Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tradition: If you build it, they will come.

I had the opportunity to visit South Bend Indiana this past weekend to take in a Notre Dame football game. For me it was an opportunity to view a school and a team that is overflowing with tradition. To them the questions I ask weren't dumb, but seemed to be questions they really don't ask themselves because, well, it's tradition.

The Notre Dame Stadium itself is a portrait of what college football used to look like at the dawn of its creation. Hard wood benches with painted on numbers, a bowl of fans free from cooperate advertising (excluding a single NBC Sports logo on its scoreboard), PA announcements free from advertising injections (ex "That's another Coca Cola first down.").  They do have a large press box/beautiful people seating area, but even that seems to blend into the rest of the stadium.

The band seemed to be the heartbeat of the experience, seemingly directing the crowd and reacting to them at the same time much like your heart does in relation to your activity. They lifted fans spirits when Michigan started to silence their energy, and harnessed their excitement during big plays to unite them in a common experience of singing, clapping, and cheering.

It is that sociological experiment that that drew me to sport to begin with.  That unified feeling of a crowd experiencing the same rises, dips, and turns that is the emotional roller coster of sport fandom.

I was in the Minnesota State University pep band for two years so that may draw me to be a bit bias, but I feel the key to bringing sustained tradition to Minnesota State University Athletics starts with bringing the band back.

I had a great conversation with Notre Dame's director of this past weekend which gave me some insight into how other organizations make it work.
-Notre Dame band members get one credit for being in the band but no financial compensation (MSU used to give out talent grants).
-The Notre Dame Band is made up of very few music majors.
-Notre Dame has a much smaller enrollment to draw band members than I imagined (around 10k undergraduate/graduate students). MSU has about 15k undergraduate/graduate students

The cost of the band was part of the reason for its demise a few years ago when the Athletic Department was facing steep budget cuts.  Resurrecting the band as a recognized student organization (like the a fraternity/sorority)  would possibly bring the band back at a lower cost to the Athletics department and to the students.

The Hymn

Minnesota State has a hymn that most students don't hear until graduation day.  To my knowledge the only other time it's played is at the presidents annual convocation to start the school year.

Here is the Minnesota State University Hymn if you've never heard it.

Other schools use their hymn (or another slower song) at the end of events to create (in my opinion) a prideful environment.  An image of student-atheltes, students and fans swaying and singing a song together, to me, breaks down the barrier between "us" and "Them". I witnessed this firsthand at the Kohl's Center in Madison Wisconsin following a hockey game against my Mavericks and it was an idea that stuck.  That idea was reignited this past weekend when I saw it again after the Irish game.
At Notre Dame that song is "Our Mother"

At my alma mater I've seen only two traditions that have stuck in the past decade: A guy hitting a cow bell, and the Bouncing Souls "Ole" played after Mens hockey goals.

It's time to start a tradition Mankato.  If you build it, they will come.

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