Backstory: Even football is only rock 'n' roll
DJs, dancing girls, live music - is a sporting event about the soundtrack or the game itself?
With Super Bowl XL approaching, every person on the planet knows the Rolling Stones are providing 12 minutes of halftime entertainment.Skip to next paragraph
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The Stones repeatedly turned down this gig in years past, so the NFL no doubt sees this as the ultimate coup - and seems to be advertising the "world's greatest rock 'n' roll band" as heavily as it is the Game itself.
You'll see the world's skinniest man - Mick Jagger - take the field just occupied by a horde of 340-pound linemen. As counterintuitive as it may seem, Jagger's geezer strut will command as much focus as the flesh pounding players will. And, really, if pressed, couldn't you name more Rolling Stones (dead or alive) than Seahawks and Steelers? (Apologies to readers in Seattle and Pittsburgh.)
It's part of the "rockification" of sport - a background soundtrack, live or recorded, that weaves through sporting events (golf and tennis, so far, excepted). Sometimes bands play live before, after, or - in the Stones's case - in the midst of the event; during games it certainly creates an unescapable racket.
Why the Stones agreed to the Super Bowl this time is evidence of rockification.
"I think in part [it is] because of the recent history of Super Bowls, with U2 and Paul McCartney" doing them, says NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. "And Keith Richards was on holiday with McCartney and had a discussion that led to him bringing the idea to the Stones, saying, 'This might be the right time.' "
Surely not lost on the Stones, on tour and with a new album out: McCartney's record sales rocketed after his performance on what he calls "the world's largest stage to reach a mass audience."
The message: Don't blink, don't leave your chair, you might miss something. Do not pause to think for a moment because you'll be awash in sound, be it football commentary or classic rock. And aren't they swell dance partners? Sports and music.
We are Americans and we want to be stimulated and entertained every waking moment. Walking down the street? Make sure that iPod is on your belt and the plug is in your ear. Having dinner with the family? Make sure one of your 400 TV channels is on in case the conversation lags. Need we mention video games? Sporting events?
We're indeed in an era of the rockification - or, often, rapification - of sports. Except for the mini-concerts at Super Bowl halftime, it's not so prevalent when you watch TV - there are all those commercials to watch!
But go to a live game and you'll find the sonic barrage overwhelming. Four years ago, a friend took me to a Celtics-76ers game in Boston. I can't remember if music was played during the game or just at every possible moment the game wasn't being played. We left midway through the last quarter, not because Alan Iverson was defeating the Celtics almost single-handedly but because of the sound. Our ears hurt. Our brains rattled. I know a hockey fan who refuses to go to games anymore for the same reasons.
The breeding ground for all this, says Michael Howell, a Boston marketing specialist, was World Wrestling Entertainment, the organization that has long set its soap operas for men to rock music.
Who'd have thought that rockification would evolve from pro wrestling rings to the pristine baseball parks of America? Now, many players want their chosen "theme" songs played high-decibel as they approach the plate. The old-time organist? Banished or rarely used.