Television Sports Theme Songs

John Tesh
John Tesh will always be known for hosting "Entertainment Tonight" and creating the NBA on NBC theme song.
Gene Blevins /Getty Images
By Lang Whitaker, SI.com

On Tuesday, Hot Clicks linked to a video of John Tesh performing a live concert. Aside from the fact that it was a video OF A JOHN TESH CONCERT, it briefly allowed me to revisit the time when theme music mattered for sports on TV. These days, many networks (OK, mostly ESPN) seem to just slap some generic music on their events. But there was a time when the theme music actually added to the happenings. Here are my top five television sports theme songs...

1. The NBA on NBC -- A tour de force. At least NBC brought it back for the basketball at the Olympics.

2. The Olympics on NBC -- I know ESPN/ABC has been making noise about wanting to purchase the rights to the Olympics, but if they can't import John Williams' theme music, don't bother.

3. Monday Night Football -- An iconic tune that's stood the test of time.

Also, it crossed over into the hip-hop world, courtesy of Cam'Ron. 4. College Football on CBS -- Another great one. Though I can't really imagine Verne Lundquist getting as pumped up by the song as I do.

5. Football Night In America on NBC -- While almost everything else about NBC's coverage is overproduced, I've caught myself whistling the theme song more than once.

What's your favorite sports on TV theme song? Let us know below...

Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com
posted by SI.com | View comments |


Posted: August 21, 2008 2:40 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
For those of us above the border, nothing beats the "Hockey Night In Canada" theme...
Posted: August 21, 2008 3:32 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
what about the "Hockey Night in Canada" on CBC, now moving to TSN - that theme is so embedded in Canadians, there will be a huge loss of words across the country for the first CBC broadcast without it...I know I'll be watching TSN now so that my boy learns the song
I liked the ESPN College Gameday theme song when Bubba Sparks used to do it. I'm not a big fan of the current country version.

Also, I know hockey's not big in most of the country, but those of us lucky enough to get CBC got the Hockey Night in Canada theme, which is great.
Posted: August 21, 2008 4:08 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I know it's not big in the US but you should see all the commotion around CBC's Hockey Night in Canada theme song. The rights to the song lapsed and CBC's competitor swooped in and purchased the rights and now CBC is offering a large cash prize for whoever comes up with a theme song to replace it. CBC had used that song for 40 + years
Posted: August 21, 2008 4:21 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
the nfl on nbc theme would get me hype everytime. the olympics theme makes me want to train for the decathalon.

on a side note, if espn got the olympics. it would be a crime against sports.
Posted: August 21, 2008 4:22 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
JT Says: You know everyone from Canada is going to be rattled because you didnt mention the second national anthem..Hockey Night In Canada Theme, which doesnt surprise me because hockey doesnt really matter in America anyways
Posted: August 21, 2008 4:27 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Hockey Night in Canada on CBC was the best song ever.
Posted: August 21, 2008 4:29 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Lang I don't know one person who even knows the Olympic theme song, sounds like you're a prisoner of the moment.

C'mon the two best themes are from Fox, the NFL and Major League Baseball. College Football on CBS is third, followed by the NBA on NBC and then the NBA on TNT.
Posted: August 21, 2008 4:47 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
HNIC - The Hockey Night in Canada theme - the only them to be a high priced free agent.
I've always liked the Wimbledon theme song.
Posted: August 21, 2008 5:41 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
NBC's Wimbledon theme
Posted: August 21, 2008 5:48 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
has to be Hockey Night in Canada on CBC, now TSN I know I'll make the switch to TSN so that my son has the chance to grow up listening to that song
Posted: August 21, 2008 6:33 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
uh how about CBC's hockey night in Canada........uh only the greatest theme song ever....
Posted: August 21, 2008 7:26 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
"NFL Today" in the early seventies. Before some pinhead in the executive suite at CBS decided that the theme song needed "freshening up".
I still have a soft spot for ABC's Wide World of Sports.
It has that unique "SuperFriends" quality. As a kid, I started my Saturday Morning cartoon watching with the SuperFriends song, and would end it with this one.
Posted: August 21, 2008 8:31 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Your current crop is good, but there are some classics that have been left out.

