Despite the fact that Metallica has been as irrelevant in the 21st century as the Cleveland Browns, the tribute got me thinking: are music and sports joined at the hip?
Rivera’s musical ritual is well known, but his theme song is hardly the first for a closer. Trevor Hoffman, considered perhaps the second-best closer of all time, never stepped on the mound without walking out to AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.” Eric Gagne, the Major League Baseball record holder for most consecutive saves, was escorted to the mound to the tune of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N' Roses. Even Major League star Rick Vaughn trotted to the mound with “Wild Thing” echoing through the Cleveland Indians’ stadium.
For athletes, music often becomes a part of their legacy. Recently retired Baltimore Ravens legend Ray Lewis was a beast on the football field, but it was his patented squirrel dance that many will remember him for. After all of the other Ravens were introduced, M&T Bank Stadium would blast Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” and Ray would go to work. The dance wasn’t complicated, perhaps a little spastic, but may be one of the most famous jives an athlete has ever done.
Some athletes even decide to take their love for music to the next level by pursing musical careers. Who could forget the Shaquille O’Neal classic "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock)" featuring the highly influential Fu-Schnickens. The 1985 Chicago Bears boasted their championship success in the famous “Super Bowl Shuffle.” Former Olympian Carl Lewis didn’t write his own songs, but he did dazzle us with his singing of our national anthem in the 1990s. Seriously, it’s worth taking a minute of your time to search for this gem on YouTube.
Actors playing athletes can be revered as highly as real athletes. Look no further than one Sylvester Stallone, most famous for his leading role in Rocky, for justification of that claim. Stallone’s workout montages are the Hollywood standard, accompanied by the song “Gonna Fly Now,” the anthem of the Rocky movies. And who could forget when the entire fictitious Washington Sentinels football team in The Replacements was thrown in jail for getting into a bar fight, only to come together by singing the disco classic "I Will Survive" in their jail cell?
Of course, we’d be remiss to forget about the true lifeblood behind any team—the fans. We feel humble after the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” or a sense of unbridled mix of joy and relief as “One Shining Moment” plays after an NCAA men’s basketball championship, but there are few moments in time that rival the lead up to a pivotal moment. Fourth down and one yard to go, the final timeout before a team attempts a buzzer beating 3-pointer, two outs in the bottom of the ninth, these are moments when nervous anticipation mixed with crowd noise and the ideal song create a perfect storm of sports serenity. It’s moments like these that have us crawling back for more—the adrenaline rush of possibly seeing greatness unfold right in front of our eyes. “Eye of the Tiger,” “Lose Yourself,” “Crazy Train,” “Jump Around,” they all have our hearts beating at 1,000 miles an hour, preparing us for the decisive play.
Yesterday, award-winning rapper Drake released his third studio album, “Nothing Was the Same,” but it was on his first album, “Thank Me Later,” that the Toronto native discussed the relationship between musicians and athletes. On the track “Thank Me Now,” he raps, “I swear sports and music are so synonymous, ‘cause we want to be them, and they want to be us.” The direct connection between musicians and athletes is more of a recent trend, most notably between rappers and professional basketball players, but Drake is right: there’s an undeniable alignment between music and sports.
Rivera and the rest of the Yankee faithful saw that this past Sunday afternoon. So as Mo moves on to a well-deserved retirement, he knows better than anyone that Metallica will be there to take his hand, off to never, neverland.