Observation: Rapper Action Bronson regularly uses references to sports in his lyrics.
Question: Does Action Bronson like sports?
Hypothesis: Action Bronson likes sports.
Experiment: Listen to four mixtapes, three albums, and two EPs to see how many different athletes he mentions to determine if Action Bronson likes sports.
Conclusion: He likes sports.
Report Your Results:
One hundred and twenty-three. From Bon Appetit ..... Bitch (2011) to Mr. Wonderful (2015), Bronsoliño managed to rattle off 123 references to sports figures. That comes out to 123 references over 133 songs (not counting intros, interludes, and songs that appear on multiple tapes), which means an average of .92 references per song. That's almost one per song. Not bad. For comparison, in their 2016 NFL season the Los Angeles Rams scored an average of 1.4 touchdowns per game. That's almost one, too, and that's an actual sporting event. If someone put a gun to your head and said you can either listen to a random Action Bronson song to hear a sports reference or watch a Rams game to see a touchdown, you are barely better off picking the Rams. And even then you have to watch a Rams game.
Only counting unique players (NY favorites like Jeter make more than one appearance), Bronson lists off 107 athletes participating in a range of competitions from basketball to bodybuilding. He weaves in references to all-stars like Aaron Rodgers beside journeymen like Serge Ibaka, never repeating an athlete more than three times.
By my (very good) calculations Michael Jordan has been mentioned in rap songs around 6 billion times. Bronson references him once. Comparatively, five-time World's Strongest Man winner Mariusz Pudzianowski has never been mentioned in any form of art ever; Action referenced him twice. Is Pudzianowski two times the baller that Jordan was? No. Not even close. But that's not the point.
Action's lyrics are a reflection of his hobbies—not what's popular. Anyone can get behind a mic and say they've got, "30 in the clip like Curry." In fact, multiple people have. Action is the only person who can get behind one and say, "I stay in Flushing like I'm Dillon Gee," because he might be the only man to rap and know who Dillon Gee is.
I don't mean to knock guys who repeat similar bars. I like all three of the songs I linked above, and there is something to be said for accessibility. If your goal is comprehension and retention, almost every rap listener will understand a line about Stephen Curry. The same cannot be said for Nick Van Exel (one-time NBA All Star and assistant coach for the Grizzlies) or Colombo (a fucking horse that raced from 1933 to 1934).
For the rookie sports fan, some of Action's athlete references are not relatable, but they are revealing. Just like how listening to one Lil Wanye album will reveal how much he likes to eat pussy, listening to one Action project will clue you in on how much Ariyan Arslani genuinely likes sports.
Based on the variety in sport, era, and popularity of his references, it's clear that his knowledge is leagues deeper than surface level. He's appeared on Highly Questionable and SportsNation. He's been interviewed by Sports Illustrated. Before Big Body introduced Action's songs, quarterback Mark Sanchez did.
And while everyone knows Bronson's business before rap was food, not many are familiar with the actual restaurants he worked at. Early in his culinary career you could catch a burger and fries prepared by Bronson himself at a little spot on Roosevelt called "Citi Field" (this is the baseball stadium where the Mets play; it's not a restaurant). Bronson fed fans and players alike during his tenure as Head Chef for the most exciting team in sports. He also loves wrestling so much that we once made a different list outlining his best pro wrestling references. Have I made my point that for the most part didn't need making? MY MAN. LIKES. SPORTS. So let's get into them. The sports.
Clocking in at 36 references (28 unique), the numbers say Action Bronson's most beloved sport is basketball. Based on the sampling of players, the 90s NBA he grew up with is his favorite era. Twenty-two of the 28 players referenced ran in the handcheck, no bullshit, Bulls-dominated 1990s. Of those 28, 12 have won championships, nine wore Knicks jerseys, and only three are currently active in the NBA (LeBron, Rondo, and Ibaka). These numbers won't help you better understand Action's music, but meaningless advanced stats have always had a place in sports, so enjoy them.
