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The best sports songs (with a playlist!), according to The Post Sports staff

With live sports on hiatus, The Washington Post’s sportswriters, columnists and editors share their favorite sports songs.

“All Kinds of Time,” Fountains of Wayne (2003)

Only a songwriter as brilliant as Adam Schlesinger could take a football announcer’s cliched description of a well-protected quarterback — “He’s got all kinds of time” — and turn it into an affecting (and hook-filled) rumination on the fleeting beauty of life. As the narrator understands, no one on this Earth truly has “all kinds of time” — and the fact Schlesinger died this month from novel coronavirus complications at 52 only makes this song more poignant. — Dave Sheinin

For a musician turned sportswriter, the stadium soundtrack can be distracting

“Basketball,” Kurtis Blow (1984)

Before I could dribble a ball, “Basketball” introduced me to the sport. The song’s chorus and Blow’s opening lines have become iconic for all hoopers. This was one of the first songs to connect basketball and rap. While sharing his love for the sport, Blow references about two dozen NBA players, including legends Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Twenty-one of the players he name-drops are now in the Hall of Fame. Blow also mentions NBA milestones, including Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962 and the Boston Celtics’ run of eight consecutive championships from 1959 to 1966. — Kyle Melnick

“Boxing,” Ben Folds Five (1995)

This choice might be more obscure, but its originality is among the characteristics that make it great. Ben Folds once called his “father’s romantic fascination” the inspiration for “Boxing,” but the song from his band’s self-titled first album is more of an elegy. As Folds glides over his trademark piano, this historical fiction imagines a one-sided conversation between Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell that finds the boxer asking one of sports’ oldest questions: Is it time to call it quits? “Boxing’s been good to me, Howard. / Now I’m told, you’re growing old. / The whole time we knew / In a couple of years I’d be through. / Has boxing been good to you?” As the pensive strings and chaotic drums come in, Ali signals his anxiety. And by the end, when Folds stops singing and only the piano speaks, it’s clear the boxer has his answer. — Scott Silverstein

“Brass Bonanza,” composed by Jack Say (1977)

If you really question why this is the greatest sports song of all time, just take a listen. Turn the volume high before you hit play, then thank me later. — Les Carpenter

“Bugler’s Dream and Olympic Fanfare Medley,” composed by Leo Arnaud and John Williams (1996)

Arnaud’s piece, composed for the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City, and Williams’s work, written for the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, existed apart before Williams fused them together for his 1996 Olympics record, “Summon the Heroes.” Now, viewers inherently associate that amalgamation with the biennial spectacle. The medley channels the Olympic spirit — the anticipation, the precision, the majesty — with irresistible grandeur. — Thomas Floyd

“Catfish,” Bob Dylan (1991)

Okay, boomers, here’s one for you. Written in 1975, when Catfish Hunter was at the peak of his powers, this Dylan chestnut didn’t get released until 16 years later as part of his “Bootleg Series.” By then, it already had been covered more than a few times, most notably by Joe Cocker in 1976. It’s an ode to the Hall of Fame pitcher, who signed a fat contract with the Yankees on the last day of 1974, after he already had become a star with Charlie Finley’s Oakland Athletics. “Catfish, million-dollar man. / Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can,” Dylan sings. “Carolina born and bred. / Love to hunt the little quail. / Got a hundred-acre spread. / Got some huntin’ dogs for sale.” Dylan recently released a 17-minute song about the JFK assassination, but he nailed Hunter with that one quartet. — Micah Pollack

CBS college football theme music, composed by Lloyd Landesman (1987)

Yes, that’s the name of the song — or as close to a name as it ever has been given. (It has no official title.) It’s basically the soundtrack to Saturday in the fall because if you’re hearing it, chances are a pretty good college football game is happening. It’s as if Landesman took every awesome college fight song and mashed them together to make one simply titanic anthem (even though it was written and first used for an NFL game, CBS’s intro to the Super Bowl in January 1987). Just a timeless jolt of music. — Matt Bonesteel

“Centerfield,” John Fogerty (1985)

The song is truly as old as my love of baseball. It was released when I was 7 and longed to play Little League, but first I had to learn not to be afraid of the ball. Whenever I hear “Centerfield,” it takes me back to being a kid and working hard to prove to my parents that I could handle playing the game. — Jerry Brewer

“Daddy’s Cup,” Drive-By Truckers (2004)

Mike Cooley writes about the South in a way that both explains where he grew up and explores entire universes in an economy of words. “Before I could walk, I had a wrench in my hand,” the song opens. “I was my Mama’s little angel and my Daddy’s second chance.” It’s ostensibly about car racing. It’s really about obsession and legacy, regret and redemption. The hero learns everything about cars and the track from his old manstarting with “a V-8 on a go-kart, easy terms, no money down.” The details, especially sung in Cooley’s soulful growl, make you smell spilled oil and burning rubber, and they let you understand how a pastime can get ingrained inside of us. — Adam Kilgore