1. ABC's Wide World of Sports - the human drama of athletic competition, with the trumpets increasing pace.
2. The Superstars (70's version) - they used the instrumental protion of "Superstar" from "Jesus Christ Superstar"
3. CBS - The NFL Today - Brent Musberger, Phyllis George, Irv Cross, and the robot player dodging their names in the 1983 intro. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vMA22xJEcQ&feature=related
4. AUGUSTA - the instrumental used as the theme music for The Masters' broadcast.
4a. Love's Theme - Love Unlimited Orchestra's instrumental used as the golf theme for ABC.
5. Meet the Mets (okay, I'm a little biased on that one)
6. The silly piano tune used on the Albert Achievement Awards.
I mean it's hard to appreciate since they are so prevalent, but FOX's NFL theme and MLB theme are terrific, especially when used at the opening of a telecast. Great energy, heavy attitude, perfect for their sports.

ESPN, for all its coverage, doesn't have any inspiring stuff now, but their old NHL theme was awesome.

Finally, a sentimental favorite of mine is the old NFL on CBS theme, a tune that brings back memories of Summerall and Madden doing a Cowboys/49ers game.
Posted: August 21, 2008 10:05 PM   by Anonymous Bill West
How about the sound of the trumpets of the theme song of "ABC's Wide World of Sports", which seemed to come to a climax as the ski jumper 'crashed and burned'. ABC seemed to get the hi-lite and the music together just right.
Posted: August 22, 2008 1:18 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
The Hockey Night in Canada theame song. It has been around for over 50 years and it is widely considered Canada's second national anthem
Posted: August 22, 2008 1:42 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
MLB on FOX > Sunday Night Football
Posted: August 22, 2008 2:50 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
i love the that theme song to mnf, but the real treat is hearing hank williams singing about his roudy friends.
Posted: August 22, 2008 7:27 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
"Hockey Night In Canada"!!!! The hands down best sports theme song of all time. CBC should have never let it go, it was Canada's second national anthem, but all the better for TSN now though.
Posted: August 22, 2008 8:13 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Seriously? No HNIC Theme? And the choice of the NBA on NBC as your #1? It is by far the worst on your list, and inspires nothing other than an extreme urge to change the channel. Badness. That is being kind.
Posted: August 22, 2008 8:53 AM   by Anonymous SportsGirl
The CBC's (now TSN's) Hockey Night in Canada Theme!
Posted: August 22, 2008 10:09 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
sportscenter intro song.
cheers intro song..
mash... enough said
the a.. team
wwe raw

w in austin texas
Posted: August 22, 2008 11:23 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I don't know how many of you have ever seen hockey on Canadian CBC, but that is by far the best theme song for sports. I have it downloaded as a ringtone for my phone (I'm in Detroit - HOCKEYTOWN) and everyone here always asks me where i got it.
Posted: August 22, 2008 11:28 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Hockey Night in Canada
It will be missed, but it was, quite simply the best sports theme music.
Posted: August 22, 2008 11:28 AM   by Anonymous Boris
Hockey Night in Canada is the best theme song there ever was or ever will be.
Posted: August 22, 2008 11:28 AM   by Anonymous Boris
Hockey Night in Canada is the best theme song there ever was or ever will be.
Posted: August 22, 2008 11:54 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
How can you leave off the UEFA Champions League Anthem?
Posted: August 22, 2008 12:01 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
The fact that the Hockey Night in Canada theme is not in the top 5 is an absolute travesty and you should be ashamed of this list.
Posted: August 22, 2008 12:15 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Hockey Night in Canada. End of story.
Posted: August 22, 2008 12:33 PM   by Anonymous A Kap
You forget the stately UEFA Chapions League Theme. None of the other themes are classier.
Hockey Night in Canada on the CBC!, and now unfortunately TSN, it just won't be the same
Posted: August 22, 2008 12:43 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Hockey night in Canada is our unofficial national anthem.
Posted: August 22, 2008 12:45 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
ABC's Wide World of Sports.
Posted: August 22, 2008 12:46 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
any list without the CBS NCAA basketball tournament cannot be taken seriously.
how could you leave off one shining moment?
Posted: August 22, 2008 12:48 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
CBS's The Masters theme song. As a resident of the Great White North it reminds that spring has finally arrived.
Posted: August 22, 2008 1:17 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
The "hockey night in Canada" theme on cbc for so many years--now moving to ctv
Posted: August 22, 2008 1:22 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I've always loved the them song for "This Week in Baseball." It's a timeless tune and it'll always remind me of when I was a little kid when Mel Allen narrated the show.
Posted: August 22, 2008 1:27 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Technically, they're not theme songs, but I really miss NFL Primetime on ESPN mainly for the music that accompanied the highlights. That was some great music.
Posted: August 22, 2008 2:16 PM   by Anonymous RG
Lang, being a canadian reader, and i'm sure that many will attest to what i'm going to say, we all have to say that number one to us is the hockey night in canada theme. there was a rather large uproar about it a couple of months ago when CBC (the channel that had the rights to the song and played it every saturday night) wasn't going to renew the contract to play the song and many canadians were outraged. needless to say, it is almost viewed as a canadian staple, and can be on the same boat as the canadian anthem!
Posted: August 22, 2008 2:22 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
CBS's College Basketball/March Madness theme has to be up there!
Posted: August 22, 2008 2:22 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
CBS's College Basketball/March Madness theme has to be up there!
Posted: August 22, 2008 2:35 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Anyone have a link to the Freixenet champagne radio commercial from about 10years ago that had the MNF theme song talking about "hair, relationships, or...hair"? Great spoof.
Posted: August 22, 2008 3:02 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
HNIC now at TSN is the greatest theme of all
Posted: August 22, 2008 4:39 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I know this is Canadian and about hockey, so most readers won't know or care. But the theme song of "Hockey Night in Canada" on CBC has been around for decades, and is referred to as Canada's 2nd National Anthem. It was just bought by TSN (Canada's ESPN equivalent) after CBC failed to renegotiate the rights with the composer. Now there's a contest to replace it that's receiving national attention.
Posted: August 22, 2008 6:48 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
are you on drugs?

