April 4, 2007
It's a shame that only pro athletes and brides get entry music. I
think of several times when I would have liked to enter a room to the
of John Philip Sousa's "March of the Charioteers". I can think of
a few other occasions when Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage" would have been
appropriate for me. I like the whole theme music gimmick if it's
overdone. The best use of music in sports, however, is as
for game highlights. As a quasi-homage to the movie "High
here are my top five tunes for highlight music:
# 5: Fanfare for the Common Man -
Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This
was one of the first used by ABC's Wide World of Sports, a show without
there would be no Fox Sports Network or ESPN. WWS was the
of sports shows and "Fanfare... " was the granddaddy of highlight music.
# 4: Ready To Go - Republica.
Whether it's the electronic or
version, the intro is a quiet tempest that explodes into Saffron's high
vocals. The tune has a number of cymbal splashes that go
with a big football hit, a slam dunk, a base hit, a strikeout, a
punch or a slap shot. The tune drives well with the speed of real
highlights. It's only flaw is that slow-motion highlights really
in only a couple places and one of them is at the end of the tune.
#3 Joy - Apollo 100.
An early 70s upbeat funky organ version of
famous string etude, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, this tune provides a
background for highlights that show the elegance of sports, in slow
or full speed. A running back dashing down the sidelines, figure
flying through the air, diving catches in the outfield... any clip
the beauty of human motion is on display, this tune frames well.
it doesn't particularly fit well with violent collisions, nor does it
the grit of sports.
#2 Sweet Emotion - Aerosmith.
This tune is the polar opposite of
- no beauty, just grit. It has the driving beat to convey the
of sports and the machine gun drum intro to the bridge would be perfect
for a montage of big hits in football, boxing or other contact sport.
this song just just sounds sweaty.
But the best tune for highlights is, of course, All Out of Love - Air
No, the #1 tune for sports highlights
Fire on High - Electric Light
Orchestra. The spooky backwards
intro of the album version is hard to match up with any sort of action
but works well with pregame footage. The real magic happens once
music begins in earnest on the single version (about 1:20 into the
version). The broad grandeur of the string and keyboard prologue
by the driving beat, the catchy twelve-string guitar riff, the choir
just rocks for any kind of sports clip, in real time or in slow
motion. For that matter, it just rocks... period. The
guitar riff works especially well with the style of editing made famous
NFL films, showing the same play from different angles with quick cuts
slow motion to full speed. CBS Sports actually used the tune for
while back in the late 70s but I assume stopped around the same time
ELO pretty much went uber-commercial. I'm guessing neither event
Anyway, that's my top five. I considered literally hundreds of
and there were a number of honorable mentions, including Unchained (Van
Barracuda (Heart), Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin), K-Jee (MFSP), Who Are
(the Who), Down With the Sickness (Disturbed), U Can't Touch This (MC
Hammer), the music of Sam
and pretty much everything from the AC/DC catalogue. That said,
sure I forgot some great tune or haven't heard the perfect hook, so
me a note at email@example.com
if you have a top five of your own or a song you think sets up sports
Speaking of highlights (booo! lame transition!), I've been watching a
of games since early in spring training and I'm not convinced the
will be nearly as bad as people are making them out to be.
First of all, their bullpen is going to be pretty good. Not as
as the Angel's bullpen of the last few years but still pretty solid.
Chad Cordero closing, Jon Rauch, Ryan Wagner and a healthy Luis Ayala
him up, they should be able to get three scoreless frames to finish
games. Jesus Colome has the talent to be a shut-down reliever and
Micah Bowie and Ray King have stretches were they are effective.
with the Padres and Braves, this is one of the deepest and most
pens in the NL.
Secondly, they will be able to score some runs. They won't lead
league obviously, but they have five guys in the everyday line-up
are quite capable of 20 homers and 35-40 doubles (Zimmerman, Lopez,
Kearns, Young). And if I remember hearing this correctly, no team
in the NL sees more pitches per at bat than the Nationals. That
sounds odd for a team that does not draw an excessive number of walks,
but these guys do put the bat on the ball quite a bit and scatter a
lot of foul balls. As an example, Anibel Sanchez threw 91 pitches
through 5.2 innings against them today, Scott Olsen threw 84 through
5.1 innings yesterday and Dontrelle Willis threw 100 through 6 innings
on Opening Day... and that was when the Nats' bats were mostly
silent. The Nats' offense is going to get into just about
everyone's bullpen pretty much every game and if, as we saw today,
there are any weak links they are going to score some runs.
Defensively, they will be above average if Nook Logan can hit enough to
in the line-up. Ryan Church is a huge liability in center field,
isn't too bad in left field. His reads on low flyballs and line
are pretty bad plus he's not very speedy, leading to a lot of extra
doubles and triples when he's in center.
has the speed and the instincts to handle RFK's fairly spacious
dimensions quite competently. Cristian Guzman is pretty slick at
Lopez can play there but doesn't have a very quick first step there
which limits his range. At second base, Ron Belliard
is the superior defender, but Lopez is pretty good there, too.
- Guzman/Lopez or Lopez/ Belliard - the choice is a plus defender at
spot with a decent glove at the other. Brian Schneider is
the best defensive catcher in the majors. He does so many things
the plate that don't get recognized in the mainstream media or in the
but baseball people rave about how much he helps his pitchers.
