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Hefferon: The top five sports TV theme songs of all time (March 6)

Jack Hefferon | Monday, March 5, 2012

It’s been well covered in this space over the past two weeks, but we’ve been in a bit of a sports dry spell lately.

The Big East tournament begins today, and will conclude this weekend along with every other major conference, ending with the spectacle of Selection Sunday. That will lead directly into March Madness, which will march on to the Masters, the NHL and NBA playoffs, and yes, even the return of baseball. Before we know it, it will be football season once again.

But last weekend, with the specter of midterms looming over campus, that all seemed unattainably far away. The horizon was beginning to lighten, but the sun of spring sports had not yet risen. Faced with such a scarcity of conversation topics, my roommates and I argued — all in the name of procrastination — over the best sports broadcast theme songs ever to grace network television.

Yup, we were that bored. But I apologize for nothing.

A great theme should immediately set the tone for the upcoming event, and should be recognizable enough that the first couple of bars have you turning for the nearest TV. It should be lively enough to get you excited for the event, even in passing in a 15 second commercial. And it should be established enough that it harkens back to previous years, to the exact places you were for the event’s best moments.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the top five sports themes of all time:

5. College Football on ABC

This theme unfolds slowly, and brings to mind the imperial power of an ancient Roman triumph. It’s a Saturday night staple in the fall, always there for sneaking in one more powerhouse matchup after candlelight dinner. Its grandeur practically demands an awesome blimp shot of a venue like the Rose Bowl, accompanied by Brent Musburger announcing that indeed, “You are looking live” at something special.

4. NBA on NBC

I’m not much of an NBA fan anymore, but “Roundball Rock” always brings me back to the legendary, in-your-face series in the late ‘90s between the Knicks and Pacers. It was a time when the league was rough and tumble, played defense and its stars didn’t decide to team up and hang out together in Miami Beach. Its full, orchestral sound commands attention, plus Nelly rapped over it in his 2004 hit “Heart of a Champion.” Pretty cool, but not enough to push it past the classic at No. 3.

3. Monday Night Football

This is probably the most recognizable theme on the list. The first four notes immediately let everyone in the vicinity know it’s Monday night, and helped make MNF a true event in itself when it was established in 1970. Plus, I’m bundling it with “All My Rowdy Friends,” which Hank Williams Jr. traditionally updated for every week’s matchup. Unfortunately, Williams was pulled off the broadcast last year after comparing a sitting U.S. president to Adolf Hitler, leaving no one to ask us that all-important question: “Are you ready for some football?”

2. The Masters

A total change of pace on our list, but awesome nonetheless. This calming, piano-and-flute melody makes all seem right and beautiful in the world. It rolls along as slow and smooth as Rae’s Creek and brings out the best of Jim Nantz, as he calls us in as “friends” in his sleeptime whisper. The song, much like the tournament itself, feels frozen in time, and it will always bring me back to watching Tiger and Phil with my dad on the warm April Sundays of my youth. Augusta is revered almost to the point of being a holy site, and the theme could easily be confused with an acoustic hymn in church. It’s fitting then that, as it often does, the Masters will once again conclude on Easter Sunday, with nature and nostalgia in full effect.

1. NCAA Basketball on CBS

Our ultimate theme jumps right into the action, but somehow finds a way to continue building energy all the way through, just like the tournament it accompanies. Following Selection Sunday, basketball fans everywhere will hear this song hundreds of times over the course of a month. It accompanies Greg Gumbel’s game breaks, Bill Raftery’s explosions and every time the score update bar appears at the bottom of the screen. I honestly can’t wait for those first eight bars come Sunday, and that’s the goal of any good sports theme.

So it may have been a struggle to survive the past few weeks in the sports world, but all that is about to change.

I can hear it coming.

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero1@nd.edu                                 

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.