ABC was the one who did the Olympic theme justice

MNF 3rd??
Posted: August 22, 2008 7:01 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
CBS Sports Theme from the '70's
Fire on High by Electric Light Orchestra. Just awesome.
Posted: August 22, 2008 9:07 PM   by Anonymous indetirmanit
Mr. Whitaker, this is your #1 live. It is the best. Have you seen this?

Posted: August 23, 2008 9:55 PM   by Anonymous Matt L
Are you kidding me!?! No hockey night in Canada thats a complete overlook of the greatest sports theme song ever!
Posted: August 24, 2008 12:10 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
No Hockey Night in Canada?!?!?
Posted: August 24, 2008 4:47 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Not sure if it counts, but ESPN's College Gameday/Comin' To Your City song. Gives me chills, come on.
Posted: August 25, 2008 12:59 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
How can the NHL on ESPN theme not be on there. I miss that most about the NHL no longer being on ESPN.
Posted: August 25, 2008 7:41 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
MLB on FOX and NFL on FOX themes are far better then the Sunday Night football but probably got left off because they are very prevalent. I think this list should be ten items long because there are a lot of really good themes. Regardless NBA on NBC is absolutely and with no equivocation number 1. That much can't be argued. I get chills just listening to it sometimes. BRING BACK NBA ON NBC.

Posted: August 27, 2008 12:28 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Without a doubt, the NBA on NBC theme song is my #1. Not only is it a great song (starts off slow, and then picks up (great for intros)), but it brings up so much nostalgia when I think about the Bulls' championship runs.
Posted: August 29, 2008 12:59 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
how bout sportscenter!!!!!! i know this aint espn.com but damn who dosent know that song
Totally agree with NBA on NBC (although the full version is a bit repetitive) and any of the Williams Olympic themes (I prefer the 1988 Seoul theme to the 1984 LA theme, but that's splitting hairs). The one I think you left out is the old NFL on NBC theme, from back in the day of OJ Simpson and Bob Costas on the sidelines. Maybe it just makes me nostalgic for the good ol' days of my Buffalo Bills, but I still hum that song sometimes on game days.
Posted: August 29, 2008 1:40 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
The old CBS intro to college basetball games. The clapping that just kept building as you zoom in on the arena. It wasn't a classic G'town-Syracuse game without that intro.
Posted: August 29, 2008 3:58 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Four letters: HNIC.
Posted: September 2, 2008 8:14 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
the opening theme to mma live on espn.com is pure fire.
Posted: September 3, 2008 3:03 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
How about NBC hijacking the theme to "the Adventures of Briscoe County Junior" for Olympics coverage.
Posted: September 11, 2008 3:08 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
The HNIC is the best around....
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