On Traditions

This week, a new video was released on K-StateSports.com, titled "New Traditions at BSFS in 2007."  I just got around to watching it today.  If you're interested, take a gander below...

I don't want to get too personal here, but I don't like this video.  I just don't.  And what's worse, I don't really like the idea behind it.

Tradition isn't something you manufacture.  It's not just something you sit around one day and decide you're going to do.  Usually, something becomes tradition by some sort of accident.  One example of that is the Wabash Cannonball at K-State.  The Wabash is not unique to K-State, I know it's played at other schools, too, including Texas.  There are slight musical variations, but that's not the point.  The Wabash became important to K-Staters through historical accident.  Nichols Hall, the former music building, was torched by an arsonist and all the sheet music was destroyed.  All except the Wabash, because the band director had taken it home to work on it.  Because that was the only music available, the band played it over and over again at the next basketball game.  It became an instant fan favorite, and continues to this day.

My point is, you can't just make something a tradition.  It has to catch on, and it has to have some meaning behind it other than "the athletic department decided it was a tradition."  I don't know the story behind the "K-S-U" and "Bring on the Cats" chants, but I'll almost guarantee they were due more to student/fan innovation than athletic department decree.  

Unfortunately, we've seen that student innovation will produce as much bad as good in terms of traditions.  On the bright side, we haven't gone overboard like some other schools, but then again we don't have a Corps of Cadets, either.  Maybe it was last year's flap over students dropping the f-bomb during the "Hey" song, which is cosmically stupid on the student's part, that prompted the athletic department to decide it wanted to draw attention to something else.  Maybe Ron Prince wants to 'leave his mark.'  Whatever it is, I'll be surprised if this stuff catches on, but more on that in a minute.

As to the specific 'traditions' advocated by this video, I'm not really a big fan of either one of them.  The whole 'towels at games' thing is getting kind of old.  I understand the concept, tell the fans to do something so they feel more involved.  On the other hand, I always felt plenty involved by throwing up the 'Mob' hand signal and screaming at the top of my lungs as soon as the other team huddled up.  I think 7,000 students per game and countless alumni agree with me on that one.  Plus, waving towels above your head in a crowd is kind of an awkward activity, as you're almost guaranteed to hit the people around you unless you're a professional towel-waver.

The Willie cheer is even more baffling to me.  When is this going to happen?  Is it supposed to replace something?  I thought Willie already had a cheer.  I was perfectly happy with Willie plowing over a student dressed as agent of the opposing team.  And if you're a K-State fan, there's nothing better than Willie at the 50, spelling out K-S-U, and hearing the chant echo across the stadium.

As I mentioned before, I'm not sure this will catch on.  K-State students generally don't like having things forced on them, except for the " Stand Up for the Champions" song back in 2003.  Also, I'm not sure the people who dreamed this up thought about how it would go over in a stadium with the noise of 50,000 people.  Sure, grinding guitar chords get people pumped up, but only in small doses.  The song goes on way too long, which will leave everybody standing there wondering what to do (and being quiet while doing it) until the next time to sing comes on.  Husker fans found out last week what happens when the athletic department comes up with something new and doesn't consider what it will be like when it isn't being played in a quiet boardroom, but rather a large stadium full of people.

(We're being excoriated for this video, and Nebraska somehow has escaped notice for that goofy 'air force' intro?  Umm, ok.)

In my opinion, the best pregame videos for fans are the ones that mix a good background track (and possibly a changing one, at that) with quick video clips that build the crowd up.  One old video I liked starts out with Snyder's first victory, builds through the 90s, showing highlights of all the great players that have come through Manhattan, and all the great wins in Bill's House.  The best examples of that idea were the old "Crazy Train" videos.  We all waited for Ozzy's "All Aboard!" and Willie at the controls of the train that painted Kansas purple.  The song and video built through highlights, landmarks, and the inevitable KU-bashing to the train smashing into the other team's helmet at midfield.  The helmet thing may be a bit worn out, but just think of a different ending.  The rest of the video was fine.  I don't know why we didn't just stick with "Crazy Train," that could have been a pretty good calling card for us.

Here's the bottom line on this.  We don't need things like this to make K-State the toughest place to play in America.  After the Cats beat USC in Manhattan in 2002, a USC player didn't realize afterward the stadium only holds 50,000; he thought by the noise it was more like 90,000.  What we need is what we already have; fans who love their team and show up to be loud and rowdy.  We already have (or maybe had) great means of pumping those fans up.  Stick with what works.

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