Yes it’s that time of year again. The beer. The hot and greasy wings. The hot and greasy tailgating. And, oh yes, that little bit of pigskin insanity called football.
Let’s face it guys and girls, there’s nothing better for getting adrenaline pumping (other than perhaps replacement referees) than some “Gridiron Tunes!”
And no, we’re not talking those overplayed – albeit very good – sport-anthems by Gary Glitter (Rock and Roll Part II), AC/DC (Hell’s Bells and TNT), Queen (Champions/We Will Rock You), and Ozzy Osbourne (Crazy Train) that precede every kick-off and touchdown. We’re talking real football songs – about football.
True, there aren’t quite as many tunes about the game of football as about, say… big butts, but they are almost as entertaining. So here’s our seasonal song salute: the Top-11 List of Football Songs.
1. THE SUPER BOWL SHUFFLE – THE CHICAGO BEARS (1985)
Talk about catching lightning in a beer bottle! This rap/parody/goof song done up for promotional purposes during the Chicago Bears charge to victory in Super Bowl XX became the first song by a professional sports team to have a hit single.
The simplistic rap lyrics set to a cheesy instrumental dance track was sung by such illustrious pro Bears as Walter Payton, Jim McMahon and William “The Refrigerator” Perry who proved they were better scrappers than rappers. But guess what? The Super Bowl Shuffle sold more than a half million copies, reached No. 41 on the Billboard charts and the accompanying video has been currently viewed more than a million times on the internet. The Super Bowl Shuffle only gets better with age. And after a six-pack.
2. FOOTBALL RAP – LL COOL J (1986)
What most people remember about the 1986 football movie Wildcats was that it starred Goldie Hawn and that it was not very good.
But if you stuck around to the bitter end you would remember the very hot and nasty Football Rap which was sung by a relative newcomer called LL Cool J who had released his first album the previous year. Sure, the song is pretty simple; it’s about football, not quantum mechanics. But even with such a trifle, LL Cool J injects a bit of humor and playful insight into the game and those who play it.
Sample lyrics: Sunday in the snow/Referees whistle blow/Weekend warriors toe to toe/Football/Football/Football.
Because the movie went nowhere, the song did not get within 99 yards of the charts but has remained one of those underground perennials that just won’t go away. Mr. Cool J, meanwhile would later hit the big time with Momma Said Knock You Out which, while not directly written for the sport, definitely has that rough-and-tumble gridiron vibe.
3. NOT AS MUCH AS FOOTBALL – MOJO NIXON (1990)
Country humorist Mojo Nixon has never found a subject too high and mighty to skewer, so it was inevitable that football would fall into his world view.
Not As Much As Football is his attempt to butter up his woman by telling her all the things he loves less than he loves her. Good start. But as the following lyrical snippet indicates, even Mojo, in a mock lament dripping with country sarcasm, has his limits:
I love you more than Richard Petty/I love you more than spaghetti/I love you more than a meatball/But not as much as football.
I love you more than Dale Earnhardt/I love you more than lightin’ my farts/I love you more than Montreal/But not as much as football.
Buy the album it’s on: Whereabouts Unknown. Mojo needs cash.
One side note: Mojo put forth another football-oriented ditty later in the ’90s with a very dark ode to OJ Simpson’s off-field activities entitled Orenthal James (Was A Mighty Bad Man).
4. GREEN AND YELLOW – LI’L WAYNE (2011)
So what’s a bit of good-natured thievery among friends? Not much if you’re rapper Li’l Wayne.
Prior to last year’s Green Bay/Pittsburgh Super Bowl tussle Li’l saw fit to lift the music track from fellow rapper Wiz Khalifa’s ode to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Black And Yellow, and remix it – complete with occasionally X-rated lyrics into his ode for his favorite team, The Green Bay Packers. So now it’s Green and Yellow. Li’l Wayne’s song continues to be good for an explicit laugh, but the Wiz ultimately had the last laugh when his Black And Yellow went to No. 4 on the Billboard charts.
5. THE BOYS OF FALL – KENNY CHESNEY (2010)
A very heartfelt and no-less-effective ode to the way football – as both a spiritual tool and a down home way of life – used to be. Before football became the cold and calculating, though no-less-exciting-monster it is now. This song will cause a diabetic coma faster than peach cobbler soaked in sweet tea.
Sample lyrics: When I feel that chill, smell of fresh cut grass/I’m back in my helmet, cleats and shoulder pads/Standing in the huddle, listening to the call/Fans going crazy for The Boys Of Fall/
Chesney’s pure take on the true national pastime went to No. 1 on the Hot Country Song Charts and remains a perennial for diehard fans doomed to worship from the cheap seats.
6. ALL KINDS OF TIME – FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE (2006)
If Zen mindset and football are your thing then you can do a lot worse than this existential power-pop ditty by cult faves Fountains Of Wayne. It’s a mental take on football you almost won’t believe; obvious and yet strangely groundbreaking.
Sample lyrics: The clock’s running down/The team’s losing ground/ To the opposing defense/The young quarterback waits for the snap/ When suddenly…All kinds of time./
For all of you who believe football is a metaphor for life, this is your theme song. Meanwhile, seems as though this non-single has popped up in almost every television soundtrack on the planet – including Scrubs, One Tree Hill and naturally, Friday Night Lights.
