There are very few things that have the power to bring huge groups of people together and move them as a collective. Music is one of those things, and sport is definitely another.
So it stands to reason that there should be a whole bunch of great songs about sports out there – songs to make you remember your favourite sporting moments, to remind you of the emotional highs and lows that sport can provide, and to get a whole sports bar singing.
Some of the songs on this list are directly about the playing of a sport, whereas some use sports as metaphors or illustrations of a personal topic. From tennis and basketball to surfing and swimming, these are 21 of the best songs about popular sports.
Top Songs About Sports
“Tennis Court” – Lorde
Lorde was a teenager when she wrote “Tennis Court”, one of the first songs to be released after the New Zealand singer found international success. In the song, Lorde uses the image of the tennis court to represent both a high-class idea of success and a place to play and gossip. She sings about all the new things she’s been able to do – and buy – since finding success, but also her fear that she’ll lose herself in it all.
Lorde doesn’t actually play tennis. “I’ve always been really fascinated by the visual concept of the tennis court,” she explained to MTV News.
“Take Me Out To The Ball Game” – Edward Meeker
This classic recording of Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer’s ode to baseball follows a young man who wants to have a pleasant day out. All that Katie wants to do, however, is go to the ball game.
The song’s famous chorus is sung from Katie’s perspective. When Norworth and Tilzer first wrote the track in 1908, neither of them had ever seen a game of baseball. It didn’t matter – the song has endured for over a hundred years, and since it’s now in the public domain, it is frequently used in real baseball matches today.
“Surfin’ U.S.A.” – The Beach Boys
“If everybody had an ocean across the USA, then everybody’d be surfin’ like Californi-a,” sing the Beach Boys. This celebration of Californian surfing culture maintains that there’s nothing better than slipping on your sandals, heading down to the shore and catching a wave. If everybody had access to the ocean, then they believe everybody would be doing it.
The song also serves as a handy guide to some of the best surfing spots, from Del Mar to Australia’s Narrabeen.
“The Hockey Song” – Stompin’ Tom Connors
Stompin’ Tom Connors talks us through a typical night at the hockey, with all the highs and lows of competitive sports. “The good ol’ hockey game is the best game you can name,” he sings. The song is divided into three ‘periods’, just like an actual hockey game, with Stompin’ Tom Connors introducing each one and explaining the twists and turns of each, until one team finally gets to raise the Stanley Cup.
“Eye Of The Tiger” – Survivor
Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” may not be about sport explicitly, but it will forever be associated with boxing thanks to the Rocky franchise. The song describes a guy who gets knocked down by life “rising up to the challenge” and fighting to stay in the game.
“Eye Of The Tiger” was the theme song to Rocky III, the biggest movie of 1982. The song appeared in the film during a crucial fight scene, originally set to Another One Bites The Dust by Queen. Whilst everyone involved loved that cut of the scene, production was unable to secure the rights to the song.
Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan were tasked with writing something to replace it – a daunting task, as they remember it. It’s safe to say that they succeeded.
“Basketball” – Kurtis Blow
A true tribute to the NBA, Kurtis Blow’s ‘Basketball’ is a six-minute ode to the sport. “Basketball is my favourite sport, I like the way they dribble up and down the court,” raps Blow. The song shouts out many basketball legends including Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Rick Barry. Whilst many rap songs before it had made references to the sport or to individual players, this was one of the first to focus entirely on basketball.
“Swimming” – Florence + The Machine
“Your songs remind me of swimming, which I forgot when I started to sink,” sings Florence Welch. She isn’t actually talking about swimming here, but a feeling or way of being that she feels she’s lost her grip on. She likens it to moving easily through the water as opposed to sinking like a stone down to the ocean floor. She begs for someone to pull her out of the water, before eventually realising that she hasn’t entirely forgotten how to swim.
“Football” – Courting
According to Courting, football – or soccer – is “the best of British life”. The furious indie-rock track is full of intense, shouting vocals and crashing drums, illustrating how high emotions can run at a football game. They list reasons why people she get involved in football and describe a footballer trying to stay calm and keep his head clear as he makes a shot.
(I Wanna Drive The) Zamboni – Gear Daddies
Gear Daddies sing about a young man who wants to get involved in hockey – but in quite an unconventional way. “Since I was young it’s been my dream to drive that there Zamboni machine,” he tells the manager of his local rink. He wants to be the one to drive the ice resurfacing machine and he won’t leave until his wish his granted. It’s a funny, tongue-in-cheek track that looks at sport obsession from a different angle.
“Boxing Champ” – Kaiser Chiefs
Kaiser Chiefs sing about the dynamic between two boxing opponents who first meet at the youth club. “You were a boxing champ and I was a weakling,” sings Ricky Wilson. The young boy gets a beating, which helps him to grow into a stronger man. Now that he’s older, he isn’t so concerned with getting into fights as he is staying out of them – he has nothing to prove. He thanks his time boxing in the youth club for this character growth.
