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Why sportswriters love Bruce Springsteen

Jul 1, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

Bruce Springsteen performs at the Madison Square Garden

If you spend any amount of time following sportswriters — especially baseball writers — on Twitter or Facebook, you know that they love, love, love Bruce Springsteen. It’s just a thing they do, almost uniformly. I’ve suspected it’s largely a demographic thing. If you’re a white dude in your 40s and 50s like so many of these guys are, you came of age between “Born to Run” and “Born in the U.S.A.”

Yes, you also came of age between the Ramones’ first record and The Replacements’ “Let it Be,” but today’s sportswriters tended not to be the kinds of people who were into that stuff. The cool popular kids of the time liked Foreigner or Boston and crap like that. The picked-on or marginalized subcultures were more into the punk stuff. The people smart enough to like thoughtful, blue collar storytelling but weren’t edgy enough to get into the Clash were more likely to gravitate to The Boss.

Drew Magary has a deeper explanation of it today over at The Concourse. It involves David Eckstein:

Bruce Springsteen is the perfect embodiment of what sportswriters want to see in the athletes they cover. He is the musical David Eckstein. He’s tough! He’s scrappy! He comes from humble roots and is self-made. He’s blue collar. He’s the first guy to get to the stadium and the last guy to leave. He runs out his pop flies. He’s loyal to his home state of New Jersey, even though he moved to L.A. for a bit and also has a house in Florida. He is every shitty, awful sports-unicorn trope amassed into a single singer-songwriter. And he writes songs that are “rocking” without anywhere being close to threatening. He is the underdog that so many sportswriters want to see in themselves, which is how they end up composing endless paeans to the sax break in “Born to Run.”

That’s all possible, I suppose. It does a better job of explaining it than anything else.

Not that I care. I like Springsteen just fine. He’s not my favorite, but he’s cool. I wouldn’t pay what it costs to go to one of his shows, but I own a couple of albums. I don’t seek his music out when I’m looking for something to listen to, but I don’t change the channel if he comes on the radio. While the level of love some have for Springsteen baffles me, I would think you’ve got to reach really damn hard in order to actually dislike him or his music.

But man, I do hate it when people are Springsteen evangelicals. When they act like they have to hip you to him or his music as if you’ve never heard of it before. Dudes: he was one of the the biggest freakin’ stars around for a couple of decades. Don’t act like telling me to listen to “Thunder Road” is like handing me a map to some hidden, forbidden kingdom.

Anyway, next up: why sportswriters like Dockers so much.

 

  1. tmohr - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    “Bruce is great… if you don’t agree with that you’re a pretentious martian from Venus.” – Joe Strummer, 1994.

    http://dangerousminds.net/comments/joe_strummers_thoughts_on_bruce_springsteen

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      There were a lot more similarities between what the punks were doing and what Springsteen was doing in the 70s than many will admit.

      Both were, in many ways, rejecting the bloated and decadent rock edifice of the late 60s and early 70s and looking back to earlier, pre-Beatles rock and roll for inspiration. Obviously there were extreme sonic differences — punk was stripped down, Springsteen went bombastic — but there is a reason why the Ramones worked with Phil Spector and Springsteen went with that big, bombastic style.

      Springsteen was on a long hiatus between Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town due to a record company dispute. It would not shock me at all if, during that time, he had put out something that, while not punk, was not as far from it as a lot of people might think he may have done.

      • tmohr - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        That big, bombastic style owed a big debt to Spector. Bruce used to use “Da Doo Ron Ron” as intro music circa 1980.

        “Former Los Angeles Times rock critic Robert Hilburn once brought a young Springsteen along with him to a mid-Seventies Spector recording session. Eyeing the upstart, the super producer jokingly told Springsteen, “If you wanted to steal my sound, you shoulda gotten me to do it!” (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-ties-that-bind-bruce-springsteens-25-biggest-heroes-20140110/phil-spector-19691231)

        As for his enforced hiatus after BTR, “The Promise” is what he had first recorded after “Born To Run”, and it’s very much the transition to the “Darkness” sound.

  2. stex52 - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    I buy the sportswriters’ age argument. Springsteen was billed as the “blue collar Dylan” we he first came out, but I never thought that was a terribly apt comparison.

    As with Craig, I like him but am unlikely to pay $300 each for those tickets.