7. HEART OF A CHAMPION – NELLY (2004)
A spirited all-encompassing brag-rap that covers almost every element of the professional sports spectrum but qualifies as a football song when Nelly drops the names of Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis and Julius Peppers into the mix. Good-natured thug life stuff that has made this a football perennial, though some folks say it sounds awfully similar to the NBA-theme song Roundball Rock (written by “rocker” John Tesh).
8. DROPKICK ME JESUS THROUGH THE GOALPOSTS OF LIFE – BOBBY BARE (1976)
Propelled by Bobby Bare’s slow and penetrating drawl, Dropkick Me Jesus Through The Goalposts of Life (written by Paul Craft) is pure gospel/spiritual set against the perfect football riff, alternately humorous and religious in a homespun way. And while you’re sitting in church on Sunday instead of in front of your big screen you can contemplate how in this song, Jesus serves both as the play-making coach, and as the on-the-turf field-goal kicker.
Sample lyrics: Dropkick me Jesus through the goalposts of life/End over end neither left nor to right/ Straight through the heart of those righteous uprights/ Dropkick me Jesus through the goalposts of life’/
Amen. Now let’s get back to the game.
9. PURPLE AND GOLD – PRINCE (2010)
Is it possible for one of the biggest music stars on the planet step out of the pocket and get knocked on his ass while trying to inspire his favorite team? Just ask Prince.
The Purple One had his heart in the right place when he tried to inspire his hometown Minnesota Vikings. After all, he was inspired himself by sitting in an owner’s box and witnessing a 2010 Viking playoff victory over the Dallas Cowboys just the week before.
Claiming that he “saw the future,” Prince scooted home and dashed off his tribute in just a matter of days. (It’s a lot easier when you don’t use all the letters in words.)
we come in the name of the purple and gold
all of the odds r in r favor
no prediction 2 bold
we r the truth if the truth can b told
long reign the purple and gold
The result: a droningly bad imitation of Creed. The song was universally lambasted and in fact Purple and Gold was so bad that even the Vikings refused to play it, and the song soon disappeared from the known universe. Oh, and if you’re keeping score, Favre threw a 4th quarter interception and the Saints beat the Vikings 31-28 in overtime to reach their destiny.
Maybe he should have just re-wrote the lyrics to read “Black and Gold.” Or just blk & gld.
10. THE BLIND MAN IN THE BLEACHERS – KENNY STARR (1975)
We dare anybody to get through this country ballad without breaking down bawling like a baby. A blind man sits in the bleachers on the last game of the season, hoping against hope that his son, a perennial second stringer, will get in the game.
Well folks, a miracle happens: The boy not only gets in the game, but guess what – he scores the winning touchdown. And the blind man doesn’t miss it, see, because he’s been watching from that luxury box in the sky. We don’t make this stuff up. Listen up for yourself, but just make sure you’ve got a box of tissues standing by.
11. I’ve Been Waiting All Day For Sunday Night - Pink (ok, or Faith Hill)
In 2006, in an apparent attempt to get more chicks to watch Sunday Night Football (because Hank Williams Jr. evidently just ain’t hot enough), the NFL introduced Pink, singing an throbbing cheer of a rock song that got everybody up out of their folding beach chairs – I’ve Been Waiting All Day for Sunday Night.
Why does this song rock, and why is it so popular? Well, no surprise really after you realized that I’ve Been Waiting All Day For Sunday Night was actually a cleverly reworked version of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts I Hate Myself For Loving You.
Joan’s original appeared on her Up Your Alley album and went all the way to Number 8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and former Rolling Stone guitarist Mick Taylor played the signature guitar lick.
Seeing a greater opportunity, though, the NFL replaced Pink with Faith Hill in 2007- who has been putting her spin on the hit for the past 5 seasons.
All right Sunday Night where are you?
Just kicking back from the things that you do
You want the Big Game, we want it too!
Hey Jack it’s a fact, the best show in town,
Sunday Night Football we ain’t messing around
Al and John will make you crank up the sound…
The NFL’s best have come to play
For every fan there’s just one thing left to say-ay-ay-ay…
I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday Night
The tough get rough in a primetime fight
The last one standing gets to turn out the lights
Cause I been waiting all day for Sunday Night
Top-11 List Honorable Mention:
THE THREE GREAT ALABAMA ICONS – DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS (2001)
This growler of a tune misses the Top-11 only because it’s technically only 1/3 about football. But oh what a third. The Drive-By Truckers are second only perhaps to Lynyrd Skynyrd in defining “that Southern thang,” and this vicious, rambling monologue of a song is a barn-burner.
The 3 icons in the title are George Wallace, (the afore-mentioned) Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Alabama’s legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Taste some of these lyrics:
“I grew up in North Alabama, back in the 1970′s, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth… Speaking of course of the Three Great Alabama Icons… George Wallace, Bear Bryant and Ronnie Van Zant… Now Ronnie Van Zant wasn’t from Alabama, he was from Florida… He was a huge Neil Young fan… But in the tradition of Merle Haggard writin’ Okie from Muskogee to tell his dad’s point of view about the hippies ‘n Vietnam, Ronnie felt that the other side of the story should be told. And Neil Young always claimed that Sweet Home Alabama was one of his favorite songs. And legend has it that he was an honorary pall bearer at Ronnie’s funeral… such is the Duality of the Southern Thing… And Bear Bryant wore a cool lookin’ red checkered hat and won football games… and there’s few things more loved in Alabama than football and the men who know how to win at it… So when the Bear would come to town, there’d be a parade. And me, I was one a’ them pussy boys… cause I hated football, so I got a guitar…”