Here's another advanced statistic: Based on the current rookie scale, a player drafted to the NBA with the sixth pick will have a base salary of around $2.9 million for his first year. If he plays all 82 games that equates to about $35,000 per game. Main Stage Productions, a website I found on the first page of Google, lists Action Bronson's booking fee at around $35,000. So if Action Bronson was drafted sixth to the NBA, and played all 82 games, for rookie scale, a GM would have made a very risky decision. Something to think about.
Basketball Players Referenced: 36 (28 unique)
Player Referenced Most: Dikembe Mutombo (3)
Best Bar: "Dog, I lay with hoes / and smoke butter the same color as Jalen Rose"
Coming in at the number two spot is baseball, a.k.a. "America's Pastime" or "the sport where for some reason it's ok to have Native American team names." From hitting to waiting for your turn to hit, Bronson covers it all in 34 references to the top MLB athletes.
Overall Bronson has more basketball references, but baseball takes the cake for most individual players. He name-drops 29 unique baseball players, the most between all his lyrics. The oldest player to make Bronson's list is "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. Born in July of 1887, Jackson famously played a game without shoes. The youngest player referenced is Dillon Gee. Born in April of 1986, Gee famously wore shoes in every game he played. Different times. Different players.
Jay Z once said, "I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can." That may be true, but don't discount Action's contributions to the Bronx Bombers: Former Yankee pitcher Jim Abbott has 923 views on his Ted X talk. "Midget Cough," the song where Action references Jim Abbott, has 150,000 views. You do the math.
Baseball Players Referenced: 34 (29 unique)
Player Referenced Most: Derek Jeter (3)
Best Bar: "Barry Bronson shootin' juice before the Mitchell Report / Never snitchin' in court / We blitzing the fort"
Now that you've completed the math, think on this: Football is a sport quite unlike any other. Dissimilar to games like basketball or soccer, it unfolds like a great war made up of several smaller skirmishes. Also if you do it for too long you forget your birthday. These pros and cons are chronicled by Bronson in 29 references to professional players and coaches.
Of the 27 unique players mentioned, Bronson's favorite position is the running back, with six appearances. The next two most popular positions, with five references apiece, are linebacker and coach. After that comes quarterback and linemen with three. Glaringly absent from his lyrics is the wide receiver position. Across all of Bronson's sports references, he has never name-dropped a wide out. Given the highlight reel nature of WR play, it's odd that Rice, Moss, or Megatron has never made an appearance on a Bronson track.
On August 5, 2012, he tweeted, "My bitch shot the Football out her Pussy and Hit Randy Moss for 86 yards." This doesn't really reveal anything about why Bronson hasn't rapped about WRs before, but I think about this tweet a lot.
Football Players Referenced: 29 (27 unique)
Player Referenced Most: Michael Vick/Barry Sanders (2)
Best Bar: "Foul living like Sandusky and Paterno / I been husky / Motherfuckers couldn't touch me"
After Bronson's three favorite sports, the numbers start to fall off. References jump out of the 30ish range down to single digits. Still, six references to fighters is an impressive count for a sport with much less superstar name recognition. Of the six athletes mentioned by Bronson, all of them have held the title belt for their weight class. The slight exception is Royce Gracie, who won the overall UFC belt in 1993 and who stands out because they did not yet think weight classes were necessary.
This rule did not faze Gracie as he regularly faced down opponents who weighed 50 to 75 pounds more than him. What seems impressive at first becomes less so when you learn that Gracie was kind of the only guy who knew what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was. It was like beating someone in a fighting game who doesn't doesn't know how to block. Most of Gracie's fights began with, "What are you gonna do, choke me?," and ended with someone getting choked.
For those eager to learn more about BJJ, look no further than this video of Bronson himself applying a rear naked choke to a fan who jumped on stage. It's a shame the kid didn't tap out, maybe he'd still be alive today. RIP.
Fighters Referenced: 6
Best Bar: "This exquisite shit that flip when I rip it / Crisp kiddicks / Right hand quicker than Riddick's"
If Action was born in Europe he might have more than five soccer references in his discography. He might also call them football references and have better health care. Luckily, this is not the case.
As a fellow American, I admittedly do not know much about the footballers Bronson talks about. Zidane is the French guy who headbutted a dude in the world cup. Ronaldinho somehow scammed his way into getting a nickname on the back of his jersey. Nistelrooy is the fourth highest goalscorer in Champions League history, but he also got a long ass head. Look it up.
