What’s Sport Without Music?
On Mar 5, 2017 the New York Knicks of the NBA attempted an experiment. They did the unthinkable and chose not to play music for the opening two quarters so fans could “experience the game in its purest form.” Makes sense, right? Not if you ask Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors whose unofficial all-star squad was subjected to the cruel and unusual punishment of playing in the mecca of basketball without the full experience. Green was very vocal about his displeasure of the situation using terms like ‘pathetic’ and disrespectful’ despite coming away with the 112-105 win to snap a rare 2-game losing streak.
Lebron James, on the other hand, applauded the Knicks efforts and intentions. “They tried something, so I’m not against that. You give fans an opportunity to hear the sneakers, the ball, the shot, the moan and grunts, and the players calling out plays and things of that nature. I’m all about authenticity. But we also know music is also part of basketball.”
Granted James was not a participant in the game itself so he did not have the first-hand experience that Green had but it begs the question – is music that important to sport? As a former college basketball player who transitioned to coaching for 10 years afterwards and a current hip-hop artist, I thought I would weigh in on this topic.
For many athletes, music is a critical part of their routines and motivation. We see them walking into their respective playing fields on game day wearing the latest bass-boosting headphones and immersed in their own world with the prearranged soundtrack guiding the process. During individual workouts and training sessions, you would be hard-pressed to find an athlete training alone without music. Unless of course they are posing for the Gram and not really working out – then all bets are off. Music and sports have been so heavily linked for decades that I suspect that if by some far-fetched ridiculous decision, the NBA decided to ban the use of music in any and all forms of training; you would hear an overwhelming slough of opinions echoing that of Draymond Green’s from Sunday night.
Now I personally understand what the Knicks were trying to do. After all, so many major sports teams are now mandating or strongly encouraging players and coaches to be mic’ed up so that fans get the same experience that the Knicks were attempting to provide for those in the seats. We are becoming increasingly obsessed with the inside scoop of each play and conversations on and off the court during the game. That being the case, what went wrong with this experiment? Is the music that important to the sporting experience? In short, absolutely. Not only is it important to the entertainment side of the event, but it is clearly as important if not more to the players on the court.
So with the increased craving for fan access, what is the answer? I don’t have the answer, just don’t touch the music.
The Original CHU is an independent hip-hop recording artist who recently released an emotional diary-style LP titled The Open Book Experience which is available to buy or stream wherever music is available online.