“Don’t Stop Believin’,” Journey (1981)

From politicians to Tony Soprano, this is a go-to inspirational song for many occasions. Written in the late 1970s after future Journey member Jonathan Cain’s dog was hit by a car and the struggling musician called home to his dad for encouragement, it holds a special place in the hearts of Detroit Red Wings fans because of the reference to the city boy from fictional “South Detroit.” It has been played before, during and after games for decades. The song has become a rallying cry during the coronavirus crisis, which has hit Detroiters hard. “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” is being played in the hallways of Henry Ford Hospital for patients battling the virus, bolstering the spirits of the sick and their caregivers. — Mark Bradley

“Enter Sandman,” Metallica (1991)

The opening riff, written by Kirk Hammett with some input from Lars Ulrich, is enough to make any arena of any size leap to its feet. The most famous use of the song was at Yankee Stadium, where it signaled New York closer Mariano Rivera was about to enter the game. Before every Virginia Tech football home game, the Hokies come out of the tunnel and onto the field to the song, electrifying Lane Stadium. The tradition has been around since 2000, and the fan noise is so loud it registers on a U.S. Geological Survey seismograph in Blacksburg. — Neil Greenberg

“Hurricane,” Bob Dylan (1976)

This Dylan classic kept public attention on the Rubin “Hurricane” Carter triple-murder case. The conviction of Carter, the former No. 3 middleweight contender who beat Emile Griffith and Jimmy Ellis, was overturned in 1985 after he spent almost 20 years in prison. A judge ruled the prosecution “had been based on racism rather than reason and concealment rather than disclosure.” After his release, Carter worked for 29 years to help other wrongfully accused prisoners. In 1999, Denzel Washington was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor after playing Carter in “The Hurricane.” The core of this driving protest rocker proved to be correct. — Thomas Boswell

“In the Air Tonight,” Phil Collins (1981)

I lived in Miami during LeBron James’s Heat tenure, and this gem comes to mind when I remember that era. The song accompanied player introductions during the Big Three’s first season together, which at the time seemed like an odd choice and a touch too subdued. Maybe it’s nostalgia speaking, but when I look back at those four years, the song now fits perfectly. It was a snapshot of the team’s bravado and the city’s anticipation in 2010, which feels like a lifetime ago. — Tom Johnson

“Kobe Bryant,” Lil Wayne (2009)

The song hits different now. Bryant’s death in January transformed the tone: What was once a swaggering anthem became an homage from a generational rapper to a generational baller. Yet the message — “chasing for the fourth ring like it was his first” — still crystallizes Kobe. Those traits pushed him to greatness, and though the highlights and memories of him may dim, songs such as these help entrench the legacy. Lil Wayne has rasped into life forever what Bryant was about. — Sam Fortier

“Navy Blue and Gold,” written by Roy de Saussure Horn, composed by J.W. Crosley (1923)

The Naval Academy’s hauntingly beautiful alma mater gives me chills whenever I hear it played, never more than when 4,000 midshipmen sing it loud and clear. I always say Army wins the fight song battle at Army-Navy (It’s hard to beat “On, Brave Old Army Team”), but Navy wins the playing of the alma maters. Army’s is good; Navy’s makes you cryregardless of the outcome of the game. — John Feinstein

“Nessun Dorma,” performed by Luciano Pavarotti (1990)

It was the BBC’s theme song for the 1990 World Cup, which was played in Italy and, if memory serves, dominated by Diego Maradona (though Argentina lost, 1-0, to West Germany in the final). I must have heard it hundreds and hundreds of times on the TV in the background of my office at home in London, where we were living with our 1-year-old daughter and two dogs. — Matt Vita

“One Shining Moment,” performed by Luther Vandross (2003)

The anthem of March Madness evokes the kind of emotion, empathy and nostalgia uniquely possible when sports and sound collide. It so fully epitomizes the tournament and the connection fans feel to one another and to the players on the court. More than that, it’s every athlete’s and fan’s dream to see their team featured last on CBS’s video montage. — Jacob Bogage

“Remember the Name,” Fort Minor (2005)

This ode to willpower and the misunderstood underdog was such a staple of warmup playlists in high school stadiums that if you played youth sports during any stretch of the mid-aughts, odds are you know every word. It’s not important that this isn’t a “good” song. Like all the best sports tunes, this one transports you to a purer, simpler time when, perhaps, you felt unconquerable despite the fact that you were just at practice for your thoroughly average high school lacrosse team. — Ava Wallace

“Roundball Rock,” composed by John Tesh (1990)

Admit it: You didn’t expect to see Tesh on this list. But he happens to have composed a little song that became the anthem for “The NBA on NBC” in the 1990s, during the era of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. The first strains followed hard on the heels of a voice-over by Marv Albert or Bob Costas, and if their words didn’t convince you a big game was coming up, the song, which since has appeared from time to time on other networks, sure did. It made every game special, and how many sports songs can you say that about? — Cindy Boren