Soccer Players Referenced: 5
Best Bar: "Pistol noise / Shiftin' in a Hitler toy / Kick shit / Young Ruud Van Nistelrooy"
Powerlifting is a strength competition that measures your prowess in the deadlift, bench press, and squat. A Strongman is a strength competition that measures your ability to carry refrigerators or pull an airplane. Both are cool, but one is clearly cooler than the other.
Mariusz Pudzianowski is Bronson's favorite heavy lifter. Pudzianowski was referenced twice by Bronson on his 2011 project Well-Done. Standing a wide 6'1'' 320 lbs, the Pole has won the World's Strongest Man Competition a record five times. He can bench 640 lbs, squat 840 lbs, and deadlift 915 lbs. To better understand this feat, 915 lbs is roughly equal to the weight of twenty 45 lb plates. Undoubtedly, Pudzianowski is one of the world's greatest at picking heavy shit up and moving it to another place.
Strong Boys Referenced: 5 (4 unique)
Strong Boy Referenced Most: Mariusz Pudzianowski (2)
Best Bar: "I got the ruger for Christmas / Scoop up your princess / My team moving rocks like Zydrunas Savickas"
Two golfers show up in Bronson's lyrics, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman. These pros are two of the greatest golfers to grace the green, but they also represent the two most important pillars of hip-hop: Being the absolute best ever and cashin' out.
Nicklaus won his first major at 22 years old and continued to snap until he was 46. Eighteen majors, six green jackets, and a Congressional Gold Medal should shut up any argument about whether Tiger or the Iced Tea Man is better. If you're not familiar with the Congressional Gold Medal, previous winners include Andrew Jackson for defending New Orleans during the war of 1812 and Jonas Salk for curing polio. Nicklaus got it for putting a small ball in a hole, so he must have been pretty fucking good at it.
Norman was good at golf, too. Not Nicklaus good, but he won two majors and loads of other tournaments. What Norman was good at was getting to the money. After earning $10 million-plus from golf, Norman started Great White Shark Enterprises. To put it bluntly, his company is big. Some of their ventures include designing golf courses, clothing lines, eyewear, real estate, restaurants, beef products, wine, and indoor wakeboarding parks. He also started a bunch of charities that he's quite proud of, but none of them are not as cool or profitable as indoor wakeboarding parks.
Study as Bronson did and emulate as much as you can from the combo of Nicklaus and Norman. Taking an edible and watching the Masters is the same as studying. Thank you.
Golfers Referenced: 2
Best Bar: "Shoot eagles on the Jack Nicklaus course / Porsche with the triple exhaust / Seats soft like a midget's cough"
"I'm diving in like Louganis, I'm aiming right for that anus" is all I want to say about this. Put on "Larry Csonka" and listen to the part of the song where Action Bronson says, "I'm diving in like Louganis, I'm aiming right for that anus." It is a life-affirming experience when one has the opportunity to load Spotify, query a search for "Larry Csonka," and wait the appropriate two minutes and ten seconds for Action Bronson to say, "I'm diving in like Louganis, I'm aiming right for that anus." One would be most remiss had the Bronson built song "Larry Csonka" be readied for play, and then had an unforeseen circumstance occur, forcing one to exit the listening area in less than two minutes and ten seconds, limiting your capacity to hear the lyrics and miss the part of the song where Action Bronson says, "I'm diving in like Louganis, I'm aiming right for that anus."
Swimmers/Divers Referenced: 2
Best Bar: "I'm diving in like Louganis / I'm aiming right for that anus"
The only hockey player to grace an Action track is the Russian machine Alexander Ovechkin. If you were going to reference one player that wasn't Gretsky, Number 8 is not a bad pick. Ovie has played 11 seasons for the Capitals and led the league in goals for six of them. He's won the Hart Trophy (MVP) three times and has an 80 mph wrister. That's fast enough to kill a baby. A 40 mph shot would probably kill a baby too, but man, imagine an 80 mph one.
