NFL on Fox theme song, explained: How famous ‘Batman On Steroids’ jingle started a broadcast trend

Viewers watching Super Bowl 57 on Sunday will hear a subject so ubiquitous in its use that it has almost transcended the sport of football.

We’re talking, of course, of the famous NFL on Fox theme, whose blaring horns at the beginning of the song set it apart from similar jingles from CBS and NBC — and even the famous “Monday Night Football” anthem. It’s a song whose dark tone, minor key and massive sound are effectively designed to evoke feelings of struggle in action.

So it’s fitting that the song originally came from this simple pitch from former Fox Sports President David Hill: “Batman is playing football.”

The song, which debuted for NFL on Fox in 1994, has gone on to become one of the most iconic pieces of music in the American sports lexicon, let alone the NFL. It has become part of the game’s culture and history and will no doubt be played during Sunday’s Fox broadcast of the big game.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the song, its composition, and its inspiration from the Caped Crusader:

‘NFL on Fox’ theme

How NFL made the “Batman on Steroids” jingle on Fox

The story goes – as reported by Deadspin in 2014 – that Hill, who was hired as President of Fox Sports in 1993, requested Emmy Award-winning producer-director George Greenberg to come up with a new theme song for Fox’s coverage of the NFL . (The network surprisingly outbid CBS for the rights to broadcast NFC games in 1994.)

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Greenberg was the outgoing creative director at ABC Sports and had just days to meet the deadline. His only guideline, which he shared with Deadspin in 2014:

“Look,” Hill said. “I’m in this long line for the Batman ride. I can’t get this topic out of my head. Batman. give me a superhero Give me Batman plays soccer.’

Greenberg’s first thought was to call his friend, composer Scott Schreer. He was then a studio drummer who wrote commercial jingles; He’d also occasionally worked for ABC Sports, as Greenberg was able to call him. The latter relayed Hill’s instruction to Schreer – “Batman on steroids” – and asked if he could make it within the two-day deadline.

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Schreer consisted of a three-person writing team alongside Phil Garrod and Reed Hays to develop the song’s tone and theme.

“We definitely wanted to put a really dark, manly, masculine football tint on it,” Schreer told Deadspin. There wasn’t much of it in the air back then. “The sports themes were orchestral in nature, but they definitely didn’t have that Batman darkness.

“When you listen to great composers like Hans Zimmer, or you watch movies like ‘Gladiator,’ or Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas movies where everyone goes into battle, you’re basically facing death,” he said. “And death is dark, and football is a dangerous sport. I think the reason it’s in the minor key is because it has this combative, warlike vibe. It is both conscious and subliminal to the listener. This is how we are coded. It’s an association thing.”

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Deadspin reports that Schreer used his own money to organize a 48-piece orchestral ensemble to perform the music they wrote. As the outlet notes, he actually wrote three pieces, all in the same key and tempo—only melodically structured differently. That’s key to how the last piece finally came together.

A central theme of the music passed from Schreer to Deadspin was the song’s iconic opening.

“Where I’m from, I had to get my tune across in 30 seconds or less,” Schreer told Deadspin of how his commercial work influenced the song. “I’ve always approached writing music by starting with my best foot forward. Don’t wait for the catch. Come out with the hook. Come out swinging.”

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Scheer sent the three pieces of music to Greenberg, who knew immediately Fox had a hit: “There’s no such thing as a soccer sports theme song like this on air. I couldn’t hum anything from CBS or NBC. This one is like a movie score! It’s huge,” he told Deadspin.

Hill thought the same when Greenberg played him a CD of the themes Schreer had created. He flew to New York, where he and Schreer settled in his studio. There they put the finishing touches to what later became the closing theme.

As Deadspin noted, Hill liked the opening of the first track that Schreer had created, but he liked the body of the second track better. So he had Schreer stitch the two tracks together to create the final product.

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“The NFL on Fox theme is actually two pieces of music,” Schreer said. “It’s the first eight bars of a piece of music that we made. And the rest of another piece of music we made.

“Fortunately, I had the foresight to play everything in the same key and tempo, should that happen. We were able to switch them and it worked really, really well.”

The following season, NFL debuted the theme for its first broadcast on Fox. The rest, as they say, is history.

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