The themes of "Zanzibar" include love of sports, love of alcohol and the singer's attempt to pick up a waitress. According to producerPhil Ramone, Joel had written the music and had decided he liked the title "Zanzibar" for the piece, but had not figured out what to say about Zanzibar. Hearing the music conjured up for Ramone images of people watching television in a bar, and as a result Joel decided to make the song about activity in a sports bar named Zanzibar rather than about the country Zanzibar. The lyrics include a number of contemporary sports references, including to heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali, baseball player Pete Rose, and the baseball team the New York Yankees, who were the World Champions at the time. The lyrics also use a baseball expression as a sexual metaphor when the singer wants to stealsecond base with a waitress in the bar if the waitress will allow it. Joel biographer Hank Bordowitz considers the waitress to be a metaphor for Joel's first wife Elizabeth, similar to how he considers the waitress "practicing politics" in Joel's earlier song "Piano Man" to be a metaphor for Elizabeth.