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Music & Sports

Sports and music often go hand-in-hand. Athletes use music to calm themselves before a contest, to motivate, or to improve performance. Spectators rely on music to enhance their enjoyment of the game.


They share commonalities such as performances before large crowds, extreme followership or fandom, and the need to perform at the very highest levels over and over. They also offer similar opportunities to the public: appreciation for high accomplishment, inspiration to do better in one’s personal life, and at times, escape from daytime troubles.

Music is also integral at times to sports events. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is part of every MLB game. In addition to the National Anthem, most football games include a marching band show at half-time, and fight songs, all combined to bring the crowd more into the game. College and professional basketball games often have bands at the games to pump-up players and fans alike. Duke Blue-Devil basketball fans, for example, rock to “Devil with the Blue Dress,” and other rock and hip-hop songs inspire athletes everywhere. Probably no sport incorporates music like world soccer/football, e.g., “We Are One (Ole, Ole).” Teams are even named for music genres: The NBA’s Utah (formerly New Orleans) Jazz and the NHL’s St. Louis Blues are prime examples.

Music can also convey sports elements and emotions. The themes from “Rocky” or “Chariots of Fire” communicate a striving for success commensurate with the stories they accompany, and the use of songs, like “Wild Thing” in the movie “Major League” enhances sports stories beyond words.

The Center for Sports and Music

The Center for Sports and Music will reside within the Rose Bowl Institute as a major thrust of the organization’s activities to enhance sportsmanship, leadership, and citizenship. Other parallel activities include initiatives on Race and Sports, Women’s Empowerment, Sports and Innovation, and the Institute’s Sportsmanship in the Schools initiative where athletes address the connections between sportsmanship and citizenship. All are aimed at bringing positive sports values to the broader society.

Rose Bowl Institute

No place is more fitting to address these overlaps than the Rose Bowl Institute. The Rose Bowl is not only a venerated historical venue for sports events, including two Olympics, two World Cups, and the “Grandaddy of Them All” Rose Bowl Game, but has hosted some of the most popular music acts in the world such as The Rolling Stones, BTS, Cold Play, Taylor Swift, and Kenny Chesney, as well as memorable marching band performances and competitions.

Accordingly, the Rose Bowl Institute proposes to create a Center on Sports and Music. This center will engage in a variety of activities aimed at (1) assessing positive relationships between sports and music, (2) highlighting and encouraging ways that music can enhance sportsmanship, and (3) other relevant aspects of sports/ entertainment interaction.

Assessing Positive Relationships between Sports and Music

Studies show that music can be a positive influence on a athletic performance. It can relax or inspire the athlete before performing. Indeed, one study shows five ways that music can affect sports preparation and/or performance: dissociation, arousal regulation, synchronization, acquisition of motor skills, and attainment of flow.

Aside from science, athletes often cite music as an enhancement of the sporting experience. The Institute will explore the therapeutic and inspiring aspects of music on sports in its programming via Rose Table Dialogues (25 experts, leaders, musicians, and athletes around the Rose Table to address specific issues of sports and music and recommend ways to enhance positive athletic experiences via music), streamed panel discussions, and appearance of these issues in other Institute events such as its annual Women’s Empowerment Symposium. The aim in each case will be to explore how music can enhance positive sports performance and values, e.g., respectful competition, teamwork, and fair play, or how sports can infuse music with such values.

Highlighting and Encouraging Ways that Music Can Enhance Sportsmanship

Often a school’s marching band will have more members than the football team. Bands perform elaborate halftime shows as well as march in parades. Indeed, there are even sport - like marching band competitions, including some held at the historic Rose Bowl itself.

The Rose Bowl Institute’s Center on Sports and Music will use this opportunity to enhance its broader mission to foster sportsmanship and other positive sports values by offering an annual Rose Bowl Institute Award for Sportsmanship (ROSI) and monetary prize to be determined to the high school or college marching band that performs the best program highlighting sportsmanship. Bands will self - nominate by sending in videos of their performances. After the RBi staff pares the field down to five finalists, a committee composed primarily of Rose Bowl Advisory Board members will determine the winner.

Other Relationships between Sports and Entertainment

Just as music can inspire or improve athletic performance, sports can inspire musicians and other forms of entertainment. Whether John Fogarty’s “Centerfield,” Kenny Chesney’s “Boys of Fall,” Bob Marley’s “Football is Freedom,” Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball,” or a Stomp Video with the Harlem Globetrotters, musicians have long turned to sports themes for their music. Boxer Roy Jones, Jr. is an example of an athlete who became a musical artist. “Damn Yankees” led the way in translating sports to Broadway musicals and there are many movies that draw on sports stories and concepts. How can and does the broader society benefit from these associations? What more can be done to foster positive sports values in such entertainment?

The Rose Bowl Institute will explore these and other non - performance connections between sports and music in various formats, aimed at promoting the Institute’s pillar values of sportsmanship, leadership, and citizenship in the process.