America loves its football game pep music
It’s Sunday. Week 11.
Fat men in Braveheart facepaint shout oaths and threaten bodily harm at other groups of fat men clad in Braveheart facepaint of a different color and stripe. The roller rink stench of nachos and frankfurters, tacos and churros swirls in the air, drugging the nostrils into convincing the brain that the artery-busting foodstuffs are a good idea. A homemade placard is continually thrust into the air, representing the sickening hope of its maker that his particular message of positive thinking will not only inspire the home team and its fans, but also give the desperate signmaker a hilariously brief moment of fame, an instance in which his charmingly stupid sign and its questionable graphic design will be critiqued and ridiculed, and he and his pear-shaped friends will be viciously laughed at by a nationwide viewing audience of over 2 million households. And then, during the TV time out, Jay-Z’s “H.O.V.A.” busts through the PA, and the rival schools of fat men are suddenly united in overweight booty-shaking glory. Beer foam sloshes, facepaint smears, and long unused muscles shout obscenities at his brain as the Grabowski in section 106, seat 16 does a modified twist to the shuffling beat of “H.O.V.A.,” a song by a rap artist which he might never have heard in his life – let alone danced to it on the Diamondvision of his local stadium for everyone to point and chuckle – if he hadn’t dropped $40 to see his Chicago Bears meet the Detroit Lions on Sunday, week 11.
Are you ready for some football?
In the old days, before professional leagues, college football was king. During delays in play, Gatsby hatted spectators joined with the men’s chorus in singing their alma mater’s fight song, and children in short pants ate hot peanuts and mimicked the vicious flying wedges of the archaic on-field action. Then came Yalie Walter Camp, and official rules that, over time, transformed the game from an organized ass-kicking into the wealth-driven, uber-athletic enterprise of the 21st century NFL. Today, in Autumn, pro football engulfs America for 20 weeks or so and has made the average dope into Trapper John, MD. On any given Monday, on lunchbreaks from Maine to Malibu, terms like medial collateral and anterior cruciated ligament are tossed around like so much common knowledge. One thing that hasn’t changed since the era of the leather helmet? A simple fact: people get bored when the game isn’t happening. And whether they paid a dime or 2 bills, you need to keep the audience happy. Odds are the candyasses in that 1900’s men’s chorus would be given astro-wedgies in the nearest urinal if they showed their faces in today’s stadiums. So a more sophisticated method of gang entertainment is required.
Enter the pause-in-game DJ.
70,000 bleacher-seated refs may want the play reviewed, but no one wants to wait for the actual, onfield official to look into his special camera and figure it out. Fear not! The pause-in-game DJ has the answer. He starts out with that laugher of a “Jeopardy!” theme song, easing the emotions of the yetis screaming obscenities at the opposing team. But “Jeopardy!” is only 40 seconds long, and the official is really taking his time. Hey, it ain’t no thing. P-I-G DJ simply drops J. Geils Band’s “Freeze Frame,” momentarily entertaining the crowd with its delightful double entendre of good timin’ organ and lyrics appropriate to a funny shirted man watching a replay on a screen to discern whether or not Plaxico Burress caught the pass in bounds. Never thought the right song would exist for such a unique situation, eh? Well, that’s why you’re not the pause-in-game DJ.
A recent Visa ad has fun with sporting event pep music. “Are you ready to cheer on your Pittsburgh Steelers?” screams the PA announcer, and the faithful throng roars its approval, only to be rendered silent by the high-pitched strains of Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You.” Flash to a snarky record store clerk, who scolds a team employee for trying to by a copy of “Who Let The Dogs Out?” with a check. No I.D., no Baja Men, and so Minnie Riperton is played in its place. The spot (by BBDO/New York) gets it right, suggesting that the Steeler faithful can make the distinction between two similarly unfortunate moments in pop music history. The pudgy man holding an enormous ‘D’ in one paw and a representation of a picket fence in the other has no problem kicking it to the Baja Men’s amped up calypso jive. But Minnie Riperton? Hell no, man. That shit’s fruity. In an interesting twist that suggests the mind control inherent in advertising, many P-I-G DJs have turned the tables on the Visa ad’s bit. At a recent meeting of the Bears and the Lions, “Lovin’ You” was played over the PA to roars of laughter and general arm-punching, “ha ha ha I get this joke” joshing. Another victory for the pause-in-game DJ, forever searching for the perfect 15 seconds of song, keeping the crowd sated and willing to buy more bobble-head dolls to commemorate all the fun they had that day at Soldier Field.
Since entertainment is one of the main goals, the P-I-G DJ will turn often to the latest volume of “Now That’s What I Call Music!” for tunes, usually before the kickoff, after the punt, or during the boredom of halftime bathroom breaks and stadium announcements. After all, who doesn’t want to wait in an impossibly long line to the beat of “I’m Real” by Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule? Does it matter that many of the game-going throng sucking down bratwursts and Old Style would never consider anything about J.Lo other than her prodigious posterior, and wouldn’t know quite what to think of Ja Rule’s gruff delivery if confronted with it in their teenager’s bedroom? Do 99% of the spectators at an average football game care that the honking riff and “Woo Hoo” they hear at each achievement of a first down is performed not by Aerosmith, Van Halen or P.O.D., but by a bunch of British pantywaists called Blur who normally sing off-kilter dirges about love and loss? No, they don’t care. And the pause-in-game man knows it. What matters is that what he plays will keep everyone happy for the prescribed amount of time, until the game is occurring again and their attention is turned to it. Soon, it will be time again for him to step up and perform. Perhaps a fight will break out on the field, prompting a Mills Lane “Let’s get it on!” soundbite. Maybe the home team is losing by a touchdown and it’s 1st and goal with 20 seconds left. No problem. Europe was happy enough to write “Final Countdown,” an anthemic rocker that compliments perfectly the stress felt by 80,000 fans who are too emotionally involved with the situation on the field.
And on Monday morning, week 12, a pudgy man’ll climb into his car and head to his mattress sales job out on the turnpike. A bit of blue facepaint he missed in the shower clings to his left earlobe. Muscles he didn’t know he had are sore from something he doesn’t remember doing. And he’s wondering what Ron thinks about Burress’ knee injury, and whether it’s only an MCL, or the dreaded ACL tear. He turns the ignition, and his headache is assaulted by the hysterical voice of a Morning Zoo DJ, hyping that night’s concert bash blowout fest-orama. And out of the speakers blasts Jay-Z’s “H.O.V.A.,” prompting the man to stab at the presets and find the sports talk station. He makes a mental note to remind his teenage daughter not to leave the radio on her station when she uses the car at night.
He really can’t stand all of that loud rap music.