Sound Off! // Comment Klatsch #3: Sonic Sports Memorabilia

Sounding Off2klatsch \KLAHCH\ , noun: A casual gathering of people, esp. for refreshments and informal conversation  [German Klatsch, from klatschento gossip, make a sharp noiseof imitative origin.] (

Dear Readers:  Today’s Sound Off!//Comment Klatsch question comes to you from Liana Silva, Managing Editor, as part of the kick off to our latest Call for Posts on Sound and Sports! Look for the call hereabstracts due April 15th–and for the series to run once a month all through the summer.  Let the games begin!–J. Stoever-Ackerman, Editor-in-Chief

P.S. In the spirit of “Fan Appreciation Nights” we are giving away a new Sounding Out! sticker to today’s Klatsch participants. After you’ve commented, simply email your snail mail address to  Thanks for your Team SO! spirit.

Do you remember a moment where sound played a crucial role in a sporting event–be it one where you played or one that you witnessed?

Comment Klatsch logo courtesy of The Infatuated on Flickr.


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22 responses to “Sound Off! // Comment Klatsch #3: Sonic Sports Memorabilia”

  1. Robin James (@doctaj) says :

    The only reason I’ve ever attended a football or basketball (or hockey) game has been to play in the band. So for me “sports” mean my high school and college fight songs. It’s been, wow, almost 20 years since I’ve played my HS fight song on my piccolo, but I can still remember all the fingerings.

    From a sound studies perspective, one really interesting event is this: In HS, a small group of band members would go to play in front of the student section during the third quarter, and the cheerleaders would perform tumbling routines while we played. One time, the cheerleaders asked us to play a litany of songs we had no music for–I think they thought we just “knew” how to play any song whatsoever–like, if we heard it, we would immediately be able to translate it into not only our own part, but also an arrangement for the ensemble. I’m still really fascinated by the gap between what some (many?) non-musicians think musical knowledge/skill consists of, and what the information and training musicians actually need to perform well.

    Another interesting sound-related anecdote: It was fall 1996, and my college marching band director often threatened us that he would make an arrangement of the Macarena and make it a stock stand tune (a song we’d play during time-outs or between quarters). “Everyone better be back from break on time or I’ll arrange the Macarena….” So this isn’t really a sound event, but the use of socially abject sounds as a disciplinary mechanism.


    • j. stoever-ackerman says :

      I was in the colorguard in middle school and high school–so I feel you hard core on this one, Robin (although we had to high mark time in front of the whole band for varying amounts of time) if we were late from break. I am still kind of sore at “Friday Night Lights” for leaving out the marching band entirely from the representations of the games on the show, as for me I couldn’t imagine them any other way than sitting in a giant sound bath of the fight song. over. . .and over. . .and over. And of course, we thought our halftime show was just as important.


  2. j. stoever-ackerman says :

    and I also feel the need to leave a shout out here to Chick Hearn (Lakers) and Vin Scully (Dodgers), whose voices are forever intertwined with the events of my LA teams!


  3. j. stoever-ackerman says :

    The most intense experience I have had with sound and sports is a personal one, as snowboarding, my favorite, tends to be a solo sport. I have been riding for about 16 years now and I am totally addicted (and really really fast). I am the one wishing that the groundhog sees his damn shadow every year, because winters keep getting depressingly shorter for my habit.

    Anyway–my big breakthrough moment came when the iPod came on the scene. Before then, walkmen were too bulky and awkward to bring up on the mountain with you, so musical-vibe-making and pumping-up sessions were restricted to driving up the mountain, blasting it from your car windows while you get your boots on in the parking lot, and then enduring whatever was playing over the mountain’s PA. But the iPod was so small, portable, and sturdy that you could keep it in your jacket pocket–even fall on it–and you wouldn’t even notice. Snowboarding companies even started accommodating the craze by making jackets with holes to thread your earbuds through so they’d stay on your ears. Honestly, being able to have my own musical accompaniment while I tore it up on the hill was the entire reason I bought my first iPod in the first place. And I spent hours upon hours, making an *all day* mix of my favorite “if I ever were in a snowboard video I would want these songs as my soundtrack mix.” In short, I was *stoked.*

    This stoked-ness lasted all of three point five seconds, maybe even less. That was the time it took me to strap in, stand up, press play on “Sound System” by Operation Ivy, adjust my volume to LOUD, and promptly fall so fast and so hard that I had no idea how it happened. It was one of the worst falls I have ever had to this day–knock on wood.

