There are better organists than baseball organists


You might think that the best display of raw talent by an organist would be during the 7th inning stretch at a baseball game, but that is not the case. The real organ savants are those brave men and women who play the pipes during hockey games.

I had this erratic epiphany over Thanksgiving break while attending a Notre Dame hockey game. The first intermission was coming to a close, the players took the ice for the face-off, and a twangy, organ version of the Beatles' “obladi oblada” echoed around the ice rink.

Organs have been part of sporting events and games since the time of the Romans. Now, I understand why organists play at baseball games - both organs and baseball are old-timey - but there is something peculiar about the sound of an organ playing at a hockey game. Hockey is a hard-hitting, fast-paced game. Organs sound like the voice of the king of the gods of Mount Olympus, Zeus. Organs produce a cohesive blend of intense, sharp, striking, and sometimes whimsical, sounds. So what do you get when you put an organist in a hockey arena? Zany, collateral entertainment.

I went to the hockey game so that hockey would entertain me, but boy was I in for a surprise. Every second of stopped play was more enjoyable than the periods of action. And all thanks to the organist. To understand why that was the case, let me explain my epiphany.

Unlike organists for baseball games, organists for hockey games jam out during every stoppage of play. As soon as the referee blows the whistle, the organist starts cranking the air pump to flood the organ's pipes with air to flood the ice arena with sound. There is no better way to quickly rouse a sporting arena than with the classic "ba-da-da-di-da-di charge!" chant.

I understand organists at most sporting events play this chant, but there is something else the hockey organists have to do that sets them apart from all other organists. They have to be extremely improvisational with regards to time. The time between a stoppage of play and puck-drop is inconsistent, so the organists must drag out, or cut short, whatever tune they are playing. The trick is being able to make a smooth transition between periods of play, and hockey organists have this skill mastered.  

Aside from the improvisation, the organist provides comic relief during a gritty sporting contest. Just think about my original example of the organist playing “obladi oblada” by the Beatles. If you're not familiar with this song or artist, then you will have another opinion article coming your way. But that is neither here nor there. Imagine just about any song, but played on an organ. I imagine most people are familiar with "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor.

Picture yourself all hopped up on soda pop and arena nachos. The action of the hockey game has your adrenaline rushing as you cling to the edge of your seat. The referee stops the play with his whistle, and the organist immediately chimes in with "Eye of the Tiger." Now, this isn't the expected finger-ripping guitar riffs, but instead, it is the twangy sound of an organ. Talk about contrast. One moment you have an adrenaline rush and a sugar buzz, and the next moment you're subject to a zany version of "Eye of the Tiger." I cannot conceive a more thrilling emotional roller coaster.

All in all, organists provide entertainment at a diversity of sporting events. There is, however, one such organist that is objectively better due to their ability to consistently entertain the crowd with improvised sounds, and no, it is not the baseball organist. Hockey organists reign supreme over all other subordinate organists.