With Gord Downie’s passing yesterday, social media was flooded with tributes to The Tragically Hip, and I noticed a common theme – that The Hip‘s fanbase was filled with hockey fans and players, from juniors to the NHL. It gave me a moment to reflect on what is a huge and fascinating pairing – music, and its intersection with the sports world.

I’ve worked with three professional teams over six years, and every single season starts with the same theme – music. In the AHL and CWHL, one of the first matters as the season started was the issue of warmup music. In professional baseball, about 80% of my text messages with players centered on walkup or batting practice music – where to start the songs, what genre they wanted to hit to, and so forth. Music is a HUGE part of athletes’ lives, and one of the major items where their personalities are reflected. During pregame, there was always a boombox in the locker room blasting that starter’s tunes, and during postgame, win or loss, tunes were always on.

Music isn’t limited to player choices and preferences – it helps provide context to highlights, create emotional connections in hype videos, and fills spaces in the background at stadiums around the world. ESPN even provides a list of music that’s featured on their broadcasts, in game, and on their various platforms for fans to reference. CBC is known for their playoff hype videos, stirring hockey fan emotions and using nostalgia to enhance their broadcasts. Every broadcast at the professional level – and many at the collegiate and amateur level as well – features some sort of musical enhancement or element.

Obviously, this is a massive subject, and I don’t pretend that this is a comprehensive assessment of the topic, but I do know this – music and sports are intertwined, from the athletes to the fans. The similarities go beyond packed arenas and stadiums, past loyalty and fandom, and center on emotion – each have a unique way of stirring and creating emotion in a watcher or listener. That emotion is what makes a musical act, a sports team, a player or an artist worth following.

What do you think? Are their any songs or artists that you automatically associate with a sport or sporting event? Leave a comment on the Popternative Facebook page or reply on Twitter here or here!