Sound Affects: How Music Transforms the Way We Consume Sport

Khalid Ballouli

During my fifth year as a professional baseball player, my career would end on a Friday night in Montgomery, AL, where I was a starting pitcher in a weekend series opener against the Montgomery Biscuits, the Class AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. They had just completed building a new baseball stadium in Montgomery, and the atmosphere at the park that night was electric for a minor league baseball game. In the bottom half of the first inning, a sellout crowd had risen to its feet and began singing and clapping in unison as Biscuits’ leadoff batter Johnny Raburn strode to the plate to his walkout song If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band) by Alabama. With the homage song blaring through stadium speakers, I will admit even my body moved to the rhythm. The crowd would continue standing and that level of energy would remain high throughout the entire at-bat until finally Johnny singled to centerfield for the first hit of the game. What happened next was more than interesting. The second hitter in the Biscuits’ lineup, Elijah Dukes, started to make his way to the plate and fan morale seemed at once deflated. It was not because Elijah was a bad player; he was in fact a tremendously talented player. What I observed in that moment was Elijah had selected to walk up to the plate to a song by the Hot Boys entitled Neighborhood Superstar, a song that had been “chopped and screwed.” This is a song editing technique popular among rap producers where by a song is slowed as if it were being dragged on a record player. The fans that were jubilant just moments before were no longer singing and clapping, but rather they seemed disassociated and disengaged the remainder of the inning until another familiar and stirring song returned to the stadium speakers.