Some soundtracks fit perfectly with sports

As holiday music streams through the car radio, the stores, and even the computer, putting us into the spirit of the season, I can’t help but wonder — what would life, and in particular — athletics — be without it?

Music infiltrates every aspect of our lives. How often do we find ourselves tapping our foot to a beat that we didn’t even realize we were hearing? Or singing along to a commercial jingle? Or putting on our headphones and tuning out the rest of the world for a brisk run or an hour of lifting weights?

At football games, school fight songs bring crowds together to cheer on their teams; bands entertain during the halftime break and fill stadiums with anthems. What would a Penn State game be without “Sweet Caroline” or “Hail to the Lion?”

In baseball, individual players are defined by their walk-up songs, the 10-or-so-seconds of music played as they take their place at the plate for each at-bat. And then there’s the organ — getting fans to clap along, or to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Music can illicit an emotional response, whether it’s hearing your Alma Mater, a song from your wedding or a funeral, or a favorite song from an old mix tape. Remember making mixed tapes before CD’s, iTunes and MP3’s?

According to, scientists have been researching connections between music and physical exercise for nearly a century, with Robert Sweak, PhD noting that scientists discovered in 1935 that a change in tempo of music resulted in a change in listener’s respiration rates.

In fact, it’s been discovered that music can have an impact on blood pressure, heart rate, metabolic activity, mental and physical stress and even fatigue.

I remember in college putting an REO Speedwagon cassette into my Walkman for every mandatory run on the Penn State softball team. I knew when “Wheels Are Turning” started to play, I was almost home. And during pre-game warm-ups, every player on our team contributed their favorite pick-me-up songs, with an eclectic music mix ranging from rap to country. To this day, those songs, even ones that I didn’t particularly like, bring back vivid memories of teammates and friends, and even pre-game butterflies … of a time that’s so very long gone.

Steeler fans probably have that kind of connection to “Renegade,” while Chicago Bears faithful have a sentimental attachment to the corny albeit fun “Superbowl Shuffle.”

There’s nothing like “One Shining Moment” at the end of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and imagine the Olympic Games without composer John Williams’ inspiring trumpet fanfare, or the emotional playing of the gold medal winners’ national anthems.

Music, in life and in sports can raise our spirits and improve our performance. The right rhythm, sound, voice, instruments, tempo can bring out the best in ourselves and our team.

So what’s on your iPod?

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.