“Bicycle Race” – Queen
This energising track from Queen is definitely one of the most recognisable tracks about cycling out there. Written by Freddy Mercury after he watched the Tour de France, the track was promoted by a nude bike race around Wimbledon stadium, with sixty-five models hired for the stunt. Whenever Queen played the song live, nearby bike shops would sell out of bells beforehand, as fans would buy them to ring during the track.
“Golf On TV” – Lennon Stella
Finding herself in a healthy relationship for the first time ever, Stella struggles to understand people who get bored in happy, monogamous relationships and want to “switch it up”. However, she admits that there are lots of things that she doesn’t understand. “Some people watch golf on TV, and neither of those things make sense to me.” In other words: it takes all sorts.
Stella rose to fame on the TV show Nashville, which she starred on between the ages of 12-18. ‘Golf On TV’ comes from her debut album, Three. Two. One. The record was released in 2020
“Darts” – The Long Blondes
This super short track from The Long Blondes is straightforward it its message: “Let’s play darts!” Inspired by singer Kate Jackson’s love of fringe sports, the track celebrates the bar sport. It’s also one of the first that Jackson herself wrote the lyrics for her. The band have since said that they regret never submitting the track to a darts TV programme.
“Hope She Cheats On You (With A Basketball Player)” – Marsha Ambrosius
Ambrosius is upfront about her feelings towards her ex in this takedown. She hopes his new girl breaks his heart the way he broke hers and finds herself a superior man. She fantasises about her ex getting dumped for a basketball player or a member of the NFL, and admits that whilst she might be a little bitter, she’s entitled to be after the way she was treated.
Ambrosius is actually a basketball player herself. In her younger years, she was one of the top basketball players in Great Britain, meeting Natalie Stewart through a mutual love of the sport. The two would go on to form soul duo Floetry.
“Off To The Races” – Lana Del Rey
Del Rey’s off to the races with some bad company, in the form of her bad news boyfriend. Referencing controversial couples like Bonnie and Clyde, Del Rey lets us know that her relationship is probably doomed, but the two will still imitate a successful high-class couple as long as they can by going to the races together – a traditionally prestigious sport attended by the wealthy.
“Six Directions Of Boxing” – Wu-Tang Clan
This 2012 track assembled all six living original members of Wu-Tang Clan and saw them rap side by side. Created for the martial arts film The Man With The Iron Fists, “Six Directions Of Boxing” has the members of group talking about how to keep your head above water, fight and survive.
“It’s A Beautiful Day For A Ballgame” – Harry Simeone Songsters
This classic sports anthem can often be heard played by stadium organists at baseball games. This particular version was recorded in 1960 by the Harry Simeone Songsters, sometimes known as Harry Simeone Chorale. It covers all the cliches of a day out at the baseball, from shouts of ‘Strike One!’ to sunshine to cheering crowds.
“Total Football” – Parquet Courts
This one’s a double whammy – a sports-themed song by a band with a sports-themed name. ‘Total Football’ is named after a Dutch theory about the sport, in which any player can assume any role on the pitch and can switch up at a moment’s notice. Lead singer Andrew Savage claimed to Billboard that the song was “a statement about collectivity and autonomy”.
Savage wanted to use the sport as a framework to challenge the US cultural model. In the track, he calls out many different members of society and encourages them to hear his message, including workers, authors and poets. “And f*ck Tom Brady!” he finishes.
“Football Season Is Over” ft JJ Peters
This screamo track is adamant that football season is over and party season is in. “Party ‘til you pass out, drink til you’re dead,” scream the band. Definitely not things you can do if you’re in the middle of football season.
“Sk8er Boi” – Avril Lavigne
This classic Lavigne track is all about a girl who turns up her nose at her boy’s choice of sport. “He was a skater boy, she said ‘See you later, boy,’” she sings. The girl in question does ballet – a much more socially acceptable sport, apparently – and doesn’t see the worth in the boy who pursues her until he graduates from skating to rock stardom.
“Sk8er Boi” was Lavigne’s second single, helping to cement her as different kind of teen star compared to the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. She projected a high-energy, tomboy image that contrasted with the glossy, girly pop of her era. Interestingly, skating is banned in the downtown area of Lavigne’s hometown of Napanee, Ontario.
“Blitzkrieg Bop (I Love Football)” – CeeLo Green
CeeLo Green recorded this football-focused track for the NFL Network’s 2012 Thursday Night Football season. The tune of the high-energy track is based on ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ from the Ramones – Green is a big Ramones fan.
Sports and music go hand in hand – there’s no better way to hype up the crowd or celebrate a big win than with the right song. Sports can also teach us valuable life lessons, as many of these songs explore. Whether you’re looking for your next walk-up track or you just want to kick back and reminisce about a great game, we hope you found the right sports-centric song for you.
Caitlin Devlin is a music, entertainment and lifestyle writer based in London. When she’s not creating playlists for Repeat Replay, she’s reviewing gigs and interviewing artists for Ticketmaster UK and thinking about what her Spotify Wrapped will look like this year.