OpEd Columns

Is This a Football Game or a Heavy Meal Concert?(Indianapolis Star 12/17/05)

A few weeks ago, I hopped in the car, drove to Cincinnati, and took in the well-hyped Colts-Bengals game with my 84-year old father. A funny thing happened while we sat inside Paul Brown Stadium, a few hundred feet above the Ohio River.
A football game broke out during a heavy metal concert.
This was alarming to Dad, a former bass in the New York City Opera Company who meticulously critiques the singing of the national anthem at every sporting event we’ve ever attended.
Elbow in the side. “It’s not ba-a-nner yet wave. They’re singing the wrong notes.”
You’d think after bruising my ribs for thirty years, and numerous complaints launched at the television set, Dad’s overtures would get thru to the solo artists in sports stadiums nationwide.
“What is that?” he said.
Duh-duh. Da-da. Duh-duh. Da-da. Aye-Aye-Aye.
The massive speakers circling the stadium rumbled. The concrete artifice shook. Teetering fans raised their beers. A screeching guitar riff.
“That’s Ozzy Osbourne, Dad….Crazy Train.”
You could hear….well, you could hear nothing but Ozzy, drowning out 69,000 screaming voices. Like watching the game while listening to your iPod.
I could barely read Dad’s lips. “Who?”
“Ozzy Osbourne.” I shouted. “He’s a bat-eating drugged out heavy metal has-been. The song kinda fires you up, huh Dad?”
Dad shook his head.
Yes, these days you can’t go to a sporting event and not hear Crazy Train.
The New England Patriots run out of the locker room to the song. The St. Louis Cardinals’ Larry Walker strolls to home plate with it blaring from the speakers. Even the Notre Dame Marching Band serenades fans during a football game with a trumpet laden version of Crazy Train.
Mental wounds not healing
Life’s a bitter shame
I’m going off the rails on a crazy train
Yeah, Go Team!
How did Crazy Train become a nationally overused sports anthem? This is inspiring rally music? Sorry, but to a senior in high school in 1981, Crazy Train was that song you associated with the guys in school with bloodshot eyes, who smelled like incense, and generally spent three out of five days a week in detention.
Obviously some whippersnapper marketing director felt that what sports stadiums around the country need more of are headbangers.
”OK, I’d like to present my marketing strategy for this year’s team….more Heavy Metal! Let’s get some foam three-fingers. Football and Heavy Metal. I love this frickin Game!
Or maybe the obvious occupational destination for many strung out, metal-studded teens high on Ozzy is events coordinator for an NFL franchise.

Yes, the eighties poster boy for Satanism is being piped into every pro stadium, college bowl, and rickety high school football field in America. Now, I’m not claiming a nationwide secret satanic agenda at work, perfectly executed by a demonic sports marketing firm (Although, I’m surprised at least one Senator hasn’t claimed that.)
No, I’m more intrigued on how the screeching metal music of a stumbling dove eating, drug addict, deified by teenage headbangers for decades, has now become a fun sing-a-long at timeouts. Maybe I underestimate the number of sports fans with secret heavy metal album collections.
Sure enough, the Bengals dusted off quite a few staples of the metal genre during the game. Ted Nugent, AC/DC, Guns ‘N Roses among a few. Indeed, the art of crowd participation at sporting events has gone from spontaneous cheers (Defense! Defense!) to cheesy karaoke chants (Aye-aye-aye).
Nothing like Ozzy at those key moments during a game to get the home team focused for the big play. Nevermind the lyrics. If it’s got a good beat and brings back memories of wild high school keggers, you’ll hear it at the next ball game. Over and over again.
In terms of sports anthems, Crazy Train has now approached cliché status, soon to join Gary Glitter’s Rock-n-Roll Pt. 2 (The Hey Song) and Queen’s We Are The Champions. Worn out. Overdone. Passe.
So, after Ozzy fades away, what will be the next great sports anthem I’ll be explaining to my dad?
“Let’s Get it On”, by Marvin Gaye. Perfect for kickoffs, tipoffs, and long binocular gazes at NFL cheerleaders.

Ted Mandell teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.
Copyright 2005 Ted Mandell

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