Editor's Note: Just like the stands at Spartan Stadium, the following post contains language not fit for everyone's ears. This post is about (and liberally references) such language, so consider yourself warned.
A few years after trying (unsuccessfully) to take the "bitch" out of the Spartan Stadium student section's first down chant, MSU officials are trying once again to remove a swear word from a cheer.
This time they're tackling a more vulgar word in a much more drastic - and effective - manner, by completely eliminating the Spartan Marching Band's song that prompts it.
According to a State News report, the so-called "Hockey Cheer" usually played at third downs that ends "bahm bahm bahm, Let's Go State!" has been axed. The problem, of course, is that the "bahm bahm bahm" bit was usually replaced by something on the order of "Fuck U-M!", even if MSU wasn't playing Michigan.
The song was removed by an order from the highest levels - both Athletic Director Mark Hollis and SMB Director John T. Madden agreed it should go. Hollis left the door open for a possible return, however, by saying the song would "rest for a while."
Long-time fans will remember a similar campaign by the band in the 2005, when the first down chant was supposed to be amended to something on the order of "1, 2, 3, First Down, Spartans!" or "... First Down Yeah!". It didn't work.
Here's the thing with stadium chants. They need to be loud and annoying and they really need to get into the heads of the visiting team. The "Little Sister" chant, for example, is great because it's usually done at great volume and it annoys the crap out of Michigan players and fans. Love it.
I also get the idea that one doesn't want the kids at Spartan Stadium to be barraged with F-bombs. But surely there's room for a little common sense here.
Football is by definition a PG-13 sport. For one, it's incredibly violent. Remember when Tyrell Dortch, in 2001, snapped his leg so loud in a game against Wisconsin that you could hear the crack in the upper deck of Camp Randall Stadium? Dortch was lucky, he came back to play again. However, throughout football history many men have been carried off the field of play with far worse injuries, some have been paralyzed - some have even died on the pitch. You know you take the risk of your seven-year-old having that image burned in their brain forever when you bring him or her to the game.
For two, it's generally accepted at a major college football game that, if the ref blows a call and costs your team a touchdown, the entire student section will unite in pitch-perfect harmony to call that gentleman an asshole. That's their right, they bought a ticket. In addition, creative insults toward opposing players and coaches are not just OK, they're encouraged.
For three, even the worst the chants at Spartan Stadium seem fit for children's television when compared with some of the bile that comes from "ultras"-style supporters sections like, say, the Barra Brava at D.C. United soccer games. Among the Barra's classics are: "If I had the wings of an eagle, if I had the ass of a crow, I'd fly over (insert city here) tomorrow, and shit on those bastards below...", and a Spanish cheer that loosely translates to "Anyone who's not jumping up and down right now is an asshole."
You don't get that at MSU football games, and that's probably for the best. MSU does have a point. There is a line. One doesn't need to be screaming F-bombs on a university campus, especially given that football is supposed to be a family affair. One definitely doesn't need to bring up an opposing player's mother, sister or other assorted female family member in said cheers. There is, to be sure, a question of class.
Given that, I think MSU is right to phase out cheers that seem to have attracted F-bombs or similar words. As for lighter, yet still offensive phrases, if fans generally decide that swearing is a bad thing then they'll end it on their own through peer pressure.
But it would be a mistake to step much further into the realm of what people can and cannot say at a football game. After all, if the ref is indeed being an asshole, you should be able to call him that. Loudly.