When it comes to the unimaginative four-word, two-profanity chant common to the student section during UW-Madison football games, I can’t help but think: So what else is new?
Fan comportment, like much of American culture, has loosened up. There was a time when men dressed in suits to go to baseball games.
But judging from the letters to the editor and regular complaints to the university, there are still plenty of people whose standards are high enough to want to see the chant meet its demise.
Unfortunately for them, the perspective to emerge from campus suggests that not only will the chant live on but so will the debate surrounding it.
In a guest column in this newspaper on Thursday, athletic director Barry Alvarez and chancellor Rebecca Blank expressed their “concern” about the chant and note the university has tried a range of strategies to persuade students to end it — including pleas from football players and in-game messages posted on the score board.
“In our view, the only way the chant ends will be if the students themselves decide to end it,” they say.
Throwing up one’s hands in defeat might play a little better among the profanity-averse if the university had tried strategies harder-core than the campus equivalent of parental finger-wagging — something that for many newly minted adults is among the irritants they were hoping to be free of once they went to college.
The university could, for example, cancel the Fifth Quarter marching band performance, eliminate the student section, eject chanters or halt the game every time the chant begins.
I’m sure a university with as many smart, creative people as UW could generate a stadium full of punishment.
UW associate athletic director Justin Doherty didn’t know if stopping play or taking other such drastic measures would work, although “I can say we’re not going to end the student section.”
Administrators see their work with students and a new student-led committee as an “opportunity to try to appeal to the students in other ways,” he said.
If there are “other ways.”
Nineteen-year-old UW student and ticketholder Lindsay Mazur told me it would be “really hard” to end the chant, and even drastic measures “would probably egg people on to do it.”
“I think it would work for a little while but just come back,” said Molly Wirnsberger, a 20-year-old student and fellow student section sitter.
The university could reason that nothing short of ending home games would end the chant — so why waste time trying?
Or maybe there’s something the university can do to end the chant, but nothing it’s willing to do.
Doing one or the other wouldn’t be diplomatic, but it would at least save chant-haters from having to hold out hope — as finger-wagging and dialogue serve mostly to keep their consternation fresh.
Alvarez and Blank don’t appear ready to take that step, though, and end their official statement of concern with an upbeat “On, Wisconsin!”
Perhaps just as fitting would be “On, &!#@#*&!”