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Five for Friday: Football-Referencing Songs

You don't have to be a big football fan to know some of the music associated with the sport. "Are you ready," yells Hanks Williams Jr. on his "All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night" anthem, "for some football?" Then there's Faith Hill with her Joan Jett-inspired "Waiting All Day for Sunday Night." When it comes to promoting the sport, country artists do a smashing job. See, for instance, Kenny Chesney's "The Boys of All," which is romanticized earnestness. But football has long been beloved by more than Nashville artists. With college games underway and the NFL season at hand, we take a look back at some of our favorite football-referencing songs.

Fountains of Wayne, "All Kinds of Time"
On 2003's Welcome Interstate Managers, New York's Fountains of Wayne perfected the art of writing novel-worthy pop songs. Many take a third-person point of view and aim to paint pointed portraits of American life. Some dive into the sexual malaise of suburbia, others look at the workday grind of an entry-level salesman. "All Kinds of Time" turns a pivotal moment of a football game into a patient, slow-moving ballad, putting the listener inside the mind of a young quarterback when the clock starts ticking in a do-or-die moment. Rather than freeze or become crippled with anxiety, our hero finds the pressure almost calming. "A strange inner peace/Is all that he's feeling somehow" sings Chris Collingwood. As the defense rushes in on him, the protagonist's mind races – flashing images of his mother, his bride-to-be, and his brothers – all the while a guitar strums at a slow-dance pace. While fans and media often romanticize the sport, Fountains of Wayne treat the game itself as a romance.

Drive-By Truckers, "The Three Great Alabama Icons"
It happens in one verse, but a striking one, as Patterson Hood, in a near spoken-word Southern rock vamp, chronicles three heroes of Alabama – a musician, a politician, and a football legend. Hood traces the contradictions inherent in each: The governor who flip-flopped on race, the rock n' roll band that unwittingly glorified the Southern everyman, and the football coach who forced Hood, our narrator, to wonder if he even belonged in the region. Paul William "Bear" Bryant is the college coach in question, a man who "won football games, and there's few things more loved in Alabama than football." Yet Hood wasn't a fan, and found himself the subject of mockery for avoiding one of the state's dominant communal gatherings. Here, Hood finds a way to admire a leader and simultaneously document how our tastes and interests can divide us. Hood, not an athlete, choose the guitar, which he discovered a "poor substitute" with high-school girls. It wasn't until leaving the South that Hood began to understand the unifying pride that accompanies regional athletics.

Lil Wayne, "Green and Yellow"
Despite hailing from New Orleans, rapper Lil Wayne bleeds Wisconsin when it comes to football. His love of the Green Bay Packers apparently stems from his childhood – specifically 1997, when New Orleans hosted the Super Bowl and the Packers defeated the New England Patriots. With this one-off mixtape cut from 2011 and essentially inspired by that year's championship when the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wayne has a blast reworking Wiz Khalifa's "Black & Yellow" to be all-Packers, all the time. "This is Packer country, where's your green card?" Wayne raps over a chiming rhythm. Darkly twisted synthesizers comprise the aural offense. While it's full of harsh take-downs of Packer foes – a nice twist on the hip-hop diss track – Wayne comes across in full-on goofy mode, declaring himself a cheesehead in the opening moments. While the appeal may be limited to Packer fans, the track ultimately celebrates fandom itself.

Mojo Nixon, "Not as Much as Football"
Sunday, during football season, is sacred in many American households, with folks glued to the television set from morning till night. The wacky and outspoken Mojo Nixon writes an energetic justification of the ritualistic weekly event on 1994's "Not as Much as Football." The borderline novelty track is chock full of saloon-ready, runaway-railroad-type pianos and his joyfully raspy snarl. Nixon loves plenty of things, but none as much as his significant other. For instance, he likes hunting ducks, playing pool, gorging on spaghetti and meatballs, and old Warner Bros. cartoons. Still, they all come second to the object of his affection. But hold on: Football gets the prime slot. "It's fourth and one, I can't see," he shouts, making it clear he'll tolerate no distractions on game day.

Chicago Bears Shufflin' Crew, "The Super Bowl Shuffle"
In early 1987, Prince's slinky, sexy, guitar-strutting "Kiss" had an unexpected challenger at the Grammy Awards: Members of the Chicago Bears. While the 1985-86 Bears easily handled the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, the team's most musical members proved no match for the Purple One when at the Grammys. "Kiss" won, and saved the Recording Academy sure embarrassment. However, the Chicago Bears Shufflin' Crew remains the only NFL-focused act to vie for one of the music industry's major trophies. Reflecting the good-natured tone of mid-80s mainstream rap, the one-off group of heavy hitters – Walter Payton, William Perry, Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, and more – tosses off such winners as "runnin' the ball is like makin' romance" and "I can't dance but I can throw the pill" all while referee whistles block out expletives. A brass band and a saxophone keep it all light and funky, meaning that while it was recorded and released weeks before the Bears even made the championship game, such cocky boasting has rarely sounded so innocent.

Photo credit: Danny Clinch

September 8, 2017

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