From “Smooth” to “I Feel Good”, the music influences the daily routines of League football.


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In 1999, the American music scene was booming. Rap metal bands like Limp Bizkit preached toxic masculinity, teenage pop sensations like Britney Spears were fetishized and gangster rap artists allegedly insinuated violence.

While this was a “strange space” in American musical culture, according to Théo Cateforis, Associate Professor of Music History and Cultures at Syracuse University, pop songs were still relevant today. And an artist, Carlos Santana, made a success that transcended generations. With an iconic initial guitar riff and Rob Thomas on vocals, Santana did “Smooth” – the last number one hit of the millennium.

“All of the tough masculinity that has been built up through gangster rap, metal and the alternative has kind of come to this climax.” Cateforis noted. “But the ’90s were also a time when classic rock formatting really exploded. A the song that is sort of intergenerational is “Smooth”.

Twenty-one years later, the Syracuse football team officially begins most training with this hit. Head coach Dino Babers was one of the only football coaches in the League to play music during practice, and he still follows the same routine. Rehearsals begin with “Smooth” or occasionally other songs like “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and end with “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown. Music played during the remainder of practice, or pre-game warm-ups, is up to the players.

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“The players can choose (the jump ball),” Babers said. “But the first song and the last song are a bridge between the old school and the new school.”

Cateforis refers to songs like “Smooth” and “I Feel Good” as standard – these tracks have traveled from generation to generation, remaining relevant in the public sphere across different types of pop culture.

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Defensive lineman Josh Black, who only had Babers as a head coach at SU, said it was strange to hear those songs when he wasn’t on the pitch.

“When I hear these songs outside of practice it gives me chills or weird vibes,” Black said. “When you hear these songs, it’s time to go. Yes, you can have fun before you practice, but when those songs come up, it’s serious.

While Babers players recognize Santana’s first guitar play as the start of business, he said the lyrics themselves have a deeper meaning.

“You got the kind of love that can be so sweet, yeah, give me your heart, make it real, or forget it,” Thomas sings.

Santana’s guitar riffs remind them to move their bodies. But the second line is even more interesting, because it suggests that if someone doesn’t put their best efforts into anything, it’s no good.

Cateforis said lyrics like the second in this stanza are normal in all genres of music, referring to a quest to be the best. The intertwining between sport and music is unmistakable due to lyrics like this, as both fields are obsessed with competition and “being number one,” he said.

“(Music and sports) are both rhythm-based as well as in motion,” Cateforis said. “High energy sports go great with music because you can move your body to the beat of the music. “

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High-energy hip-hop and rap songs also have a lot of references to athletes or track and field, Cateforis said. The middle part of Syracuse Practices, which is driven by player suggestions, contains mostly rap songs, as players prefer these to older tracks Babers like.

Before games in the Carrier Dome, rap songs fill the stadium as players perform their pre-game routines. Black said rap songs like Chief Keef’s “Faneto” help with the physical state of mind required for positions like the defensive line.

“It’s something to motivate people. It boils your blood and prepares you to hit someone, ”Black said.

Prior to Syracuse’s match against Rutgers, “Faneto” rang through the Dome, all League players dancing on each “gang, gang” line of Chief Keef. The Scarlet Knights players even joined them on their side of the pitch, bouncing up and down in unison with their opponents.

Yet the songs suggested by players or coaches aren’t the only ones playing throughout the stadium before or during matches. Cateforis said stadium hits like Smash Mouth’s “All Star” have remained relevant in putting fans on their feet during games.

But before the Orange enters the locker room and someone else takes over the playlist in the Carrier Dome, “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is queued. . Cateforis said he was not surprised by the choice, as Brown appeared at a time similar to Santana’s. But Brown’s impact on music wasn’t just based on his soulful harmonies, it was also culturally.

Soul was the first genre recognized as “black music,” Cateforis said. “I Got You (I Feel Good)” was one of the flagship tracks, with a connection to the civil rights movement that started near the play’s release. Babers – the only black head coach currently at the Atlantic Coast Conference and the first to lead the league – said he realizes his importance at the forefront of a squad of predominantly black players.

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“There are just certain songs that young people need to know the lyrics about,” Babers said. “Although the first song has changed over the years, the last song has never changed.”

With trumpets, alto saxophones, drums, trombones, and Brown’s notorious vocal inflections, Babers gives his final instructions to the musicians between the white lines. The team heads for the tunnel and returns to the field with Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”.

“These songs he hopes to establish a routine for the team to expect,” Cateforis said. “Football, like other sports, relies a lot on rituals, habits and traditions that accompany teams. It is a form of team building.

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