The Godfather: Peter Corris on sports songs
Certain sports have songs about them. Here’s a list of some that occur to me, starting, of course, with the greatest football game of all:
Australian Rules Football: ‘Up There Cazaly’. Roy Cazaly, diminutive by today’s standards at 5 feet 11 inches, was a high-leaping ruckman who played in the 1920s and 30s in the Victorian Football League for South Melbourne and St Kilda. The cry was heard by supporters at the time. Mike Brady composed the song in 1979 as a theme for Channel 7 Melbourne’s football coverage.
Rugby League: ‘The Day John Sattler Broke His Jaw’ by Perry Keyes commemorates the 1970 Grand Final between South Sydney and Manly in which South’s captain John Sattler had his jaw broken in the first few minutes and played on. It’s also a celebration of Sydney with references to Cleveland Street, the Botany shore and St Peters. My favourite line involves Flag Ale and Dave Sands. I remember Flag Ale with affection and Dave Sands with respect.
Golf: ‘It Went Straight Down the Middle’ from the ‘old groaner’ Bing Crosby. A song denoting the vagaries of the flight of the golf ball. Crosby was a keen golfer and a fairly good one with a 13 handicap. I like the line about the ball slicing that suggests you’re OK if your ball doesn’t leave the state. Crosby died of a massive heart attack after a round of golf, which is probably how he would’ve wanted it.
Horse racing: ‘The Horse Told Me’ from Bing again. The song, from the film of the musical Riding High, mocks the folly of punters who bet on horses. It was very popular, played often on radio when horse racing was the subject, and to this day I and others can carry on from the opening line about Clarence the clocker.
Boxing: ‘The Kid’s Last Fight’, a 1954 hit, one of many, from Frankie Laine. The kid dies after winning the fight but the singer is confident that the champ will be climbing through the ropes in heaven. Only in America.
Cricket: ‘Our Don Bradman’. Recorded by radio announcer and vocalist Len Maurice, the song is a tribute to Bradman, then leading an Australian Eleven on a triumphant tour of England. Despite the Australian flavour, Len’s voice is almost pure BBC.
Cards: ‘The Gambler’. To my mind card playing qualifies as a sport on two grounds – it appears on Foxtel’s sports programs and, as with all the other activities listed, money changes hands on the outcome. A 1978 hit for Kenny Rogers, this is a great story song with a loser from Las Vegas being given advice by a grizzled old gambler who drains the singer’s bottle, bums a cigarette and delivers the famous lines about knowing when to hold ’em and knowing when to fold ’em. And how true they are.