Viewpoint: Don't blame the band

BY ANDREW LAPIN

Published October 13, 2010

As a former member of the Michigan Marching Band, I was disheartened at the inaccurate information presented in Roger Sauerhaft’s recent viewpoint regarding what students call the “You Suck” chant (Ill-timed 'You Suck' sucks, 10/13/2010). In writing this piece, Sauerhaft succeeded in perpetuating a long-standing misconception regarding the band’s role in the infamous football Saturday tradition. I’d like to take the opportunity to clear some things up.

The song the band plays when an opponent’s third-down conversion fails isn't called “You Suck.” It's a Jerry Bilik arrangement of the 1933 song “Temptation,” originally popularized by Bing Crosby. University tradition dictates that the band always play “Temptation” on fourth down, regardless of score or any other factors. The rationale, you see, is that the other team was tempted to convert downs but was ultimately led away from temptation by our defense. Recent games, much to the disdain of the Wolverine faithful, have afforded less opportunity to play the song.

The band also plays the song at every postgame performance, accompanied by a famous percussion routine. Following every performance of the song is an arrangement of “Hawaiian War Chant.” The reason being, as every Michigan fan should know, “you can’t have one without the other,” as Michigan Stadium announcer Carl Grapentine informs the crowd every week. Stick around after the game sometime and watch the band play. They’re pretty good.

The words “You Suck,” as you might guess, are not a part of the original song’s lyrics. In fact, the band is specifically instructed to never sing “You Suck” when the song is played, because it is the band’s job to maintain a respectful demeanor toward our opponents. (Members sing “Oh, Yeah” instead.) This is the same reason they, along with every Big Ten marching band, always play the other team’s fight song during the pregame performance. Bands are a prominent public symbol of a university and you will be hard-pressed to find a college band that actively encourages negative behavior among its fanbase.

So where did “You Suck” come from? The same place where Yost Ice Arena’s “See Ya” cheer came from: the students. Some years ago, the football student section started taking creative liberties with the cheer. As the trend caught on, people not unreasonably began to assume it was the band’s doing. Professor Scott Boerma, the current marching band director, once related a story of an athletic department official telling him they “really love the ‘You Suck’ cheer.” That is to say that actual University employees think that the band is encouraging 100,000 people to tell the opposing team they suck. These officials are wrong.

If you don’t like the “You Suck” cheer, don’t say it. Revert back to the song’s original lyrics: “You came, I was alone / I should have known you were temptation.” Start a movement to get other students to do the same. But don’t blame the band. It isn't the band's job to tell you what to say.

Andrew Lapin is a senior arts editor.