Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Power of Music in Sports

Kobe Bryant sporting Lakers color Beats headphones -

Title aficionados and observant readers will notice the first word of this blog’s title is Beats. No, beats isn’t in reference to defeat in sports, or Dre’s headphones (don't worry, no copyright infringement going on here), but music.

While this is a basketball blog, it is also a platform to discuss the tunes that soundtrack our world. It sounds random; basketball and music. Did we just choose two topics we enjoy and throw them together, irregardless of how you, the reader, feels about it?

No. As surprising as it might sound, we actually know what we’re doing. The sounds on your iPod have a greater correlation to sports than you might think.

Athleticism will get players on the court, but the mental game will decide their fate. Here is where music enters the equation. The mental game begins before tip-off, when players are telling media members they need to “stay focused” and “concentrate on the task at hand.” We hear it countless times.

Players - superstitious or not - live by routines. The schedule two hours before the game is the same as the game before and will be the same as the next game. And when the camera pans to the players getting off the bus or sitting in the locker room before a game, the most common item in the room is the pair of headphones resting in their ears.

The music is everywhere. In players’ headphones on the plane or bus and blaring through the stadium sound system during warm-ups and timeouts. Go into any high school or college weight room while a team is working out and tell me what you hear. Music. Everyday people going out for a morning run grab their iPods to accompany them on the journey. Music is playing in football stadiums up until the last second before the ball is kicked. College marching bands swaying while they play the school’s fight song are the most popular people in the stands. Baseball players even get to personally select the song that is played as they walk to the plate. And you don’t think music matters in sports?

It is a mental tool. A song can make you excited, happy, focused and ready to play. The bass beats at athletes’ chests until they’re ready to unleash the athleticism bottled within. When a player listens to a song, he doesn’t have to be thinking about all the other thoughts in his head that are holding him down. The lyrics sweep out the nervousness and the doubts and instead allow the focus to be on something familiar and friendly.

The relationship between players and music is the most common combination, but I can’t neglect to touch on music’s role as it pertains to the sporting experience as a whole. Fans are human too, and get just as excited or nervous as athletes for big games. And nothing tops off a live sporting experience than listening to 20,000 fans scream and clap before tip-off while “Thunderstruck” or “Welcome to the Jungle” leads the way.

What would college football be without fight songs? What would a Yankees home win feel like without Frank Sinatra’s voice singing “New York, New York?” What would athletes do if they were left in silence with only their thoughts before a game or while walking up to the plate?

Music doesn’t define the sporting experience. Its role goes mostly unnoticed; its power being masked by its expectation. But as is the case with most important aspects of our lives, we would sure notice, and miss, it if it was gone.  

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