“Sirius,” The Alan Parsons Project (1982)

If you were an NBA fan in the 1990s, this song immediately grabs your attention. The Chicago Bulls used it for their introductions, and just a few notes instantly connect you to Michael Jordan’s prime. And more times than not, he was about to put on a show. Back when there was no NBA League Pass, the Bulls were on regularly, and Jordan was must-see TV. — Kareem Copeland

“The Over the Hill Gang (Plenty Puente)," composed by Sam Spence (1970)

From among the bushel of evocative “NFL Films” songs, this one grabbed me enough to help carry me through life. I have hummed it for decades when zigzagging through shopping malls or urban sidewalks or stadium parking lots while pretending to avoid would-be tacklers. Just thinking of it has lent me billions of goose bumps and hundreds of little tears. And maybe that’s because it rang in my head as a child, in the yard, concocting football games of 22 men, throwing and running and catching and handing off, all while alone. — Chuck Culpepper

“The Victors,” composed by Louis Elbel (1898)

Who knows whether Elbel envisioned that, more than a century later, the word “Hail” could adorn T-shirts and koozies, andas long as it’s printed in maize letters on a blue backgroundmost people would get the reference. If you grew up in Michigan or attended the universitycheck and checkthe song is lodged somewhere in your cortex. I can play it on everything from a children’s xylophone to a tuba. Even if you hail from a different part of the country or attended a rival school, you might embrace it as a staple of autumn Saturdays, the way I feel about “On Wisconsin” or Notre Dame’s “Victory March” or really any school’s fight song — except Ohio State’s, of course. — Matt Rennie

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” performed by Marvin Gaye (1983)

Dr. J scored 25 points and Larry Bird flirted with a triple-double to lead the East over the West, 132-123, in the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, but that night at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., will be most remembered for Gaye’s soulful interpretation of the national anthem. — Gene Wang

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” performed by Whitney Houston (1991)

Nothing quite gives me goose bumps like Headband/Track Suit Whitney singing the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV. Backed by an orchestra, she soars us through the broad stripes and bright stars. And when she approaches her crescendo at “O say does that star-spangled banner yet waaaaaAAAAVVEEEEE,” I will never feel more American in my life. Headband Whitney forever! — Candace Buckner

“This Week in Baseball,” Various composers (1977)

Okay, so this is technically two songs — the jaunty opening “Jet Set” and the more symphonic closing “Gathering Crowds.” I can’t believe anyone younger than 40 would be moved by either. But for baseball fans of a certain age (mine), these songs signaled the opening and closing of the best half-hour of the week: Yankees play-by-play man Mel Allen opening with “Hello there, everybody” and then taking you on a thrill ride filled with plays you hadn’t seen and characters you would like to meet. Some of you have no idea what I’m talking about. But a certain segment is nodding, “Absolutely.” — Barry Svrluga

“Wavin’ Flag (Celebration Mix),” K’naan (2009)

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was the most moving event I have covered in three decades as a sportswriter, and nothing brings it to life like its anthem. K’naan, a Somalia-born songwriter, rapper and hip-hop artist, recorded several versions — initially for his war-torn native country and later to benefit victims of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. His “Wavin’ Flag (Celebration Mix)” proved a brilliant anthem for South Africa’s World Cup because its infectious melody and powerful, deceptively simple refrain — “When I get older I will be stronger. / They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag” — invite people of all ages and languages to sing along in celebration of the human spirit, national pride and global unity. — Liz Clarke

“We Are the Champions,” Queen (1977)

Scientists have proclaimed this power ballad the “catchiest song ever,” my friends. After watching Alex Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals teammates belt out the lyrics for weeks after winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, who am I to question their findings? Whether you’re partial to Freddie Mercury’s original version or Ovechkin’s more recent rendition, there aren’t many songs more enjoyable to sing over and over again. — Scott Allen

“Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns N’ Roses (1987)

How would home teams be able to rally their fans and steel themselves for a game’s crucial junctures without the screech of Axl Rose rhetorically asking visiting teams, “You know where you are?” . . . and answering forebodingly: “You’re in the jungle, baby. / You’re gonna die.” A staple of pretty much every NFL and NHL arena, the odds you will hear this at least once per game are pretty much 100 percent. — Mike Hume

“You’ll Never Walk Alone,” Gerry and the Pacemakers (1963)

The pregame and postgame serenade of this song is as much a part of Liverpool FC lore as its famed red uniforms, Anfield stadium and the championship trophies. It began as a Broadway show tune (“Carousel”) and turned into a 1960s pop hit before becoming the world’s most famous soccer anthem — bonding players and supporters for not just 90 minutes but a lifetime. — Steven Goff

What sports songs did we miss? Add your favorites in the comments below.