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Traditional game day cheer to be phased out

September 9, 2009

For the first time in more than three decades, “Hockey Cheer” is gone from the Spartan Marching Band’s song sheet.

Traditionally a fixture in its pregame show and on third downs during football games, the band did not play the cheer during this past week’s pregame show, but it did play it sparingly in the game. After hearing another vulgar response from the students, both the Athletic Department and band decided to nix the cheer.

“Our responsibility is to control the environment for everyone in Spartan Stadium the best we can,” MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis said. “And that kind of chant we want to back off of, let it rest for a while and try to create more of a positive atmosphere.”

“Hockey Cheer” debuted in 1975 with the opening of Munn Ice Arena, but eventually crossed over to other sports. In the cheer, fans usually chant “Let’s go State!” in unison with the last three beats, but in past years, the student section has added, “F—- (opponent)” before that line.

John T. Madden, in his 20th year as director of the Spartan Marching Band, said he believes many students feel the same way about the vulgar language.

“I don’t think the majority of the students like it. I think the majority of the students would say enough is enough,” Madden said. “I agree with the others that talk about freedom of speech and that people can say what they want to say, but they have to realize who they represent. There comes a great privilege in being a Michigan State student, and one needs to represent the institution with as much integrity as they can.”

Those students who don’t mind the vulgarity say that even without “Hockey Cheer,” the section still will find a way to keep swearing in the game day experience.

“I think every college university I know of has it, and I think it just shows the spirit we have,” human biology sophomore Avery Neuman said. “I’m a fan of it personally, so I don’t mind it, but I can see how some people think it’s offensive.”

The MSU football players also have various opinions on the chants. Senior linebacker Adam Decker said he felt the vulgarity was a negative reflection on MSU, but admitted it’s a tough thing not to do.

“I’m a student, too,” Decker said. “If I was in the student section, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t do it. It’s just because everybody’s doing it and it’s a fun thing at the time.”

Sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins, one of the team’s four captains, said he doesn’t like the profanity. He said he chooses not to speak that way and doesn’t think that type of language is honorable, respectful or mature.

“I believe the mouth speaks of that which is in the heart, and so I think what comes out of the mouth is an indicator of what’s going on inside,” Cousins said. “I think if the mouth is saying things like profanity, and is constantly angry, that kind of talk I think reflects what’s going on inside. … It’s something I would like to see changed. I know some students are going to be frustrated with me saying that, but that’s the way I feel.”

Despite the backing by various people, the vulgarity might never go away. However, the Hollis hopes fans and families can meet somewhere in the middle.

“I want students and fans to have fun — this is not a military zone — we want people to enjoy the game and that’s as true as for students as it is for seven and 80-year-olds,” Hollis said. “The older fans say, ‘I bought my ticket, why do I have to listen to this?’ while the student says, ‘I bought my ticket, why can’t I say what I want to say?’ This is never going to completely go away, but we need to find that happy medium between the two.”

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