I'd like to see Manny Acta let Josh Wilson play while Guzman is
out. I've liked his poise at the plate and he seems
to have decent range afield. He did make two mistakes in his one
real game but he
might have been trying to do too much. His numbers in Triple A
last couple years merit an extended look.
Compare these aspects to the 2003 Detroit Tigers who truly were awful.
starting offense featured five sputtering talents - Carlos Pena, Ramon
Eric Munson, Warren Morris, Alex Sanchez - with only Santiago being
average defensively. Sanchez and Munson were pretty much awful in
field. They also had a steeply declining Bobby Higginson, who
help defensively either. Brandon Inge was the catcher and there's
a good reason the Tigers
compelled to move him from behind the plate and acquire Ivan
This was a bad team offensively and
only thing that Tigers team had in common with this National's squad
The Nats' big question comes down to the starting pitching. The
had Jeremy Bonderman in his rookie season, Mike Maroth, Nate Cornejo,
Knotts and Adam Bernero. They also got eight starts from Nate
and Wil Ledezma, so there was some quality but three of the guys -
Bernero, Knotts - were obviously overmatched. The Nats are
in that they have a good-looking rookie (Chico) although he doesn't
Bonderman's upside, but Shawn Hill and Jerome Williams are pretty
more talented than the three weak links in the Tiger rotation that
and John Patterson is a borderline ace. Plus the Nats will have
infinitely better bullpen backing them than the Matt Roney, Steve
Chris Spurling, Franklin German, Chris Mears and Jamie Walker crew the
Back to the Nats rotation, their performance so far... I think John
rough outing Opening Day was largely due to the lack of innings he got
spring training. He looked rusty with the location of his
and seemed reluctant to really commit to breaking off his nasty slider.
threw it a few times but it didn't have it's customary bite. It
surprise me if his next few outings are a bit shaky as he warms his arm
with a few more innings. But by the time the
Mets come to town at the end of April we should be seeing the guy who
such a revelation in 2005. Both Shawn Hill and Matt Chico pitched
well but made a few mistakes which got crushed by Miguel Cabrera, who
as locked in right now as anybody I've ever seen. I think he only
missed three pitches the whole series.
This looks like the year we see the first of many monster years from
I never realized how put together that guy is - he's like a
version of John Cena... only taller. Another guy who is a lot
than I thought he was is Hanley Ramirez, who at 6' 3", is two inches
and looks about 20 pounds bigger than Jose Reyes. Both Cabrera
and Ramirez will have better years than they had last year.
Anyway, Hill and Chico will both have better days and the reason is
they, like Jerome Williams, work the bottom of the strikezone and
get a lot of groundballs. With the Nats infield defense
once Nick Johnson returns, that can only be a good thing.
Whether Patterson turns in a great or merely adequate year could depend
the weather in Washington this summer. In 2005, the temperature
cooler than normal for the first four months of the season and as a
the ball didn't carry very well. It wasn't until June of that
that any team had a two-homer game in RFK. However, over the
two months and pretty much all last season it was warmer than normal
the result was that the ball carried very well. This showed up in
factors: through the first four months of 2005, the ballpark factor for
runs was around .600 but rose to .775 by the end of that year. In
it rose further to .859. Patterson is the most flyball-oriented
on the staff and with Church in center until Logan is healthy, a warm
could make for a lot more excitement than he'd prefer. But even
in a loaded NL East, the Nationals are not a 100-loss team.
Other observations from the first few days of the season... The Angels
will finish with the best record in the AL this year. Adding Gary
Matthews Jr. is going to be big for them and I didn't realize how big
until I saw him play the first three games. I didn't realize it
before because it never occurred to me that the change in ballparks
will make his defense all that more significant. In Texas, he was
fantastic, but because the ballpark plays so small he really was
limited by how much impact his glove could make. In Anaheim, the
ballpark plays much bigger which makes his exceptional range all that
more useful. He'll cover lots more ground than Figgins or Willits
or anyone else the Angels had out there. That will mean fewer
singles, doubles and triples allowed and perhaps a few less
homers. His own home run numbers will tail off but a lot of those
balls will still fall in for doubles and with his speed and defense he
will more than make up for the loss in over-the-wall power. With
him in center, Casey Kotchman at first, a full season from Howie
Kendricks at second and a healthy Garrett Anderson in left, this team
will have no problem scoring runs. Once Figgins returns and/or
they decide to work Brandon Wood into the regular line-up, they really
aren't going to be any fun to face. And then add presumably a
healthy Bartolo Colon in May to John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Ervin
Santana and oh yeah, and they have a pretty nice bullpen. This
might be the best Angels team ever.
The Yankees may have the best offense in the AL but that starting staff
looks like a disaster waiting to happen. Andy Pettitte is just a
pitch away from his arm falling off. Chien-ming Wang's hamstring
is a concern because without healthy legs he's going to have trouble
maintaining his mechanics. Mike Mussina should be ok, but he's 38
going on 39 and that was the age Greg Maddux started to show his
age. That leaves Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa as the ballast.
Any time you're depending on Carl Pavano for consistency, you've
already lost the battle. I think this is the year the Yanks don't
win the division.
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