Inside the NFL’s Most Iconic Theme Songs

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The daddy of all iconic NFL intros is absolutely dripping with lore. First, it was composed by Scott Schreerone of the most legendary jingle writers who is also responsible for the music behind some NHL and NASCAR shows.

This jingle (though it really deserves a more muscular name. Juggle?) has it all: heavy brass, heavy percussion, and a war-worthy opening. If it reminds you of a superhero vibe, that’s by design. In 1994, David Hill, then president of Fox Sports, wanted a new NFL theme and got an earworm while waiting for a Batman ride at a California theme park. When the network tapped Schreer, he was told the vibe was “Batman on steroids.”

From a Deadspin article on the design of the trackSchreer turned to the cinematic sounds associated with gritty action films to give his new theme a bit of gravitas and “put a real dark, manly, masculine football tinge to it.”

NBC Sunday Night Football (“Wide Receiver”)

Composed by John Williams, 2006

Yes, THE John Williams. Who else could it be? The heavy drum beats, the vigorous trombone, it’s basically “Star Wars” for football fans. The film composer of all film composers had already produced music for NBC programming when he was tapped by the network in 2006 for a new Sunday Night Football theme. Unsurprisingly, they were quite pleased with the result.

“That music has to be very special, has to have a sense of drama, has to have a sense of power — things that are unique to professional football,” said Dick Ebersol, then president of NBC Sports. told the Los Angeles Times in 2006. “He delivered that in a terrific way.”

NFL on CBS (“Posthumus Zone”)

Composed by ES Posthumus, 2003

If you don’t know the origins of this theme and were given 100 guesses, you probably still wouldn’t have made it. ES Posthumous was a band made up of two brothers who combined concepts of classical and mathematical music with modern orchestral instrumentation. (The “ES” stands for “experimental sounds.”) CBS also used other ES Posthumus works for its sports programming. Unfortunately, half of the duo, Franz Vonlichten, passed away in 2010. However, his brother Helmut Vonlichten collaborated with Queen’s Brian May for a special version of “We Will Rock You” played during Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.

NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football (“Run to the Playoffs”)

(Link to “Run to the Playoffs”)
Composed by David Robidoux, 2006
Football simply wouldn’t be the same without David Robidoux. This prolific sports composer gave us the official Super Bowl theme, NFL 100th anniversary theme music, all manner of special NFL movies and programming music and of course, the main NFL Network theme, titled “Run to the Playoffs”. (He’s also responsible for the NASCAR theme and other iconic sports sounds.)
Robidoux and many other important artists and themes in the NFL broadcast world are under the umbrella of Associated Production Music. APM provides music for most of the NFL, including individual teams. The band certainly knows a thing or two about how to piss off a crowd.
“It’s all about storytelling. It really is the drama, the story,” Adam Taylor, President and CEO of APM said Variety earlier this year. “The purpose of our music is to inform the narrative, reinforce it, and capture the emotions of the moment.”

The element that sets this theme apart is the use of tubular bells, giving the piece a very “Carol of the Bells” feel via Mannheim Steamroller.

Monday Night Football on ESPN/ABC (“Heavy Action”)

(Link to “Heavy Action”)
Composed by Johnny Pearson, circa 1974
Ironically, the oldest of all these current NFL themes was not composed for the NFL. “Heavy Action”, composed by British conductor Johnny Pearson, was actually commissioned by the BBC for various television purposes. However, ABC experienced greatness when they saw it and picked it up for their MNF shows beginning in 1975. (It became the main theme in the ’80s.) ESPN picked up the theme, with various updates and reinstrumentationsfor their MNF games from 2006. It is still very recognizable in the UK as the theme of the BBC sports program “Superstars”. Of course, all of the best themes are easily recognizable, and “Heavy Action” only needs four notes to light up the brains of sports fans everywhere.
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