Ten tribute songs to athletes for fans of every sport

Sometimes music and sports can work well and when it does it is pure magic.
Venus Williams at Wimbledon 2008
Venus Williams at Wimbledon 2008 / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages
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“HURRICANE” by Bob Dylan (1976)

The opening track of Dylan’s Desire album. That album is filled with portraits of the famous (Joey Gallo) and the private (Dylan’s wife Sara). None garnered more attention than his story of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.

Dylan’s eight-and-a-half-minute account of Carter’s arrest and incarceration is a wild ride, with Scarlet Rivera’s violin surfing the rapids throughout. As history, “Hurricane” leaves out quite a bit. One of Dylan’s finest attributes as a songwriter is the passion with which he approaches his subject. There’s not a lot of gray area. This Rubin Carter is a gentle and peaceful man. There is a lot of evidence which counter-indicates such an opinion. Dylan’s song about Gallo (“Joey”) falls into the same pattern.

But a couple of things remain inviolate. The song is a tour de force of music and storytelling. There are some awkward rhymes along the way, but Dylan and his band steamroll right through them. And then there’s the chorus. “Here comes the story of Hurricane – The man the authorities came to blame – For something that he never done – Put in a prison cell but one time, he could have been the champion of the world.”

A decade later, Rubin Carter’s conviction was overturned in federal court. He was released from prison and the charges were not refiled. Carter spent close to 20 years in jail and passed away from cancer at the age of 76 in 2014.


“SEVE BALLESTEROS” by The Mosquitoes (2008)

My mother used to tell each of her six sons “I love all my boys the same, but I love you the best.” Well, I love every song on this list, but this is my favorite. If you listen to just one tune mentioned here, make it this one. The Mosquitoes, as near as I can tell, are five South American kids who wound up in Cornwall and began playing some of the hookiest, wittiest rock and roll you will hear.

At least, I think it’s Cornwall. They seem to play there a lot. Maybe they are from somewhere else. Information is scarce.

They have recorded songs about Pablo Escobar, guacamole, and as their name suggests, mosquitoes. But their best song is about Spanish golfing legend Seve Ballesteros. It begins with a driving guitar riff before diving headlong into the mind of Seve. “Says to his caddie, get my clubs out the bag – I need a four-iron, I’m aiming at the flag – He takes his chipper, he sends it onto the green – He’s the greatest golfer there has ever been.” Then comes the insanely catchy chorus which simply chants out Seve’s name.

Seve’s swashbuckling style made him an international sensation. He flirted with danger whenever he played and was a magician at overcoming trouble. The Mosquitoes recognize that in the second verse of the song when Seve performs a miraculous sand save. Thus the song is not merely awesomely tuneful. It’s athletically accurate. Can’t beat that. Plus, the video is to die for.