Tonight marks the opening night of the 2014 NFL Season, so in celebration, here are the 10 best songs about sports. I tried to make it all football, but there are surprisingly few football-themed hits. And since it’s still baseball season, I decided to throw in a few baseball ones as well. Basketball? Other than “I Believe I Can Fly,” the round ball got left out in the cold since the only other basketball song I could think of was Cheech & Chong’s “Basketball Jones,” which, quite frankly, is in a league of its own. Given that the World Cup just ended, I also threw in a little soccer love.
Though certainly not written about football, Jay Z and Rihanna's "Run This Town" is the new theme song for Thursday Night Football, according to NFL and CBS. The pair's hit, from Jay Z's "The Blueprint 3," will get reworked each week with narration by Don Cheadle.
1. “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” Chicago Bears (1985)
It wasn’t pretty or even remotely good, but the rap by The Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew captured the feeling in Chicago like no other as we watched Da Bears go all the way. I lived in Chicago then and it was an exhilarating, great time to be a sports fan (which, as Chicago fans know, that is not always the case). The song missed hitting Billboard’s Top 40 by one slot, peaking at No. 41.
2. “The Boys of Fall,” Kenny Chesney (2010)
Though Chesney didn’t write this somber salute to high school football, he sang it like he’d lived it and took it all the way to No. 1.
3.“Centerfield,” John Fogerty (1985)
Fogerty’s salute to America’s Game is note perfect and its inclusion in “Bull Durham” only sealed it as the best song ever written in the short canon of songs written about baseball. The song also plays at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown Put me in, coach. I’m ready to play.
4. “The Boys of Summer,” Don Henley (1984)
Only the title refers to baseball, but the song perfectly captures the wistful feelings of the fleeting last days of summer— of youth, really— and glory days on and off the field.
5. “I Believe I Can Fly,” R Kelly (1996)
The song first appeared in “Space Jam,” and is in someways forever linked to Michael Jordan, who soared like no other player. However, for most folks, it’s simply R Kelly’s best, most inspirational track.
6. “All Kinds of Time,” Fountains of Wayne (2003)
The New Jersey boys put themselves in the mind of a QB and what goes through his mind after he takes the snap. His mind slows, he thinks of his family watching on TV and feels like he has all the time in the world to find his open man. The NFL used the song in commercials in 2005.
7. “Green and Yellow,” Lil Wayne (2011)
The rapper’s salute to his beloved Green Bay Packers manages to dis the Pittsburgh Steelers and several other teams, while promoting Cheez Whiz and Cheeseheads everywhere.
8. “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” Hank Williams Jr. (1984)
Monday Night Football adopted (and adapted) the song as its theme from 1989 to 2011. Are you ready for some football?
9. “Gonna Fly Now,” DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford (1977)
Bill Conti’s theme from “Rocky” is indelibly linked to Rocky running the steps in Philadelphia forever more and is an ode to the underdog. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song, the tune is short on words, but long on heart.
10.“Eye of The Tiger,” Survivor (1982)
Continuing with everyone's favorite film pugilist, this “Rocky III” smash would have made the list regardless, but now the anthem to working hard and going the distance serves as a tribute to Survivor lead singer, Jimi Jamison, who died last week. Fun fact: Sylvester Stallone asked the band to write an anthem after he was unable to get the rights to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”
11. “We Are The Champions/We Will Rock You,” Queen (1977)
Speaking of Queen, the all-time greatest sports anthems not written about sports and among the greatest single A&B sides ever (ask your parents if you’re too young to know what that means). The band wrote “We Are The Champions” to get their fans going in concert, and then “We Will Rock You” was the B-side. It’s impossible to go to any team sporting event and not hear one or the other.
12. "The Cup of Life," Ricky Martin (1998)
The official theme song for the 1998 World Cup was not only a great soccer anthem, the song broke Ricky Martin into the Anglo market with his performance of the track on the 41st annual Grammy Awards. He scored a major goal with his performance, one of the best in Grammy history.