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SLATE: Fan Conduct Threatens “Wabash” Tradition

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This week’s Tuesday is typically light on sports news. But there is other unfortunate stuff to discuss. Again.

The Pride brings the fun to Snyder Family Stadium
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

“Wabash Cannonball” is a K-State tradition. Most of us know the story of how the song became a staple of the band’s repertoire, but here it is again, from the Kansas State Band’s website:

The Wabash Cannonball: With a history like no other, and a firm grasp on tradition, the Wabash Cannonball may be known as a second fight song to the K-State contingent. Composed in 1933 as a folk ballad saluting the nation's rail-riding hobos, Wabash Cannonball was first performed for an athletic event at K-State on December 16, 1968. Wabash was the only selection in the band's repertoire that evening for a home basketball game at Ahearn Fieldhouse. Just three nights prior, arsonists had set fire to Nichols Hall, at that time the home of the Music Department, destroying all of the departments assets including the sheet music. The band director at that time, Phil Hewitt, the band director at the time, just happened to have taken one copy of Wabash home from the library that night to work on the arrangement; thus making it the only selection to survive the fire. Since then the Wabash Cannonball has come to represent the survival of the underdog in the hearts and minds of all true K-State fans, and has earned a secure place in the KSUMB's history and traditions.

When some innovative band members devised the now-familiar alternating piston movements at a football game a few years ago, the song took on new life. In isolation, the dance is silly. But when the whole east side of the stadium does it, it is visually stunning. It personifies the unity and collective effort of the K-State #Family. ESPN even recognized it as the No. 1 pregame tradition in the Big 12.

Such is the power of the tune to K-Staters, that when a group of band members on its way to Garden City to help with GCHS band camp had a flat tire and had to wait on the roadside for assistance, they sat in the back of the pickup and blasted out a spontaneous version of the song that went viral (Garden City Telegram).

Wabash, with the quirky choreography, is uniquely K-State. Nobody else does it. It is ours. It is—dare I say—our “Rock Chalk.” Only not so smug and self-important. And infinitely more fun.

So, why are some idiots trying to ruin a good thing? At Saturday’s game, the band was compelled to stop its performance of the Wabash so a video from Coach Snyder could exhort a large contingent of fans to cease chanting “F*** K.U.” to the beat of the song. (Kaitlyn Alanis, Wichita Eagle, Pete Grathoff, KC Star)

We’ve been down this road in basketball before, of course. But that was with “Sandstorm,” a techno-pop pump-up song put together by a Finnish DJ, played over the loudspeakers. This is Wabash. It is played by “The Pride.” It is at the center of a tradition that arose organically out of a great story and some ingenious goofiness to epitomize the K-State pregame experience. Why in the world would our own fans crap on a unique and wonderful K-State tradition?

The answer, of course, is that some of us are misguided. Anything that hints at cleverness (and that is highly debatable, in this case) invites imitation. A herd mentality sets in, and before long people join the act without thinking. Brainless collectivism is seldom a good thing. Especially when it lets a rival know you can’t get past an unhealthy fixation on it, even in its off week. Or when it makes broadcast partners question whether they want to televise your school’s games, what with the FCC hovering about. Or when it just makes us look stupid.

It will be interesting to see whether the fans in question (I won’t say “students,” because I’m sure not all offenders are in their ranks) will defer, out of respect to Coach Snyder. When administration made attempts to curb this nonsense in the past, their efforts were met with derision and civil disobedience. The chant, if anything, got louder. Sandstorm went away. It would be a shame if Wabash did the same.

Football

Oh, there was a game after Wabash Interruptus. Matthew McCrane nailed four field goal attempts in the contest, for which he was named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week. (kstatesports.com)

More games are coming up, too. The athletic department website previews Saturday’s tilt against Texas. When you play the ‘Horns, you get the prime-time slot.

When you play TCU in the battle of the purples, you kick off at 11 a.m. Who else thinks this might be the league’s best game that day?

Finally, if you want the inside story from Coach Snyder himself, you can watch his live press conference at 12:30 today.

Track and Field

An uncredited piece on the K-State Sports website recounts the heartbreaking experience of some track and field athletes from the Caribbean, who have worried about family 2000 miles away during this particularly difficult hurricane season. Worth a read.

Golf

Connie Jaffrey is in 16th place individually, and freshman Reid Isaac improved after a difficult first day, carding a 2-under par 70 at the Magnolia Invitational in Mississippi. (Kstatesports.com) The round moved her to +4 overall, good for 20th place, a 22-position improvement over the first round.

The team as a whole slipped from 6th to 8th in the 10-team field. The final round teed off at 8 a.m. this morning.