Pretty Green

From The Turn Table To The Poker Table: Music’s Key Role In Sport

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 8.53.10 AMThe worlds of music and sport often cross over. Aligning on the terraces where fans, dressed in their Stone Island jackets and Adidas Gazelle’s whilst the likes of Oasis blare out of the speakers awaiting their heroes to emerge from the tunnel, chanting like the first glimpse of Ian Brown returning to the stage alongside Mani, Reni, and John Squire.

Both industries bring people together as a collective, whether it be crushed up against the barrier with a pint waiting for Cigarettes and Alcohol to come on or appreciating a six being smashed at The Oval, regional allegiances and class are put aside to be as one.

But it isn’t just on planet fandom where music is such an integral part of lives. Far from it. Where the radio is playing in the factories and offices of our average day to day lives, in the hotels and changing rooms of the sporting greats, music is calming, soothing, energising, and getting them damn pumped up for the battle ahead.

Of course that varies for each sport, athlete, and even stadium, but the power music has can alter moods and get even the most hardened of superstars prepared for a game.

Take the world of football for example. Music is commonplace in the dressing room, with Pep Guardiola introducing Coldplay’s Viva La Vida to the dressing room, whilst Sunderland have been known to get on down to Swedish pop sensations ABBA before a game.

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Roy Keane wrote in his autobiography, “The last song before the players went on to the pitch was Dancing Queen by ABBA. They were going out to play a match, men versus men, testosterone levels were high. You’ve got to hit people at pace. F**ckin’ Dancing Queen. It worried me.”

And despite the comedy value of that quote, he has a point. Unless the Black Cats were going to attempt some pirouettes or step overs that day, it screams middle-aged woman’s 50th rather than a Saturday afternoon in the North.

Elsewhere the likes of Insomnia by Faithless are played to get the players geed up with faster paced music creating an increased sense of motivation.

Researchers have found direct connections between better performance and a higher tempo of music, meaning you’re much likely to bang in a hat-trick listening to Rock ‘n’ Roll Star than you are say, This Is A Low.

A study by the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University put 12 people on exercise bikes listening to songs of their choice, adjusting the tempo without their knowledge. What was found was that when the tempo slowed, mileage and heart rate slowed with it.

Of course sometimes that is what’s needed. For example in poker, a player isn’t necessarily going to want to be pumped up and head onto the table all guns blazing. In fact, that would be borderline suicidal.

The importance of music is huge in poker; you’ll often see players sat at the table with headphones in their ears, with most dreading the thought of giving up the rhythm floating through our ears, even putting it ahead of television in the music or TV debate. The likes of Jonathan Duhamel, Jeff Rossiter, and Jan Heitmann all couldn’t live without music, whilst even the biggest pros like Daniel Negreanu require it whilst sat at the table.

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The Canadian star is a big believer in listening to calming music at the table, even sometimes listening to the sounds of the ocean and birds chirping to keep him relaxed and focused – a far cry from the snarling voices of Liam Gallagher or John Lydon.

Calming music can bolster concentration significantly, with “massage music” as Negreanu describes it, and classical being a positive influence on the brain.

Given the name The Mozart Effect by the University of California, music such as the great Austrian’s can improve your thoughts to improve focus and problem solving. Nicole M. Charara, a clinical psychologist at the Centre for Psychology in Singapore said, “Studies have shown that classical music targets the part of the brain that stimulates spatial-temporal reasoning, which is useful in solving math problems.” Which of course is perfect for mind games such as chess and poker.

Back in the public eye however, and the final point of call before action commences, is entrance music. It adds entertainment to proceedings and a touch of Hollywood glamour, but subconsciously it’s there to inspire. From the boxing ring to the football pitch it’s meant to galvanise both athletes and fans, with rock and roll often being on the agenda.

In Manchester, perhaps the heartbeat of Britpop with the likes of Oasis, The Charlatans, and The Verve all hailing from the city, Manchester United walk out to The Stone Roses’ This Is The One, with its poignant lyrics and cultural importance to both the club and city during their success in the 90s and 2000s.

Famous British boxer Ricky Hatton also took a similar approach during his glittering career in the ring, playing Oasis heavily to get him pumped up for the fight, even taking them to Vegas before coming out to a rock and roll version of Manchester City anthemBlue Moon.

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Like poker pros Jonathan Duhamel, Jeff Rossiter, and Jan Heitmann, if you were to ask any sportsman the importance of music in their industry, the unanimous answer would be that it’s huge. Whether it be Rory McIlroy heading to the first tee, the England Rugby Union team in the Twickenham dressing room, or Kevin Pietersen preparing to walk to the crease, it’s the perfect mood setter and almost a vital ingredient in preparations.

Sport’s love affair with music will never change both for fans and stars alike. We’ll forever associate David Bowie’s Heroes with Britain’s success at London 2012, just as Negreanu will always find relaxation from ocean waves at the poker table.

We just hope the next wave of sporting greats isn’t inspired by today’s charts because if there’s one thing Taylor Swift and One Direction are not, it’s inspiring.