Day One hundred and fifty-seven: "Sports Song" from Mandatory Fun
The career of American pop parodist and national treasure “Weird Al” Yankovic is filled with glorious one-offs. Al and his band are wonderfully eclectic. The king of pop parody seems to have challenged himself to make a song in just about every genre and style, from the zydeco of “My Baby’s In Love With Eddie Vedder” to the exquisitely snotty college fight song parody “Sports Song.”
The college fight song is not just a celebration of victory; it’s a promise of victory as well. The arrogance and entitlement of the college fight song is overbearing but masked by ornate, grandiose verbiage. The cerebral spirit of Tom Lehrer, who didn’t just use the kinds of college words “Sports Song” is full of, but was an actual college professor as well, courses through “Sports Song” although it also has the impish feel of vintage Mad Magazine as well.
“Sports Song” sounds at once timeless and old-timey, since college sports songs, even my alma mater’s “On Wisconsin”, all tend to sound like they were written sometime in the jazz age by an F. Scott Fitzgerald type in a raccoon fur coat to impress flappers.
The vibe of “Sports Song” is less Jock Jam than Harvard Lampoon satire. It starts off by rhyming “clearly inferior” with “collective posterior” and maintains that level of lyrical complexity throughout. Heck, Al sounds downright scientific when he taunts, “Your sports team will soon suffer swift defeat, that theory’s backed by empirical evidence” before once again waxing metaphorical when he insists, “We’re gonna grind your guys up into burger meat, again, of course, we’re speaking in the figurative sense.”
The “again” part in that last lyric is a callback to an opening boast about how the team Al is so cockily shilling for will kick their opponents’ “collective posterior” though he is of course speaking in a figurative sense.
After spending two glorious verses elucidating his team’s greatness in increasingly insulting, hyperbolic ways, Al gets to the heart of his argument when he chants during an all too infectious chorus, “We're great (We're great!)/And you suck (You suck!)/We’re great (We're great!)/And you suck (You suck!)/We’re great (We're great!)/And you suck (You suck!)/You see there's us (We're great!)/And then there's you (You suck!)/We’re really, really great (Really great!)
In contrast, you really suck (Really suck).” Then Al makes a concession that changes the tone and meaning of the song dramatically when he confesses, “Okay, full disclosure, we're not that great/But nevertheless, you suck”
The seminal 1974 political documentary Hearts & Minds drew a direct line between the rah-rah boosterism and macho aggression of college and high school football and the bloodshed and madness of the Vietnam War.
There’s a sense of that in “Sports Song” as well. The arrogance of “Sports Song” is an unmistakably American arrogance. When Al boils the essence of sports fandom down to a primal chant of “We’re great, and you suck” he could just as easily be Donald Trump discussing our country’s relationship with every other nation on Earth.
Like the belligerent athletic supporter Al channels in the song, Trump’s need to repeat as often as possible, in as many ways as possible, the message that we’re great and everyone else sucks is a product not of genuine, earned confidence but rather insecurity and a desperate need to cover for the fact that, when it really comes down to it, maybe we’re the ones who suck and our opponents are the ones who’re great.
“Sports Song” is a one-size fits all wisenheimer sports anthem directed less to tailgaters and super-fans than the kind of high I.Q Poindexters who bring a book to college football games so they don’t get bored.
“Sports Song” is my all-time favorite college fight song in no small part because it does not have much competition. I’m not much of a sports fan these days, I gotta admit, but I feel like I can say confidently that “Sports Song” is great and all other college fight songs suck.
Join a nice community, support independent media and get instant access to patron-exclusive content like a Control Nathan Rabin 3.0 on Asia Argento’s The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things by pledging even a dollar over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace