Top 40 sports songs: They make you jump, cheer, even cry
By Ray Frager
This one's for you, Casey
The world of pop music and radio lost one of the all-time greats earlier this month with the death of Casey Kasem. His "American Top 40" was a staple on the air from the 1970s into the early 2000s. He was a comforting voice, heard around the country -- the world, even -- on, as Kasem would put it, "Great radio stations like ..." the one in your hometown. From reciting lyrics to telling condensed tales of the artists' lives to dishing out schmaltzy long-distance dedications, he and his "AT40" were a reliable presence each weekend, as we would seek him out on the dial on the way from soccer or to grocery shopping or after church. In Casey's honor, then, with our feet on the ground and reaching for the (sports) stars, we present the Top 40 Sports-Related Songs.
Photo: Michael Caulfield Archive / WireImage
40. "Seven Nation Army" 39. FOX on NFL theme.
40. "Seven Nation Army," White Stripes. A stadium singalong song is best when it has no words. You could/can hear it everywhere. For example, the crowds at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore chanted it on the Ravens' road to a Super Bowl title in the 2012 season.
39. FOX on NFL theme. Are we a little biased? Well, maybe. But nothing else gets you prepared to hear Terry, Howie, Jimmy, et al talk football like this. Photo: Focus On Sport / Getty Images North America
38. "Basketball" 37. "Basketball Jones"
38. "Basketball," Kurtis Blow. "To the hoop, y'all" with shout-outs to Dr. J, Magic, Kareem, Bernard King and so many more. But what's with the karate kicks and nunchucks in the video?
37. "Basketball Jones," Cheech and Chong. Tyrone Shoelaces says: "I need someone to set a pick for me at the free-throw line of life." When you get right down to it, who doesn't? And that's George Harrison playing a tasty lead guitar. Photo: Focus On Sport / Focus on Sport
36. "Call Me Maybe." 35. "Super Bowl Shuffle"
36. "Call Me Maybe," Carly Rae Jepsen. Why this one? For the sports lip sync versions, with our favorite being the one by the U.S. Olympic swim team in 2012.
35. "Super Bowl Shuffle," Chicago Bears Shufflin' Crew. Long before lawsuits over concussions and stories of debilitating injuries, we could enjoy the champion Bears as they tried to rap and tried to dance, some much more successfully than others. (Willie Gault was pretty smooth.) Photo: Ian MacNicol / Getty Images Europe
34. "I'm Alright" 33. "Eye of the Tiger"
34. "I'm Alright," Kenny Loggins. Its association with the funniest sorta sports movie ever made, plus with a dancing animatronic gopher means its place on this list was never a question.
33. "Eye of the Tiger," Survivor. No room for any irony here. Just give in to the pure adrenaline and work out like Rocky Balboa. Photo: Photoshot / Hulton Archive
32. "Hurricane" 31. "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?"
32. "Hurricane," Bob Dylan.The whole story of a great injustice that caught up a tremendous boxer. So detailed it is almost like a lawyer's brief.
31. "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" Count Basie. Got to love this because it really swings, plus there is this couplet: "Satchel Paige is mellow/so is Campanella." Photo: Kidwiler Collection / Diamond Images
30. "Hell's Bells 29. "Enter Sandman"
30. "Hell's Bells," AC/DC. Compared with what's next, just as good a song and nearly as lights-out a reliever in Trevor Hoffman.
29. "Enter Sandman," Metallica. How many people just know this as the Mariano Rivera song? The ominous sounds played when Rivera entered a game at Yankee Stadium set the tone for what the opposition was in for. Photo: Brad Penner / USA TODAY Sports
28. "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game" 27. "Mr. Touchdown, USA"
28. "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game," Harry Simeone Chorale. It's the old-school way to get ready for watching baseball -- preferably with a can of Schlitz.
27. "Mr. Touchdown, USA." We don't have it here, but back in the days when Larry King had a nationwide radio show late at night, he used to recite this song as he gave out his weekly football picks. Photo: New York Times Co. / Archive Photos
26. "Sirius" 25. "Black and Yellow"
26. "Sirius," Alan Parsons Project. What's this? Just listen and you immediately recognize it as the intro theme to the Michael Jordan Bulls. Can you feel the anticipation?
25. "Black and Yellow," Wiz Khalifa. Representing Pittsburgh with the Pirates caps and Terrible Towels. So, as Khalifa raps, "You know what it is." Photo: Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports
24. "Free Bird" 23. "Don't Stop Believing"
24. "Free Bird," Lynyrd Skynyrd. Just as Dale Earnhardt Jr. is perenially NASCAR fans' favorite driver, this is the favorite to be played for the race-loving fans in the infield.