    While I was laying on the hard packed snow gasping for breath and trying to piece together what happened, I realized exactly how much I depended on my listening to provide me with crucial, even-life saving, information about the texture of the snow. With my ears overwhelmed with treble-y punk, I had charged straight into an icepatch that I would have deftly avoided as soon as I heard the inevitable and unmistakeable scratching sound that signals its location. Before that moment, I had thought of snowboarding as a visual and kinesthetic activity, but I had taken its significant auditory qualities for granted. Many obstacles cannot be seen–such as a skier coming up too fast behind you–and often the visual conditions are *terrible*–fog, white-out blizzard, or snow glinting off dazzling snow– and you have to rely on your hearing almost entirely to get down the mountain safe, sound, and, of course, speedily. I also realized that much of the pleasure I get from the sport has to do with being in the moment, at the edge of all of my senses–not just of my snowboard. Rather than dulling them with music that pulls me out of the moment (and often into other times, places, and feelings altogether), I stay alert and now, much more conscious of the copious information about space and texture that listening provides.

    Like Beyonce would later do at the inauguration, I ripped those earbuds out of my ears and was never tempted to ride with headphones again–and I avoid riders that do as if they were any other mountain hazard.


    • Robin James (@doctaj) says :

      ❤ that Op Ivy track! I also like to get audio info about my environment as I'm walking/running/etc. I walk my dogs before dawn, and at first I was hesitant to wear headphones b/c I would loose audio awareness of my surroundings…until I realized I would be walking with four ears that were far better than mine in the first place.


      • j. stoever-ackerman says :

        I actually can’t run *without* my headphones and music blaring–I need the external motivation and, unlike snowboarding, the feeling that I am elsewhere. I am not a huge fan of running, but I recognize it really helps with stress and I notice I have way better times when I have music going as well. Maybe my need for music increases when gravity is not in my favor. 😉


  4. Liana Silva says :

    The first time I flew to Kansas City, I went directly from the airport to Kauffman Stadium where my now-husband was covering a Royals game. I arrived close to the sixth inning, and the reason I know this is because shortly after I arrived at the stadium and sat down, Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” started playing. This song is a staple at the K in the middle of the sixth, and the fans sing along with all of their heart. Being an East Coast gal who had never been to the Midwest, the song with its country twang caught me off guard. Little did I know then that soon I would be singing along with the crowd like any other Royals fan. The song will always remind me of Kansas City and of baseball, and I’ll always hear at the end of the second round of the chorus “Now batting for your Kansas City Royals…”:


  5. J. Spagna says :

    Sure… the alternation of sound (loud or obnoxious) and quiet serve to reinforce the psychological effects of ‘momentum’ on some momentum-influenced sports, especially football. Trying to ‘score early’ to quiet the fans is a real thing. When I played in high school, we were a good team but with a small squad- usually between 25 and 30 players. This made us appear unimpressive (a joke, really) in pre-game, especially with 11 on the field, there would only be 12-15 players on the sidelines. So, I remember one big playoff game we were warming up in their stadium, and we were standing around in the end zone, tossing the ball around informally, as you do when you have 2 dozen guys on the team. Our opponents march about 80 guys onto the field, while laughing and pointing at us, and do a routine featuring counted-out jumping jacks, slapping their pads, etc.,making all kinds of noise, sort of a whiteboy version of the Maori ‘Haka’ dance, and their fans start rocking the place, pounding their feet in rhythm on the metal stands, making just a Hell of a ruckus up there. Once the game started though, we scored the first 3 times we had the ball, and after the first quarter, in was 22-6. It went just absolutely quiet… we had a few fans there, but not many, so it was dead still between plays. Then, the other team’s players started ‘talking mess’, in a desperate attempt to psych themselves up- sad stuff- criticizing our playbook, complaining about refs’ calls, lame stuff. But the fans were done. At that point, about 1/2way through the 2nd quarter, everyone knew it was over; they were already consoling themselves and making excuses. Though it’s hard to second-guess a 54-12 result, maybe if they hadn’t made all that noise- completely blown it out, really- while the score was still 0-0 they could have got the fans psyched up behind some kind of comeback, or at least 2nd half effort.


  6. mr. oyola says :

    It’s gotta be Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” which I first heard at a Mets’ game in the early 80s. The stomping feet and clapping hands of the fans in unison to the beat was one of the most powerful musical/fan experiences I had ever had (esp. since I had not been to a concert yet at that time in my life). I was amazed when I later found out that the same band that did that song did “Another One Bites the Dust” which I _was_ familiar with as that bassline had been played on many a boombox and car stereo in the summers before.

    Years later when I was on my high school wrestling team, we played an away match against a school who started their warm-up drills with someone coming one and laying down a boombox playing “We Will Rock You” – it was damn intimidating! Ironically, however, it was the first and only wrestling match I was ever a part of where every single one of our guys beat every single one of their guys.


  7. rnbradley says :

    When I was a kid I was raised in a Bulls and Lakers household. One of the most memorable pieces of sonic sports memorabilia is the Chicago Bulls theme song. I remember watching it and hearing my folks get hype when Jordan, PIppen, and Kukoc and ‘nem would be introduced as “YOUR CHICAGO BULLS!!!!!”

    It came full circle for me when I took my husband to his first home game for the Bulls in January. He was beyond hype and I was too. It’s a totally different sense of excitement and understanding of the phrase “Oh it’s about to go down!”


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