Sports and music never had a comfortable relationship. When the home team is winning, you won’t hear rock legends like Blue Oyster Cult, They Might Be Giants, or Infectious Grooves. Instead you’ll hear “Whoomp! There it is!” If a good band is used, it’s only for their most recognizable song, i.e. Blur’ssong where they go ‘Woo!,’ Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” or the occasional energetic AC/DC tune.
This is also apparent in high school, when students must decide between the music and sports cliques. There can be no overlap.
Yet, for some reason I thought the Mets were different. Last year, Rush’s “Limelight” would play when John Olerud stepped up to swing. After theiropening day in Japan, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura went to a karaoke bar andsang along to Guns N’ Roses’ “Don’t Cry.” To top it off, every year Black 47 is invited to perform at Irish Night.
And it was at this Irish Night at Shea Stadium last year when a certain zinester got carried away by the music – a fatal move in a sporting arena.
I’m not Irish, a cop, nor a bar-goer, but boy do I love Black 47! I have all their albums, I know all their lyrics, and I can play “Green Suede Shoes” on banjo. It’s a tradition for me and my friend Sass to go to every Irish Night and catch my boys after the game. We’ve gone five years straight now.
But on this fateful night, there was more in the air than good music. There was mayhem. Violent intent. Unbridled outrage.
Black 47 started with “Rockin’ the Bronx,” and listening to the song, I realized that it was easily skankable. Then they played “Funky Ceili” andsure enough, I felt the irregular rhythm take hold of my legs and arms. By the time they got up to “Fire of Freedom,” I might as well have been at anAdjusters show. I was in full skank! Even Sass was dancing a little, and she hates ska with a purple passion.
Suddenly, I felt a poking at my shoulder. I turned around and some kid snarled at me, “This isn’t a ska show!!” I told him to fuck himself and wentback to dancing.
Sure enough, there was another poke. I started getting angry. The kid shouted at me, “My friends don’t like you! Stop dancing!” I noticed he hadfour friends behind him. I replied, “FUCK YOU!” and went back to dancing. Sass saw the exchange and began hardcore skanking too. I kept my attentionon the band to keep my temper in check. As silly and fun as I try to be, I have a pretty bad violent streak in me. It’s been getting better, and Ihadn’t gotten into a fight in almost two years at that point. But that night at Shea Stadium, I felt my muscles tense and relax, tense and relax, and Iknew that another poke would put my rational mind on autopilot.
As if reading my thoughts, we were left alone until the resounding last note of “Banks of the Hudson.” Show over, Sass and I turn around and standface-to-face with the anti-skanking collective. In the corner of my eye, I saw Sass get into her fighting stance. A bartender from Brooklyn, now workingin a seedy area of Boston, Sass is a tough kid. I kept my arms at my sides, shook my head and said, “You really want to?”
The kid that was poking me saw my arms down and got right into my face, just as I thought he would. “We don’t like you,” he said.
I made as if to brush off his shirt and fast as a bolt, jabbed my pointer finger into the area just above his sternum and under his Adam’s Apple. Thatwas all I had to do. He crumpled back, and his friends, not knowing what happened, moved back too.
Sass and I walked through them, bumping them out of the way. We were quiet on the 7 train, but it was out of our minds by the time we had a movie in theVCR. But in the middle of the movie, Sass turned to me and said, “You know, I hate ska but when those kids were being dicks, I felt like a rudegirl.Skanking looks stupid as hell, but it’s fun.”
They were true words, but I still think about the dichotomy between music and sports. Will there ever be reconciliation? Mutual respect? As the nextIrish Night rapidly approaches (and we again have tickets), I can only look up at the night sky and hope.