    • aceshigh11 - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:48 PM

      Bruce does not charge that much…he’s never gone the Madonna/Stones/U2 route of gouging fans, and he’s got 2-3 times as many people onstage to pay as those acts.

      He’s fairly reasonable and still plays for 3+ hours.

      • stex52 - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:54 PM

        I could be mistaken, but I think that is what he charged on the last trip through Houston.

      • aceshigh11 - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:41 PM

        I suppose it’s POSSIBLE, but I’ve never seen Springsteen charge anywhere near that rate, and I’ve seen and the E-Street Band quite a few times over the last 11 years.

        Don’t get me wrong…I’m also a big fan of U2 and the Stones, but they DO charge an obscene amount for tickets. Bruce has always tried to keep prices low, play for as long as possible, and change the setlists significantly from night to night.

        I guess I am one of those Bruce fanboys that Craig mocks, but I’m trying to objective here.

    • stex52 - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:37 PM

      Wow, I can’t win for downthumbs. :-)

      Yesterday it’s comparing Cueto’s mid-season stats to Kershaw’s.

      Today it’s not being sufficiently worshipful of Springsteen.

      Always something.

      Now, if we were talking Clapton………………..

      • paperlions - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:08 PM

        Eh, I wouldn’t worry about it. I think Springsteen is 12 kinds of boring, there is simply nothing in his music that I find interesting. I hold nothing against people that like (or love) his stuff, it’s just not for me (which doesn’t make him any different that many other artists whose popularity has always confused me….like the Greatful Dead, Tom Petty, or Rush).

      • stex52 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        The Dead? Now you are messing with my generation.

      • paperlions - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        I have friends that LOVE the Dead….they regularly annoy people at parties by co-opting the music and playing “bootleg” Dead tapes (yes, tapes) or CDs. I just accept that all music is not for me.

      • thomas844 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        Mentioning Cueto’s name in any other way than in a negative light will get you downvotes on this site.

  3. Stacey - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    I feel the same way about Vin Scully evangelicals.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      What’s a Vin Scully evangelical?

      I like the guy… a lot. He’s been announcing for my baseball team my entire life. He is as consistent as the rising sun, and he still sounds today better than that obnoxious Joe Buck.

      Sorry. I’m sure it’s just terrible you had to read that.

      • Stacey - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:07 AM

        It’s fine that you like Vin Scully. I actually like him too but some people go completely overboard with their worship.

        And anything is better than Joe Buck.

  4. mybrunoblog - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    I live in the north east. Grew up with Bruce’s music like everyone else here. There’s been books written, magazine articles ad nauseem, talk show host analysis, etc, etc. Why do we love Bruce? Lots of reasons but I simplify it. The man made and continues to make great music. He’s also probably the greatest in concert performer of his generation. That’s it. No over analysis it’s just simple. Great music from a great performer. And yes, the E Street Band deserves tons of credit too.

    • aceshigh11 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      Especially Professor Roy Bittan and the late “Phantom” Danny Federici. The heart and soul of the Springsteen sound and are, along with the Might Max Weinberg (of Conan fame) and Garry W. Tallent, the foundation of the E-Street Nation.

      THE HEART-STOPPING, EARTH-QUAKING, BOOTY-SHAKING, VIAGRA-TAKING, AIR CONDITIONER-SHAKING, HISTORY-MAKING, LEGENDARY…E…STREET…BAND!

      Ahem…yes, I am a bit of a fan.

  5. okwhitefalcon - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Bernie Miklasz of the STL Post Dispatch is a rabid Springsteen honk.

    Miklasz fits the profile to a “T” – a bloviating, mid 50’s hack.

  6. duckyjimpond - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    SPRINGBEAN. SONGS ARE REPETITIVE AND WHEN HE SINGS THEM HE RANTS SCREAMS AND RAVES===IN A WORD HE STINKS. HE HAS A STYLE NOT A VOICE.HIS DEMOCRATIC LIBERAL BULLSH- T IS ENOUGH TO MAKE ME WANT TO BARF.

    • stex52 - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:55 PM

      Glad you dropped by, troll. Care to go back to PFT or whatever dark corner you came from?

    • indaburg - Jul 1, 2014 at 5:23 PM

      He rants and screams, and he’s repetitive? Are you sure you aren’t referring to yourself?

