You can think of sports as serious athletic contests, but there’s no question that fans stream into arenas and stadiums around the world to be entertained. And like a warm-up act before a big performance, one way to get them hyped up is to get a theme song or anthem blaring through the speakers.
While songs like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” or Survivor's “Eye of the Tiger” can get the job done, so can some original compositions. Take a look at seven of the most unique anthems teams have used—to mixed receptions.
1. Orlando Magic Theme Song // 1989
To score the newest team to join the NBA in 1989, musician Glen Gettings and his Gettings Productions composed a tune with a conjuring theme: “Abracadaba, alakazam, slam dunk sesame.” Gettings said the song was the result of “Jack Daniels” and that the repetitious “Orlando Magic” chorus was intended to get people on their feet. The first live performance of the song was recently unearthed by sports journalist Pat Welter and disseminated by writer Kevin Clark, prompting the team to promise they would play it in the arena if fans retweeted the post 1000 times. That goal was hit in 15 minutes.
2. "Here Come the Sixers" // 1975
The Philadelphia 76ers blended disco and sports in the ‘70s, when “Here Come the Sixers” was rallying fans by demanding they “clap your hands” and “stomp your feet.” The tune was the creation of the band Fresh Aire and its bass guitarist Randy Childress, who was a college student and doing odd jobs for the team at the time. (He once dressed as a turkey for a game.) General Manager Pat Williams learned Childress was a musician and asked him to compose a song. Childress teamed with Fresh Aire bandmates Terry Rocap and Joe Sherwood and came up with a beat that matched the dribble of a basketball and a countdown chorus that was inspired by Sesame Street. The song was rediscovered in the 2000s and has since become a nostalgic hit.
3. "Hey, Hey, Tampa Bay" // 1979
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers charged the field accompanied by this rallying song, which was the brainchild of a television jingle writer named Jeff Arthur. Arthur told The Tampa Bay Times in 2021 that he presented it to the team’s marketing director, Bob Best, who flatly rejected it. “He was very kind about it and I told him thank you very much and I brought it to a local radio station,” Best said. “His name was Jeff Lawrence … He started playing it on WDAE, which was the sports station, and then people went kind of crazy, and then all the other stations started playing it, so Bob Best calls me back and says, ‘Bring that fight song back here.’” Arthur, a Bucs fan, never asked for or received any royalties for it.
4. "The Super Bowl Shuffle" // 1985
While not strictly a stadium anthem, “The Super Bowl Shuffle” stands out as the most notorious team track of all time. For one thing, it was recorded by the actual players of the 1985 Chicago Bears, including the very non-vocally-blessed William “The Refrigerator” Perry and Willie Gault. It was also seen as an act of hubris, since the team recorded the tune six weeks before they actually made the Super Bowl.
The song was the idea of Gault and Richard Meyer, a Chicago-area record executive who thought a novelty tune might catch on while boosting the profile of Meyer’s Red Label Records. Profits from the song, which hit #41 on the Billboard chart and sold an impressive 700,000 copies, also generated $331,000 in charitable donations.
This wasn’t the first exclusive song for the Bears. In 1941, the team introduced “Bear Down, Chicago Bears,” a fight anthem by composer Al Hoffman under the pseudonym Jerry Downs. Hoffman, who was born in Russia, also composed classics songs for Disney’s Cinderella (1950) including “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” and “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”
Unlike the "Shuffle," the Bears song was not quite ready for MTV:
"Bear down, Chicago Bears, make every play clear the way to victory; Bear down, Chicago Bears, put up a fight with a might so fearlessly. We'll never forget the way you thrilled the nation with your T-formation. Bear down, Chicago Bears, and let them know why you're wearing the crown. You're the pride and joy of Illinois, Chicago Bears, bear down."
5. "New England, the Patriots and We" // 1986
Following the success of “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” fellow Super Bowl XX team the New England Patriots thought it would be a good idea to try a theme track of their own. “New England, the Patriots and We” traded the Bears’ rap for what one Boston Globe reporter dubbed an “unctuous, saccharine, overlong number.” The track was a collaboration between the Soundtrack Studios Singers and a new wave band dubbed New Man. Sensing an opportunity, MTV pitted the two football videos head-to-head on television and asked viewers to call in with their preference. The Bears won the poll 73 percent to 23 percent, and the Super Bowl 46-10.
6. "Let’s Ram It" // 1986
The fallout from “The Super Bowl Shuffle” reached a nadir with the 1986 release of “Let’s Ram It,” a tune meant to celebrate the Los Angeles Rams. Recorded by the team under the guidance of “Shuffle” mastermind Richard Meyer, its lyrics were far from the family-friendly image the league prefers to portray. (Sample: “I learned long ago if you ram it just right, you can ram it all day and all night.”) Player David Hill told Yahoo that the motivations for the song were simple. “The only reason why we did it was that the Bears had done it and it was a day off,” he said in 2016. “To be honest it was a bad decision because it took all day and wasted our day off.”
7. "Bengals Growl" // 1968
In an example of one of the most enduring anthems in sports, the Cincinnati Bengals to this day play “Bengals Growl” following a touchdown. The tune was written by George “Red” Bird in 1968, who was neighbors with Bengals founder Paul Brown. Depending on the quality of the recording, the animal growl peppered throughout the song sounds a little like flatulence.