Entertainment Talk

Somebody needs to reboot the Jock Jams series

Jock Jams 2 Unlimited
2 Unlimited figured into the first four editions of the Jock Jams series. In the late '90s, no one was ready for a sporting event until Randy Slijngaard asked. (Photo by Ferdy Damman/AFP/Getty Images)

No sporting event in the latter half of the ’90s was complete unless it began with the first two tracks of Jock Jams.

Faceoff, first pitch, kickoff or tipoff, they all had to wait for Michael Buffer and 2 Unlimited. The recording of Buffer’s (literal) trademark guttural “Let’s get ready to rumble!” shared pockets with “Get Ready for This.” And no one was ready for the action at hand until Ray Slijngaard asked.

By night’s end, you would have likely heard more than half of the songs featured on the 1995 compilation. Four sequels followed, with one coming out per calendar year to close the decade. With that, the five Jock Jams and three Jock Rock playlists made the majority of a given sound crew’s selection.

That steady diet continued in professional venues through at least the early ’00s. Since then, almost every mainstream sound crew has sprung for fresher pump-up collections.

Yet it has been nearly 15 years since the likes of ESPN have assembled any albums of game-day music. But there is no time like this age of rampant rebooting to propose more Jock Jams, or something like it.

That kind of revival could come especially in handy in high-school settings. At times, the lack of accommodations for the most modern technology also brings an apparent lack of accommodations for more modern playlists.

The fact that the Jock Jams name has sustained its allure this long is impressive, in some respects. Any student who spins those CDs at their peers’ contests today is too young to remember its release.

Still, if this is their resort for in-game entertainment, they could use something for their generation to call their own. There is no shortage of quality song selections. It is just a matter of granting access for those who want a major-league atmosphere in a small-town setting.

The people who begat the series in the ’90s most recently unleashed Stadium Anthems in 2003. That made nine compilations in the span of a decade. Jock Rock had started it in 1994, acknowledging a then-fairly novel trend of canned music at sporting events.

To the dismay of organs-only purists, that trend grew permanent legs. Yet sports fans who are with the times have seen the pipeline dry on home editions of the stadium soundtrack. More recent sports-themed releases have been sparse, lacked original content and at times lacked dignity.

The genre’s dormancy need not amount to extinction, though. Besides canned music’s permanence in arenas, compilation albums are a steady mainstay. Look no further than the Now That’s What I Call Music series.

This Friday, Feb. 2, will see the 65th edition of that series’ main U.S. branch hit stores. It will continue a string that began in 1998, and now generally replenishes itself on a quarterly basis.

Then there are the four Latino, nine Christmas, 19 country and 45 miscellaneous special editions. As it happens, one of the most recent specials was Now That’s What I Call Tailgate Anthems.

Released this past August, Tailgate Anthems packs a diverse lineup reminiscent of Stadium Anthems. It kicks off with “We Will Rock You,” the same first full-length track of Jock Rock and Stadium Anthems.

Other older content includes “Eye of the Tiger,” “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The other recycles from ESPN’s compilations are “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “The Final Countdown” and “Jump Around.”

Everything after that is 21st-century material that big arenas picked up, but ESPN and its competitors missed. Regulars at any venue would be hard pressed to not recall hearing “I Gotta Feeling,” “Yeah!” or “Get the Party Started” in that setting.

They would be equally hard pressed to find it on a recognizable athletics-oriented assemblage. Until Now.

What do sports-theme specialists in the music production field have to lose? More to the point, what do they have to gain by letting one-off specialists steal their material?

Since Stadium Anthems, a couple of entities have taken the Jock Jams name. But nothing they have produced is worth lending to your resident student-DJ at high-school games. Something (or someone) called Sure Shot Kid ran a slew of strange, inferior covers/remixes, mostly of songs ESPN featured before. Other compilations have essentially emulated the ludicrous Kidz Bop.

Not that those are inherent grounds for complaint. If that suits the ears of enough private home listeners, all the power to them.

But the fact remains that the pros are lapping those who look up to them in the canned-music department. Just look at what you get when you query “Jock Jams” on Twitter.

This past weekend, Josh Golberg, the sports director at a Wisconsin radio station, underscored the lack of originality at grassroots games. “Just a thought to entertain…..it’s possible for high school teams and sound guys to play something other than the original Jock Jams album during warmups or halftime. #twocents”

Even in the collegiate ranks, people pine for a break from a custom that is now nearly a quarter-century old. A Jan. 17 tweet by the handle @JustinEllis asked how to “get rid of the Jock Jams CD” at Missouri State.

The best answer may be to dangle a shiny new Jock Jams CD. Preferably one with a few old-school staples, but primarily a deluge of new blood.

Three of the Jock Jams or Jock Rock compilations had “Rock and Roll Part 2.” That one-time go-to goal song has since rightly faded in light of Gary Glitter’s hideous crimes. But what better way to turn the page than to welcome “Chelsea Dagger” as part of a revival?

The Fratellis’ 2006 gem was quick to become synonymous with soccer and the Blackhawks’ dynasty of this decade. It has arguably supplanted “Sirius” (the first track of Jock Rock, Vol. 2) as Chicago’s signature sports song.

Major franchises (and sometimes players) are shaping identities and eras with introductory and celebratory tunes. As always, most of what ticketholders will hear will not appear on any Now albums. Not even some of the current content.

Some teams stick with a song for multiple seasons. Others keep the rotation as fresh as possible. But even retired entrance music from the not-too-distant past has a way of sticking around and sustaining a shelf life.

If youth and scholastic teams want to emulate that, a Jock Jams reboot would make for an easy means. As for the original, it should have a place on every team’s almanac for ’90s Night.

Just a thought.

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Al Daniel

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