Just last night, Mrs. YHT and I had the pleasure of sitting in section 18 of the Robins Center and watching our alma mater, the University of Richmond, mount an unlikely last-minute comeback and beat #19-ranked Virginia Commonwealth University in overtime.
It was fantastic. Probably the best college basketball game I’ve ever seen in person.
That said, I had low expectations going into the game (VCU has been playing extremely well — UR, not so much), so when VCU started pulling away near the end of regulation, I wasn’t exactly shocked. What was a little jarring was how much louder the VCU fans were, despite the fact that they were the away team. It was impressive. Also embarrassing. At times, the VEE-CEE-YOU chants were so loud, the only thing that could take your mind off the ticket sales/team spirit disparity was the music pumping out of the arena’s possibly new and definitely booming PA system.
Since I failed to DVR the game and am desperate to relive it, and since the music they played in the arena during breaks wasn’t half bad, I thought I’d share with you a sampling of the songs that helped carry the Spiders to an unlikely victory.
Kanye West — “Power”
Remember when this one showed up in previews for Limitless? It made a ton of sense there; the movie’s about unlocking the mind’s imagined potential in a dangerous way, meaning that, truly, “No one man should have all that power.” And I guess you could shoehorn that theme into college basketball, since it’s supposed to be more of a team sport than its professional counterpart. Fine. But its real value lies in the clap-along potential of the song’s first few seconds, which I’d prefer any day of the week to the obnoxious “Everybody clap your hands CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP” clip from DJ Casper’s “Cha Cha Slide” they usually play. Ugh.
And yes, I did just listen to enough of “Cha Cha Slide” to make sure I was thinking of the right clip. Let’s just say it’s “not a headphones song” and leave it at that.
Jay-Z & Kanye West — “Ni**as in Paris”
Some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Case in point — have you ever heard a clean version of “Paris”? Radio edits do exist, and they’re awful. There’s only so much you can do to clean up a song whose most repeated lyrics are “Ball so hard motherfuckers wanna fine me” and “That shit cray.”
Not surprisingly, we were treated to the instrumental version of this bad boy at last night’s game. But you better believe that me and Mrs. YHT listened to the rightful version on the way home. After all, coming back from a 7-point deficit in 43 seconds? That shit cray.
Zombie Nation — “Kernkraft 400”
You had to know this one was coming. But did you know that “Zombie Nation” is the name of the artist, not the song (I didn’t), or that it’s not even the original version we usually hear at sporting events? The DJ Gius mix is what you’ll typically hear blasting from arena PAs, getting the crowd nice and riled. As painfully overexposed as this song may be, you have to hand it to its composer — few pieces of music can get groups of people from all corners of the globe to participate in a singalong like “Kernkraft 400” can. Pretty cool when you think about it.
The White Stripes — “Seven Nation Army”
This is the one that bugs me. I don’t want this to be an arena song, chopped into 5 or 10 second snippets to fit the time between fouls and free throws. It feels like that scene in Aladdin when Jafar enslaves Robin Williams. So sad. The problem is that it works really well in this setting, so much so that it’s become a staple, and not just in terms of being played through the PA. I’d be willing to bet dollars to Amish potato donuts (which are delicious, by the way) that you couldn’t watch a full Saturday’s worth of college basketball without hearing a half-dozen pep band versions of “Seven Nation Army.” I wouldn’t say the song is ruined — it’s still fantastic — it just feels hijacked. Ya feel me?
Ray Charles — “Hit The Road Jack”
You’re a college basketball player… you’re playing an away game… and you just committed your 5th foul. You’re pissed at yourself, because you’ve reached the foul limit and are disqualified from the rest of the game. Your team and coach are probably pissed, because if you’ve been in the game long enough to rack up 5 fouls, chances are you’re important enough that your absence from the rest of the game will be problematic. Oh yeah, and your fans are probably pissed, because there’s no way in hell all 5 of those were smart fouls. It’s a sucky situation… and it only gets suckier, because… yup… there it is… “Hit The Road Jack” playing at full volume for 9,000 people to hear. Goddammit.
Two VCU players fouled out, but only Darius Theus got the Ray Charles treatment. Seems mean to me, but a 9,000-person horde’s capacity for empathy doesn’t always add up to the sum of its component parts, unfortunately. (This fact reared its head in a truly ugly way during the second half, when it appeared as though someone threw something at the VCU bench. Not OK in the least.)
Side note — did you know that “Hit The Road Jack” clocks in at under 2 minutes? Isn’t that wild? Don’t be surprised if a “Classic Songs That Are Impossibly Short” post pops up sometime soon…
That’s all I got. Congrats to the Spiders on their win and congrats to the Rams on the excellent year they’re having. These teams play again at the Siegel Center on March 6, and I wish them both the best of luck.