The day he won his first Hart Trophy he was also given the key to Washington, DC. During his speech he proclaimed, "I'm the president this day in the city, so everybody have fun—and no speed limit." This was a funny speech, and everyone laughed. What's not funny is looking up traffic fatalities that occurred in Washington, DC, that year. Thirty-four bodies are on Ovie's hands. They should not have let a 22-year-old Russian make the laws in our nation's capital, no matter how good he is at hockey.
Hockey Players Referenced: 1
Best Bar: "Under the influence of fly shit I glide like Ovechkin / Disqus hoodie / Puff hibiscus"
Tennis is an unfortunate sport that sits in the middle of the Venn diagram between, "Not so fun to watch" and "Just barely fun to play." Either way, Ivan Lendl was good at it. A former number one-ranked player, he won three out of four majors, just missing Wimbledon in '86 and '87. At the end of 2011 he started coaching Andy Murray, the current number one ranked player, who later would win Wimbledon. Now it's kind of like Lendl won Wimbledon. Kind of.
There's a lot to be said about Lendl's 1,000-plus career wins and 19 finals appearances, but in my opinion his biggest career highlight is a postage stamp. In the mid 80s a photo of Lendl hoisting a trophy was used as art for a stamp. This stamp would not help you send any mail in the United States, though. It also wouldn't help you send anything in his home country of Czechoslovakia. The only place you could use this stamp was where it was issued, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Kim Il-sung or whoever was in charge of the stamps liked Lendl so much they put him on the damn mail money. It gets even better when you consider the consequences of putting a tennis player on a stamp in a place where tennis and mail are probably illegal.
Tennis Players Referenced: 1
Best Bar: "Serve like Ivan Lendl up in the rental / The team's been assembled"
Track and Field
Pros: Only female athlete mentioned (good to be feminist). Won three gold medals for USA (best medal and best country). Voted greatest female athlete of all time by Sports Illustrated (nice to be the best ever). Cons: How fast someone could run and jump became severely less cool after 3rd grade.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee won two of her gold medals dominating the Heptathlon, an event made up of seven track and field trials that test running, jumping, and throwing capabilities. Her score of 7,291 set at the '88 Olympics in Seoul has yet to be beaten by anyone. Almost 30 years have passed since her record performance (seven summer Olympics) and no one has come with 200 points of her. I'm not quite sure what the points represent or how the scores are calculated, but it's clear Joyner-Kersee is really good at this shit. It's rare to see a track and field star leave such a lasting mark and still be unanimously known as the GOAT 30 years later. It's also rare to see a track and field star in general, but still, she was crazy good.
Track and Field Athletes Referenced: 1
Best Bar: "Running fast like Jackie Joyner-Kersee / Hit the Jackie Rob / Cop the Hershey"
In complete honesty, I am not sure if he's referencing a horse here. I mean, I'm pretty sure he is. He probably is. But it's such an obscure reference that I have to assume there could be something I'm missing.
Colombo was a famous racehorse that was active in 1933 and 1934, in England. If the horse was famous in New York I would have an easier time understanding Bronson's connection, but he never raced outside the UK. I'm not sure how popular Colombo is globally, but in all the top ten horse lists I looked at, he never made an appearance. Even on HorseRacingNation's Greatest Thoroughbred List, Colombo does not crack the top 250. This is why the horse reference is mystifying to me. Does Bronson have such a grasp on pre-WWII era European racehorses that he was able to make this reference or is he talking about another Colombo?
Other possible suspects include the capital of Sri Lanka, the 70s detective show, and an NY crime family, but I suspect none of these are the reference. The biggest clue pointing toward the horse is how the lyric fits as a reference to his horse-sized dick. I don't think the capital of Sri Lanka is a dick reference, but I have been wrong before. If anyone has a line to Bronson, please ask him if his lyric on "Cliff Notes" is about the horse or not, thank you. He has not gotten around to responding to my tweet yet.
Horses Referenced: 1
Best Bar: "And when I go inside I think I might just play Nintendo / Call a shortie from the heights to come and play with my Colombo"
Asher Dakota is Noisey's data science correspondent. Follow him on Twitter.
Lead Photo Credit: Al Pereira / Getty Images