23. "Don't Stop Believing," Journey. Pulled from the nostalgia farm by "The Sopranos," revived by "Glee," Steve Perry's tour de force lives on in all its bombast -- and we mean that in a good way -- as standard between-innings music at ballparks across the majors. Photo: Jeff Curry / Getty Images North America
22. "Autumn Thunder" 21. "Monday Night Football" theme
22. "Autumn Thunder," Sam Spence. Spence is the man behind the poundingly evocative music that went along with John Facenda's "Voice of God" narration on the NFL Films pieces that helped build the legends of pro football. And then the
music went on to true immortality, used on "SpongeBob Squarepants."
21."Monday Night Football" theme. No, not the Hank Williams Jr. "Ready" foolishness. And not the Dandy Don era theme, whose bouncy jazziness has not worn well. Like the best sports TV themes, it's instantly recognizable and primes you for the game. Photo: Tony Tomsic / Getty Images North America
20. "Let's Get It Started" 19. "Shout"
20. "Let's Get It Started," Black Eyed Peas. Now, if you want to argue that the Peas' Super Bowl performance should disqualify them from appearing on this list, we understand. However, as an in-game crowd-rouser, their song still works.
19. "Shout," Isley Brothers. Maybe there's only time to use a snippet of the frat-rock classic in order to whip the crowd into a frenzy during a 20-second timeout late in an NBA game. But that's enough. Photo: Mark D. Smith / USA TODAY Sports
18."Paradise by the Dashboard Light" 17. "Sweet Caroline"
18. "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," Meat Loaf. As the story goes, Phil Rizzuto, the Yankees announcer, had no idea that the play-by-play he recorded was going into an athemic tale of teenage lust and regret. But would the song have been the same with someone else besides the Scooter?
17. "Sweet Caroline," Neil Diamond. It's "so good, so good, so good" that they sing this at Fenway Park, even if it makes no particular sense. Photo: Jim Rogash / Getty Images North America
16. "I Love L.A." 15. "New York, New York"
16. "I Love L.A.," Randy Newman. How better to celebrate a Dodgers or a Lakers win than with Newman's paen to Los Angeles, even with his trademark sarcastic touches? (His listing of 6th Street as one of the "We love it!" places belies the fact that the street contains the city's Skid Row.)
15. "New York, New York," Frank Sinatra. The song and the singer perfectly embody the self-celebration of the city and its teams, particularly the Yankees. It represents the spirit that makes the place/teams so special. Or, if you don't particularly care for either, it represents a certain maddening hubris. Photo: Adam Hunger / USA TODAY Sports
14. "Lose Yourself" 13. "Jump Around"
14. "Lose Yourself," Eminem. "You only get one shot," and though Marshall Mathers is telling his story of rising to music fame and fortune, it's a perfect sports psych-up tune.
13. "Jump Around," House of Pain. Forget what they're saying, other than the instructions in the title. It's that hook that makes you jump, which is just what they do at Wisconsin football games in Madison. Photo: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images North America
12. "Who Let the Dogs Out" 11."Crazy Train"
12. "Who Let the Dogs Out," Baha Men. This works best if your team could be the dogs in question, you know, like at Georgia.
11. "Crazy Train," Ozzy Osbourne. The maniacal laugh gives way to a maniacal guitar riff. Enough to drive any crowd crazy. Photo: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images North America
10. "Blitzkrieg Bop" 9. "YMCA"
10. "Blitzkrieg Bop," The Ramones. "Hey, ho, let's go." That's all you need -- an exhortation that fits any crowd, any team, any sport.
9. "YMCA," The Village People. From toddlers to grandmas, everyone gets up at the ballpark and joins in to spell it out. This is perhaps the most long-lasting legacy of the disco era. Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images North America
8. "Bugler's Dream" 7. "Chariots of Fire"
8. "Bugler's Dream," Leo Arnaud. You know it as the Olympics theme. Instantly rings in the rings.
7. "Chariots of Fire," Vangelis. Let's all go run in slow motion on the beach on our way to Olympic glory. Photo: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP
6. "SportsCenter" theme. 5. "Centerfield"
6. "SportsCenter" theme. Da-da-DAH. So ubiquitous that college bands took it up.
5. "Centerfield," John Fogerty. Love the handclaps. And the allusion to Chuck Berry's "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" makes up for name-checking noted racist Ty Cobb. Photo: Focus On Sport / Focus on Sport
4. "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions" 3. "Rock and Roll Part 2"
2. "One Shining Moment," Luther Vandross 1. "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
2. "One Shining Moment," Luther Vandross. Yes, there are other versions, but we happen to prefer Vandross'. For a moment, put aside your cynicism about "student-athletes" and the NCAA money-making machine and get swept away with the soaring music accompanying the soaring players during March Madness. If it's a year when your team won the title, it's guaranteed to make you mist up.
1. "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." You don't even have to be a baseball fan to know this one. It's embedded in American culture. It's as much a part of going to the ballpark as a hot dog and a beer. It's Harry Caray and a parade of celebrity guest singers at Wrigley Field. And it doesn't even matter whether you still buy Cracker Jack at the stadium. Photo: Ron Vesely / Getty Images North America