  7. sdelmonte - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    I’m a white dude in his 40s. I like a few of Bruce’s songs, but being much more white collar than blue collar, I’ve never really gotten him. Also, I much prefer Billy Joel. Who is probably a Mets fan, and who definitely was the last rock act at Shea.

    • stex52 - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:54 PM

      Serious apples and oranges here, Sdel. I got into a similar honk sometime back about Billy Joel and Paul Simon. Really hard to compare them directly in all cases. It comes down to individual tastes and life experiences. Simon, BTW, is pure Yankees. But I forgive him that.

      • sdelmonte - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:04 PM

        Simon grew up in Forest Hills and still rooted for the Yankees? Sacrilege! (Garfunkel purportedly grew up near where I live in Kew Gardens Hills, but no one’s ever done a Music Legends of South Flushing tour.)

  8. petey1999 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    I’d be interested in Peter Gammon’s opinion.

    • okwhitefalcon - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:46 PM

      Gammons gets thumbs down for his Susan Tedeschi/Derrick Trucks and Eddie Vedder worship but counters that with his friendship with the off the charts cool Kay Hanley of Letters To Cleo.

  9. kgfugitive - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    I’d pay to see George Will rock out to any act.

    As for Bruce, he ain’t my boss and never will be.

  10. paperlions - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    Why did Craig use a picture of the guy from TMZ yelling?

    • okwhitefalcon - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      Big thumbs up for any Harvey Levin reference.

  11. philliesblow - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    The Mats > Springsteen. It takes Springsteen 8 minutes to say what Westerberg can say in 3.

  12. billybawl - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:41 PM

    “The cool popular kids of the time liked Foreigner or Boston and crap like that. The picked-on or marginalized subcultures were more into the punk stuff.”

    Mmm…. not where I grew up. Cool/popular kids weren’t necessarily listening to punk, but I don’t remember Foreigner or Boston EVER being cool, not even in their heydays. Maybe those bands were popular with future sportswriters though.

  13. raynman49 - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    Stringbean sucks.

  14. wogggs - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    We will now await a 3,000 word response from the number 1 sportswriter/Springsteen fan, Joe Posnanski… The analysis of Springsteen and his music is exactly right: I won’t pay to see him, I won’t seek him out on the radio, but I won’t turn him off and do own an album. The Clash, on the other hand, I would pay a lot of money to see (at least what is left of them).

  15. garyterp - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:25 PM

    In Houston in May, my Brother paid $120 fir 8th row, regular price. He makes it a point not to over charge, cheaper than any other big stars. And he still plays 3 hours plus, down from 3:45. I’ve seen him 7 times, and the shortest show was 315.. After 9/11, obituaries of fireman mentioned that were Bruce fans. He called up their widows to offer his condolences. If you don’t like Bruce, you probably are a J Beiber fan. Enjoy that. I’ll keep on loving The Boss.

    • stex52 - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:54 PM

      I’m corrected, then. I had some friends go, but I didn’t try.

  16. musketmaniac - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    BEASTIE BOYS

  17. shawnuel - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    In 1984, I saw Springsteen 3 times in 4 days. Vancouver B.C., Tacoma WA (where he canceled a show because he got sick flying into town) and Portland OR. I saw the show after recuperated and he still felt very puny. He did FOUR hours that night. And I think it is accurate to say that there was AT LEAST a 30% difference in set lists for each show. I idolized Bruce at the time but was totally into Husker Du, REM, Replacements, Marshall Crenshaw, Squeeze, Elvis Costello and even Prince. A good artist is a good artist, no matter the genre. Oh, and London Calling is an all time top 10 for me.

    • philliesblow - Jul 1, 2014 at 5:16 PM

      Thumbs up for Marshall Crenshaw.

    • tmc602014 - Jul 1, 2014 at 8:16 PM

      Introduced to Marshall Crenshaw many years ago on KPCC by a DJ that did the “Bakersfield Sound” show. Who was that DJ? Alex, Andre? Ah, memory loss.

  18. mazblast - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    My theory is that sportswriters are into Springsteen because he sings like most of them write–you can’t tell what the heck he’s saying. Has Springsteen EVER thought of enunciating even a bit?

    “AAAEEEWEEEWERRORRRTORUUUUUU…”
    “ORRRRINUHUUUEEEHHHHAAAYYY”

  19. yahmule - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    If you ever want to read something that is utterly comedic in over-the-top fanboy hyperbole, check out literally anything Robert Hilburn has ever written about the guy.

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