Music plays a vital role for fans attending their favorite sporting events – be it baseball, basketball, football, soccer, or hockey. The perfect song can bring fans to a whole other level of excitement, embody the emotion of a moment, be the mantra of a team and even herald the entrance of a specific player.
There are countless examples of Hollywood using music to tug at heartstrings in sports films. Who doesn’t get shivers when Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is rolling through Cobra Kai opponents during the tournament finale of 1984’s The Karate Kid? Sure, the onscreen action is nail biting, but it’s Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best” that really helps that scene hit the mark. Or what about Jerry Goldsmith’s score from 1993’s Rudy, which continues to stir underdogs to this day?
And for a perfect walk-on theme, one need only look to 1989 box-office homer Major League. As X’s cover of “Wild Thing” blasts through the ballpark, the fictional Cleveland Indians audience goes wild as feared closer Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) walks across the outfield.
At any real-life sporting event, of course, the national anthem is the centerpiece (see Marvin Gaye’s performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1983 NBA All-Star game). Likewise, no baseball game would be complete without time-honored seventh-inning stretch anthem “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Plenty of rock tracks continue to set the sporting tone, no matter the venue, the game or the country. As such, here’s our list of the world’s top stadium anthems:
“Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor, 1982)
Continuing the cinematic line of thinking, it’s nearly impossible to block out images of Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed training on the beach in Rocky III as the memorable intro to “Eye of the Tiger” blares over a stadium’s PA system. The heavy staccato guitar stabs that start the song immediately awaken any crowd, and the thumping beat beckons thousands of fists to pump in unison.
“Rising up, back on the street/Did my time, took my chances/Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet/Just a man and his will to survive,” sings original Survivor vocalist Dave Bickler. Perfect lyrics to inspire any struggling team.
Those lucky enough to get to the refrain before the timeout ends typically throw their heads back and shout it out along with Bickler’s stratospheric vocal. Inspiring everyone from Sly Stallone to Katy Perry (heard “Roar” yet?), “Eye of the Tiger” continues to get the job done after more than 30 years.
“Sirius” (Alan Parsons Project, 1982)
Fans who don’t think they’ve ever heard “Sirius” should think again.
“From North Carolina, at guard, 6-6 … Michael Jooooooordaaaaan!”
Who would’ve thought that the opening instrumental track to the 1982 Alan Parsons Project album Eye in the Sky would be one of the most recognizable anthems ever? Throughout the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s, Jordan and Co. used the song for their introduction, with M.J. always announced as the final starter.
Also, the New Orleans Saints used it as their entrance theme at Super Bowl XLIV, and the University of Nebraska football team has used it for the pre-game walk onto the field since 1994.
Surely every sports nut who grew up fascinated with the Bulls’ championship reign gets serious goose bumps at the first stirring strains of “Sirius.”
“Start Me Up” (Rolling Stones, 1981)
This smash hit from 1981’s Tattoo You is the perfect way to wind down the final minutes before the first pitch. Keith Richards’ opening chords are a solid punch to the chest, while Mick Jagger articulates what everyone is thinking—“If you start me, up I’ll never stop.”
There is little doubt that the Stones themselves understand the power of “Start Me Up” in the sports world, too, as they opened with it for their three-song set during the Super Bowl XL halftime show in 2006. A simple song, really, but it does serve as a great way to get set for game time.
“Seven Nation Army” (White Stripes, 2003)
We’ll bet Jack White wasn’t thinking about the incendiary effect “Seven Nation Army” would have on sports enthusiasts, but it didn’t take long for that infectious bass line to spread through stadiums worldwide.
While it’s not certain where the phenomenon originated, “Seven Nation Army” probably marshaled its most global recognition when Italy’s World Cup team adopted it in 2006 on the way to the title.
Several other soccer clubs have since used the song to rally home supporters, as have countless U.S. colleges. Stateside, the Baltimore Ravens named “Seven Nation Army” their hype song in 2011, and television viewers of 2013’s Super Bowl XLVII could hear fans chanting it when the power went out at the New Orleans Superdome in the third quarter.
“We Will Rock You” (Queen, 1977)
Stomp, stomp, clap! Stomp, stomp, clap!
All you need is two feet and two hands to get in on the “We Will Rock You” fun. This 1977 classic has been a staple for so long that it’s ubiquitous at all venues.
Queen frontman Freddy Mercury spat out a tale of the kid with mud on his face, too shy to stand up and “make a big noise.” Later, that boy grows into a young man, bloodied and battered, and eventually ages into a sad sack.
So even if the theme of the song might not be the perfect pairing with a sporting event, that opening beat is just so recognizable and virulently catchy that packed arenas everywhere will be stomping and clapping in mere seconds.
“Crazy Train” (Ozzy Osbourne, 1980)
Who doesn’t rev their car engine a little more when “Crazy Train” comes on the radio? Yeah, that’s why this standard from the Prince of Darkness plays so well at any sporting event.
“Crazy Train” is so widely used by teams in several sports that it’s rare if you don’t hear it at a game. That famous riff by the late, great Randy Rhoads is virtually guaranteed to raise the hairs on the back of the neck every time, and while many teams have used “Crazy Train” as their theme, the one that really leaps to mind is the New England Patriots, who blasted it as they took the field during each of their three 2000s-era Super Bowl titles.
“Song 2” (Blur, 1997)
If you like soccer, you have heard “Song 2.” But who are we kidding? If you’ve attended an athletic event any time since the late 1990s, you’ve likely screamed “Woo-hoo!” along with Blur frontman Damon Albarn when this jam hits.
So titled for its position on the track list of Blur’s 1997 eponymous fifth album, the anthemic “Song 2” probably made its initial public appearance in the EA Sports video game FIFA: Road to World Cup 98. Since then it’s been a featured gem for so many championship clubs across all disciplines. It clocks in at a mere 2:02, but that’s more than enough time to get into the overdriven chorus a few times and kick the energy through the roof.
“Thunderstruck” (AC/DC, 1990)
Angus Young’s expert fretwork sets the intense tone of this positively massive banger, which builds and builds until singer Bryan Johnson comes in with his mesmerizingly guttural moaning synched with Chris Slade’s pounding drums.
Perhaps thunder is an appropriate theme for “Thunderstruck,” as its energy is always as palpable as an electrical storm once the song really gets rolling. Be it a key third-down stop, a critical last-minute possession during an NBA playoff match, or some other pivotal sporting moment, “Thunderstruck” always seems to be ideal accompaniment.
“Welcome to the Jungle” (Guns N’ Roses, 1987)
The pressure always hits another level when the echoing bars of G N’ R’s “Welcome to the Jungle” rings out over a sea of fans, as the following line — “You’re in the jungle, baby! You’re gonna die!” — strikes fear into the hearts of any opponent.
The Cincinnati Bengals have been known to “welcome” everyone using this song to this day. And why not? Even though it was released way back in the late ’80s, the Appetite for Destruction smash more than holds its own with anything that has hit the airwaves since then.
“Enter Sandman” (Metallica, 1991)
Let’s start with storied New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. For years, the future Hall of Famer came out from the bullpen with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” marking his ominous arrival on the mound. More often than not, Rivera would get the save and continue to terrorize opposing hitters throughout MLB.
But “Enter Sandman” also gets special points for its starring role at Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium. Most Hokies football games are intense, but when James Hetfield and the boys launch into that memorable riff, Blacksburg, Va., is set ablaze.
“Enter Sandman” has been heard in stadiums worldwide, but for Rivera and VaTech in particular, it really hits home.