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These records were made to be broken

NFL players, keep those day jobs: Make football, not music. Though some players can make a big play in the recording studio, there's many a fumble between a TD and a CD.

By GINA VIVINETTO

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001


Blame it on Jim McMahon and the Chicago Bears. They started it all with The Super Bowl Shuffle, that blasted 1985 novelty hit that had cocky quarterback McMahon and teammates Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent and William "Refrigerator" Perry "rapping" with typical hip-hop bravado. The video for the tune was on MTV constantly -- maybe it was that Tiny Tim cameo! and -- get this -- The Super Bowl Shuffle was even nominated for a Grammy for best R&B vocal.

Perhaps the Shuffle's success inspired this slew of NFL ballplayers who fancy themselves recording artists: guys like Deion Sanders of the Dallas Cowboys and Esera Tuaolo of the Minnesota Vikings.

Maybe it was inevitable. Think about it. Both rock 'n' roll and high-profile sports are pressure-filled jobs that attract egomaniacs, obsessively driven to reach their goals. These guys must perform on demand, usually with others, in front of screaming crowds. Both athletes and rock stars are isolated from society, they make too much money and are forced to deal with their hectic lives of fame and fortune by blowing off steam at strip clubs.

So it only makes sense that there is crossover appeal. And speaking of crossover, some pop and hip-hop stars, too, have football in their pasts. Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead -- the Grateful Dead! -- played at his boarding school in Colorado. Rowan Marley, son of reggae legend Bob and live-in love of hip-hop star Lauryn Hill, played for the Miami Hurricanes and the Canadian league's Ottawa Rough Riders. 2 Live Crew's Luther Campbell was axed from his high school team for mouthing off to the coach.

Actually, the jock rock phenomenon predates The Super Bowl Shuffle.

It all started in 1969, when members of the New York Jets, ecstatic after their Super Bowl victory over the Baltimore Colts, fumbled their way through a country and western tune on The Ed Sullivan Show. Later that year, four of the L.A. Rams, including Deacon Jones, sang on television. Then came Terry Bradshaw.

You may not know this, and Bradshaw may not want you to know this, but the former Pittsburgh Steeler recorded several country albums in the 1970s. He even made it into the Top 20 country charts with his version of Hank Williams' I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.

Mike Reid, former Cincinnati Bengal, quit the NFL in 1975 and went on to become a very successful country artist, scoring a No. 1 hit in 1991, and even nabbing Nashville's Songwriter of the Year award in 1985.

Then, things took a downward turn. Poor, poor Deion Sanders. His abysmal 1995 debut rap CD Prime Time took such a critical bashing that you can't find it in stores or order it from the major Internet music sellers. Where are all the copies of this gem? In the closets of Sanders' mansion?

Sanders is not alone. Check out 1996's NFL Country for some truly awful singing. If the NFL kicked players out for tone-deafness, we'd have to kiss Troy Aikman goodbye. Aikman's version of Love Love Love is scary. Dallas Cowboy Herschel Walker should be ashamed for lending his pipes to Four Scores and Seven Beers Ago (recorded with actual singer Doug Supernaw). Although Walker is something of an artsy fellow, a literature fan who claims to love Dante's The Divine Comedy and has danced with a Fort Worth ballet troupe, music is not his calling. Thank goodness studio wizards mixed Walker's "singing" nice and low.

Also on NFL Country: New York Giants star Jason Sehorn, whose team is in today's Super Bowl, sings with Asleep at the Wheel on Boogie Back to Texas. Bradshaw belts it out with buddy Glen Campbell on a pretty good You Never Know Just How Good You've Got It ('Til You Ain't Got It No More.) Nashville singer and Dunedin native Lari White teams up with Minnesota Viking Esera Tuaolo, who actually plans to pursue a music career. The 6-foot-3 Tuaolo has a gorgeous voice, kind of falsetto and fluttery like that of another big guy, Aaron Neville.

If one team can be accused of making too much music, it's the Dallas Cowboys. Seems as if a prerequisite to donning those starred helmets is entering a recording studio. The Cowboys have albums, videos, novelty Christmas songs, greatest hits discs. Even the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders recorded albums and sang Silent Night on The New Dallas Cowboys Christmas. Check out coach Tom Landry's rapping in the team's 1986 music video (made for home viewing). Not to mention that all-time favorite Waylon Jennings-penned classic, The Good Old Dallas Cowboys.

Had enough country? NFL Jams offers more, uh, opportunity for our vocally challenged pro-ball friends. A hip-hop disc, Jams frees the guys from actually singing, allowing them instead to speak their parts. Most of them can't even pull that off.

The disc's highlight is from good-natured Andre Rison of the Atlanta Falcons. What tune did Rison, whose Atlanta mansion was torched two years previously by his girlfriend, hip-hop star Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes of TLC, choose to record?

The Talking Heads classic, Burning Down The House.

More tidbits from the world of jock rock:

The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir calls the band "pathological fans" of the San Francisco 49ers, proving testosterone infiltrates even the counter-culture. "Whenever we'd play a Sunday or a Monday night show that coincided with a big game, it was an issue," Weir told Sports Illustrated. "Let's just say there were some real long set breaks. If we couldn't watch the game backstage, our roadies would give us updates after every song."

Those are 49ers Joe Montana and Dwight Clark singing backup on Huey Lewis' 1986 Hip To Be Square.

In 1994, Hootie and the Blowfish sang, "I'm such a baby because the Dolphins make me cry," on their hit Only Want to Be with You. In the song's video the band is joined by quarterback Dan Marino.

Cleveland Browns coach Bill Belichick joined rockers Bon Jovi on tour in Europe in 1995 with his wife and kids.

Oakland Raiders fullback Jon Ritchie ate grass from idol Jimi Hendrix's grave in 1998. Why? "I wanted to internalize Jimi," Ritchie explained.

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