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Weekly Optimism: Music and basketball

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How a surreal experience at an NBA basketball game can lead to a journey through one's own music collection in pursuit of the perfect rhythm.

About 10 minutes before tip as the Nuggets were preparing to take on the Phoenix Suns, I filed to my seat and became acclimated to the feel of the arena. Over the various obnoxious noises of the PA system I heard the latest hip-hop groove and I desperately tried to move my feet in time. Couldn't do it. So I just did the nod of my head and watched the players warm up in front of me.

As this is happening a family shuffled awkwardly to the seats to my right and sat down. I noticed this young dude with them, probably in his late teens. He was listening to some hip-hop song I couldn't make out and he was moving his feet in time like I was trying to do. When he took out his iPod earbud I took the opportunity to talk to him.

"So," I casually said, "whatcha listening to?" The kid glanced over at me and muttered "T.I."

I quickly shuffled through the iPod in my head to see if I even knew who that was. Then it came to me "Oh yeah!" I said over enthusiastically, "Whatchu know about that, whatchu know about that..."

Needless to say the kid looked at me like I'm a dead bug he scraped off his shoe. That abruptly ended our conversation and I went back to find a groove.

To be fair, I'm not the purest representation of 32 year-olds out there. I was raised on an extremely eclectic collection of music from all over. Hell, I was born during a Rolling Stones concert in Boulder in 1978. My life has been a form of music since the day I was born. Yet, despite my love of basketball, I've missed the hip-hop revolution. While I do have Ice Cube, The Goodie Mob, Wu Tang Clan, Atmosphere and Sage Francis in my collection, I don't have the huge extent of rap/hip hop/ R&B that my other basketball loving friends do. In fact I'm downright illiterate when it comes to that.

Urban culture claimed basketball as it's own, firmly, in the 1960's and through the heady days of the ABA. Things were looser than the straight laced, button down, predominantly white (until the 70's) NBA. Funk and soul music such as The Ohio Players, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, and the Commodores were all played an ABA arenas. Much as today's Jay-Z and Eminem and others are played today. It's intrinsic and it is locked in to the rhythm of the game. Everything has flow, everything has beat.

Basketball, in it's very essence is musical. From the bouncing of the ball, to the crossover moves, to the deft moving of the feet. Everything is intertwined with a beat. Which is why hip-hop goes so well with it. I'm sure 70's progressive rock doesn't fit the bill (Genesis, Yes, King Crimson), but if that's what you listen to then more power to you (I happen to like all three).

I searched through my music for the elusive rhythm and it was becoming increasingly clear that I march to the beat of my own drum. To get pumped-up for the game I may throw on some Oasis, maybe The Cure and it gets me going. Sure, maybe some of the goth music in my collection such as Joy Division or Bauhaus isn't exactly appropriate, and maybe cracking out the Sufjan Stevens won't get the blood boiling for a funk filled basketball game. Yet, it does it for me. I'll listen to anything (outside of recent country...and by recent I mean anything past 1980) and I don't discriminate.

Maybe, last night, I came to realization that I'm kind of a square peg when it comes to the typical die hard basketball fan. Either that or I just realized that I can't relate to people who listen to T.I. (most likely). Or maybe it's a generational thing? I mean, I heard Slam by ONYX last night and I nearly fell out of my seat. That song came out in what ...1993? The same year the Nuggets magical run past the Supersonics in the first round of the 1994 NBA playoffs? Some things are just timeless I guess.

Question of the Week: What music/song do you listen to in order to get pumped up? Last night I listened to F**k You by Cee-lo Green ... that sufficiently got me pumped.

Here's the request from the last Weekly Optimism. Eye of the Tiger! Leave your requests for next weeks song.

Survivor - Eye Of The Tiger (via SurvivorVEVO)