The Final (for now, anyhow) Sunday Football-Related Music Post
As fans we’ve been hanging on by our fingernails until training camp begins, and the wait is just about over. The players report to camp on Thursday and public practices begin the following week. The long drought is almost over.
As a result, I’m going to end this series, at least until next off-season. And even then it will probably be a sporadic feature, as I’ve used up a great deal of the supply of NFL players involved in any sort of rigorous fashion with music.
I suppose I should have saved the Renegade post for this week, but that ship has sailed. Instead I will leave you with one final music post, featuring—a Baltimore Raven.
Last fall, when we were in the depths of Kicker Hell, I was exceedingly envious of the Ravens. I didn’t particularly want anyone else on their team except this guy. During the first Ravens game, which was lost by one player, insofar as a team loss can ever be assigned to anyone, I watched Justin Tucker go out for a 52-yard field goal attempt to win the game, and noted the elation on the faces of his teammates. They knew he wouldn’t miss, and he didn’t. I thought how nice it would be to have that certainty.
I’ve just discovered another reason to wish he wasn’t a Raven—he’s a very diversely gifted young man. I’m not complaining about having Chris Boswell as our kicker—he has been terrific, and seems like a sensible, well-grounded young man. No, it’s just I wish Tucker played for a different team, preferably one in the NFC, because I would love to be able to secretly root for him, unless his team happens to face the Steelers in the Super Bowl.
Why? Because he is not only a terrific singer, he sings music I can relate to. In fact, he sings opera. From the little I’ve heard I can’t tell you he will be able to step right out of the NFL into a career at the Metropolitan Opera, but that’s scarcely germane. What is so impressive is that he only took it up in college, as he told Joe Buck in an NFL Films segment:
Part of my degree requirements was that I had to sing—take voice lessons. I found out it was something I really like to do, and it was a style of music I had never really thought about. I don’t know if that makes me a jack-of-all-trades or a Renaissance man or any label I’ve heard before—it’s just something I kind of like to do. If I’m going to get involved in something, you know, I’m going to really commit to it.
My first thought on reading this was, What the heck school is this who requires their Sports Management majors, or whatever of the usual sorts of majors football players matriculate, to take voice lessons? The school is the University of Texas at Austin, and Tucker graduated in December of 2011 with a degree in Recording Technology. Which explains why they made him take voice lessons, as generally such programs want you to have some experience with the sorts of things you might record. But this means it isn’t quite so surprising that he turned out to be good at music.
But I can tell you from experience that not that many musicians who are forced to take voice lessons turn out to have a voice like his. His voice is good enough that both the Baltimore Symphony and the New York Opera have tried to get him to perform with them, to no avail. But a couple of companies purveying somewhat less ephemeral wares have gotten him to perform, such as this one:
While the Baltimore Symphony couldn’t get him, Tucker is a devout Catholic, and when the Archbishop came calling he sang for a Catholic Charities of Baltimore event with the Concert Artists of Baltimore:
Tucker isn’t just all about opera, though, although his love for it came through his voice teacher, a Russian bass named Nikita Storojev. Storojev compared the disciplines in sports and music:
“Opera singers use so much energy, it’s like sports,” says Storojev, who has performed in Vienna, Paris, London, Milan, and Baltimore. “Sportsmen have muscle coordination. This is very important in classical singing, because you need to control how you take respiration. That helped Justin a lot.”
The quote is from an article in the Baltimore Magazine, written in 2014. In the article author Mike Unger also quotes part of Tucker’s UT College of Fine Arts commencement speech:
“This 1.3-second field-goal operation, from the snap to the hold to the kick, is a performance,” he told the UT grads. “It is choreographed specifically, then rehearsed literally thousands upon thousands of times. To me, in those 1.3 seconds lies a sort of cathartic beauty. Almost paradoxically, I become so engaged, so focused, that I lose myself in that moment, much like a musician who performs a piece that he has studied and rehearsed time and time again.”
You can watch the whole thing here.
He’s also good at mimicking speaking voices. In the NFL Films video mentioned above he does a pretty good Ray Lewis imitation, starting at about 4:22. Click here if you think you can bear it. (The NFL apparently put it on YouTube but disallowed playback anywhere but on YouTube.) The short film is pretty fun, actually.
The photo at the head of the article is from April 2015, when Tucker headlined the Harbor East Fashion Show. He also plays the guitar. I hesitate to look for what else he does. His father is a cardiologist, and perhaps he has assisted in open-heart procedures as a teen, or has a black belt in karate. Not too much would be surprising about this young man. Although it is tempting to wish he’d chosen a different team, you have to play for the guys who offer you a job, which the Ravens did after he went undrafted in 2012. I’d say they came out of it pretty well.
I wish Mr. Tucker great success in the musical portions of his life, and, okay, I hope things go well for him in the footbally world too*. Just not when he’s playing us…
*In one of the videos I ran across he told a story about nailing a kick in training camp which split the uprights and hit Mrs. Flacco in the head as she sat in the stands with her son in a stroller nearby. So he might have a few relationships to repair…