Not a fan of American Football? Keep reading, this post is equal parts football AND music.
Pre- season NFL football kicks off Sunday August 5, 2012, and the first scheduled preseason match up is the Arizona Cardinals against the New Orleans Saints. Now, I’m not a super huge sports nut, but I do enjoy following the NFL football season and catching a game or two each week. Part of the enjoyment of the game for me is the unique music each network uses in their telecasts.
CBS, Fox, NBC and ABC have 4 very identifiable instrumental themes that any NFL fan should recognize. So I got to thinking, which one best conjures up the excitement of NFL football? Though I’m familiar with the music, I recently sat down to really listen to each of them in succession and found that one in particular really conjures up the sights, sounds and memories of watching football.
Before I reveal my favorite piece of NFL theme music, let me walk you through all 4 tunes so you can decide for yourself.
CBS’s theme since 2003, Posthumus Zone by group E.S. Posthumus is a bombastic overture. CBS commissioned the group, composed of classically trained brothers Helmut and Franz Vonlichten, to come up with a theme for their NFL telecasts. This bold piece could easily be at home in movies, yet it seems to fit in perfectly as a prelude to football.
NBC’s current instrumental NFL theme music was composed by John Williams in 2006, when NBC began airing Sunday Night Football due to ESPN’s acquisition of Monday Night Football from sister network ABC.
Mostly trumpets and percussion, this also sounds as though it would be at home on the big screen.
Fox’s theme is the second oldest NFL theme of the 4 listed here. Composed in 1994, it is more synthetic sounding than CBS and NBC’s themes. It begins with a trumpet solo and a piece of the theme sounds very similar to the classic Christmas tune Sleigh Ride. It also features a guitar solo – which is a clear departure from the very classical sounding themes of the other networks.
The theme has drawn some criticism recently, as the Fox network decided to use the NFL theme for other sporting events as well. While many sports fans would agree the theme appropriately embodies the spirit of NFL football, it doesn’t pair as well with other sports, such as Major League Baseball (MLB).
ABC/ESPN – a.k.a. The “Mouse House”
ESPN’s Monday Night Football (MNF) (which formerly aired on sister network ABC from 1970 until 2005) theme music has been around the longest of all 4 pieces discussed here. The theme, Heavy Action, was composed by Johnny Pearson in the early 1970’s. The piece made it’s first television debut as the theme song for Superstars, a sports themed showed on the BBC.
By 1978, after ABC acquired the rights to develop Superstars in the U.S., Heavy Action was used to introduce MNF. It wasn’t until 1989 that Heavy Action was proclaimed the official theme of MNF.
When MNF made the move to ESPN in 2006, Heavy Action moved with it. The piece has be re-arranged several times over the years, but the first 20 seconds of the piece is perhaps one of the most recognizable themes in sports.
Although I can appreciate all 4 pieces, Heavy Action hands down is my favorite. From it’s uplifting intro to it’s moving melody, the piece creates a feeling of excitement and suspense from start to finish.
In fact, if I could have a theme music for myself, Heavy Action would be it. No really- picture this song blasting through the air every time you enter a room. Wouldn’t every day feel like a new adventure?
Well dear readers, now that you’ve had some time to compare all 4 pieces, which theme do you prefer?
Fuhr, Paul. “Interview with E.S. Posthumus,” In Paradigm Journal: The Mitchell Edition. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from http://www.paradigmjournal.com/mitchell/music.html
KPM’s “Heavy Action” Themes Monday Night Football. In APM Music. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from http://www.apmmusic.com/kpm-music/kpms-heavy-action-themes-monday-night-football
“NFL on NBC music”. In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 02, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NFL_on_NBC_music
Zuhosky, Drew. “Fox NFL Theme Doesn’t Work With Every FOX Sports Telecast,” In drewzuhoskydaily.wordpress.com. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from http://drewzuhoskydaily.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/fox-nfl-theme-doesnt-work-with-every-fox-sports-telecast-a-k-a-how-eric-shanks-screwed-up-the-fox-sports-musical-arrangement/