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List: Five Songs Inspired by Sports

by Rob Slater on May 27, 2014

Today, Phish unveiled their newest studio track from the forthcoming Fuego, "The Line," a Phishified retelling of University of Memphis basketball player Darius Washington Jr.'s infamous failure at the free throw line in the 2005 Conference USA Championship Game. With no time on the clock, Washington was fouled shooting a three-pointer. Down two, the freshman stepped to the line and missed two out of the three to lose the game and end the Tigers' tournament dreams.

What made the situation worse was Washington's celebration prior to shooting, essentially guaranteeing he would win the game. The next year, as a sophomore, he would lead the Tigers to an Elite 8 appearance and be named to the All-Conference team. However, his legacy was already cemented the year before.

Music and sports align every now and then, this case being the most recent. However, there are countless examples throughout history, some of which we'll detail for you below. Recently, we wrote about Bob Dylan's "Hurricane" following the death of boxer Rubin Carter--arguably one of the most famous songs influenced by sports. You won't find "Hurricane" below for the sake of redundancy but you will find five other songs inspired by sports.

John Fogerty: "Centerfield"

The title track from Fogerty's 1985 solo effort is a sports anthem without actually being a sports anthem. It's no "We Will Rock You" or "We Are the Champions," but "Centerfield" is a quintessential baseball tune and is enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame alongside "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." That's a big deal.

Fogerty drew inspiration from watching Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio, who grew up in San Francisco (Fogerty grew up nearby in Berkeley, CA). The CCR guitarist also name checks DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb and many other famous center fielders throughout the song.

Pearl Jam: "Sweet Lew"

A Binaural leftover that ended up on the band's Lost Dogs compilation, "Sweet Lew" is bassist Jeff Ament's love letter to Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Ament, who played basketball growing up in Montana, recounts the story of meeting Alcindor at a charity basketball game where Kareem essentially ignored Ament despite the bassist admitting his fandom to his boyhood idol.

Pearl Jam's connection to basketball has long been documented. As passionate Seattle Sonics fans, they didn't get the warmest reception in Oklahoma City after suggesting the city stole their team (Spoiler: They did). Pearl Jam and Arcade Fire also engaged in some heated pickup games during their Australian tour, resulting in some broken noses. After all, AF frontman Win Butler can also ball.

Robert Randolph & the Family Band: "Get There"

Life as a Knicks fan is no fun. For Robert Randolph, a lifelong Knicks fan, it isn't as bad. His song "Get There" is tailored to the "Friday Night Knicks" broadcasts and includes a live performance for the introduction.

However, in the true spirit of Knicks fandom, they have to find someone to blame when things go south. And rather than pointing fingers to the poor talent, coaching or ownership, they go after Randolph! Accused of being the curse for the team's Friday night woes, Randolph even promised to write a new song to change the tide. Maybe it worked, as the Knicks posted a 10-6 record on Friday nights during the 2012-13 season.

Rivers Cuomo: "My Day Is Coming"

Mega-soccer fan Rivers Cuomo penned this tune in 2006 following the World Cup where the U.S. lost in the first round, notching an 0-1-2 record (Hint: That's not good). Yet another disappointment for the stars and stripes led Cuomo, who was originally supposed to write a rally song, to deliver "My Day Is Coming," a more depressing take on the team's performance.

Maybe the song struck a chord as the team actually made it to the Round of 16 in 2010, highlighted by Landon Donovan's dramatic winning goal against Algeria that advanced the U.S. to the second round.

Let's just hope Rivers doesn't take to the studio in light of the Donovan news. Your day is not coming, Landon.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Magic Johnson"

The Lakers rival the New York Knicks when it comes to celebrity fans. No more passionate, however, than Flea. He writes an NBA blog throughout the season, focusing on the Lakers of course. The bassist has even called for the firing of Mike D'Antoni and performed the National Anthem at the Staples Center (decked out in Lakers gear, of course).

The band paid homage to Magic Johnson, one of the most famous Lakers, on their 1989 record Mother's Milk with a song named after the legendary Lakers point-forward. The song came following Magic's 88-89 campaign that saw him win his second MVP, however the team fell to the Bad Boys of Detroit after Magic went down with a hamstring injury.


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