Viewpoint: Ill-timed 'You Suck' sucks

BY ROGER SAUERHAFT

Published October 11, 2010

Perhaps I'm simply scapegoating after the tough, depressing loss to our little brothers in East Lansing, but I think someone really needs to sit our school marching band director down and explain to him how mind-numbingly stupid he makes us all (and himself) look with the “You Suck” chant.

I've been grumbling, if not venting, to my friends for the past three years about how angry it makes me when everyone around me sings this on every fourth down even if the opponent isn’t punting. It doesn't take a football mastermind to realize the irony when the opposing team puts points on the board scarcely seconds after the “You Suck” chant ends. It's a crushing feeling when this happens on the fourth down as I stand silent in the middle of the student section wishing nobody would pay attention to band director. The stupidity embarrasses me each and every time.

Saturday was the worst of all. With just over 12 minutes left in the game, Michigan was down 31 to 17 and Michigan State had the ball. We absolutely couldn't let Michigan State score again, but after they drove the ball downfield to the 11-yard line, fourth down was reached and Michigan State lined up for a short field goal to cement the game's outcome. I knew our chances to win were slim to none, but my only hope was that everyone would have some common sense.

No such luck. Our band immediately led our fans in a chorus letting Michigan State know they sucked for having their drive stall on fourth down and — right on cue — the ball sailed through the uprights for the field goal. Game, set, match.

A couple of Michigan State fans standing near me enjoyed this spectacle greatly, snickering about the joke we'd just played on ourselves. They saw me quietly brooding during the chant and I think they felt bad for me. It was perhaps my lowest moment at Michigan. And in case that wasn't enough, the band director tried to start the chant again after Michigan State ran the ball up the middle three times to eat up the clock. Thankfully, nobody followed the band's lead this time. If they had, I would have sold my remaining season tickets and never come back to the Big House. Michigan State kept the ball on a penalty anyway, so it’s pretty clear who got the last laugh.

Just imagine if we'd been in their shoes with the East Lansing faithful chanting “you suck” at us in the same situations in a game during which we blew them out in their stadium. There's no doubt in my mind that we'd be laughing ourselves silly at their stupidity and making our typical disparaging comments about their academic standards.

To clarify my stance here, I support the “You Suck” chant in situations where the opposing offense isn't blatantly in a position to convert on fourth down or kick a meaningful field-goal. And yes, it's also bad to do it when the other team is running down the clock late in the fourth quarter to protect a huge lead (and to avoid running up the score, which is an act of sportsmanship). The chant is somewhat funny, but it really isn't any more creative than something a middle school Catholic Youth Organization basketball crowd could concoct. It's certainly not at all classy. Yet, if the timing reflected the intelligence of someone with an IQ at least in double digits, I'd be all for it.

I'm not claiming any particular expertise in the game of football, but something needs to change, and it's really just the timing. If you're going to tell someone something as unoriginal and classless as “you suck,” it has to be done selectively. It’s hard to endorse a chant so classless and pointless. But if I do, I’d rather not look like a complete fool in the process.

My family and I are deeply rooted in Michigan tradition, and this bothers me a great deal because it makes a mockery of Michigan. It makes us look stupid, and I’m proud to say this isn’t something I’m used to feeling about my school. It’s bad whether we win or lose — and when we do lose, it's salt in our own wound. There needs to be change immediately here and it's all timing, timing, timing.

Roger Sauerhaft is an LSA senior.