Well, we collapsed harder than that Colorado kid in the Spelling Bee. We folded like we were sitting across the table from Doyle Brunson. We shut up like we were in a time out with Bobby Knight.
At approximately 7:38 p.m. on Saturday night, I spotted our proverbial white flag.
After missing Friday night’s hockey loss to Northern Michigan (Homework? Can someone please slap some sense into me? HARDER!), I made absolutely sure that I was present and accounted for at Yost in the weekend’s second game.
Just 2:37 after the puck dropped, Northern Michigan’s John Miller received two minutes for high sticking, and I was shocked at what ensued in the student section around me as Miller entered the penalty box.
Remember, I’m not a 40-year-old alum who was taking wifey and “Junior” to their first Michigan hockey game; I’m a 22-year-old student season-ticket holder with no extra baggage who was looking for my fix of Michigan’s most hostile (and therefore best) venue. So, it wasn’t the presence of profanity in the “C-YA” cheer that bred my bewilderment, but rather the lack of the cheer altogether.
As Miller stepped into the sin bin, Michigan fans around the arena cut off an extended “OOOOhhhhhhh” with a resounding “C-YA.” The student section usually follows this up in animated fashion with a series of mostly PG-rated cuss words. But on Saturday night, most students around me either uttered the cheer in a very subdued fashion or closed their mouths altogether, creating a mumbled humming noise throughout the arena.
They then proceeded to simultaneously pop a handful of soma and wait for further guidance from The Director (a “Brave New World” reference for ya, kiddies).
You see, last Wednesday, Michigan’s Executive Associate Athletic Director, Michael Stevenson, sent an e-mail to all season-ticket-holding students. Basically, he expressed the University’s disappointment with students who had refused to stop “the foul language associated with the C-YA cheer” even after an MSA-facilitated meeting between student season-ticket holders and members of the athletic department on Jan. 11. At the end of the e-mail, Stevenson gave the students an ultimatum: “I am therefore informing each of you that, should the profanity continue in the remaining games this season, you are subject to removal from Yost Ice Arena.”
While a handful of students continued to belt out their loudest rendition of Michigan’s infamous cheer on Saturday (and were actually shown the exit), the majority of Michigan’s finest group of fans conceded to Stevenson’s threat and kept quiet.
I’m not here to completely call out the student body, but I was upset by the sudden and undivided compliance with a warning that has been voiced on and off for two years.
Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of the C-YA cheer, but it’s obvious that many students thoroughly enjoy it. This is the cheer that has been passed down and added on to since before I enrolled here. This is the cheer that students talk about before and after games. This is the cheer that seemingly every student shares the most joy in reciting and the cheer that sections 12 through 19 scream out the loudest. The bottom line is that this is the cheer that produces fanatical rowdiness among Michigan students; therefore, this cheer makes Yost most effective in terms of home-ice advantage.
In college sports, every venue is defined by its student body, and every student body is defined by its overall rowdiness. Looking around the country, the most intimidating venues feature the wildest student bodies — and not everything these kids are saying is PC.
There’s no denying that omitting this cheer from Yost makes the arena more accessible to wifey and “Junior,” as the athletic department claims. But there’s also no denying that omitting this cheer from Yost in turn crushes the definitive rally cry for what is arguably the CCHA’s most intimidating crowd.
It’s difficult for any arena to toe the line between family atmosphere and frat party, but every truly feared venue leans more toward the latter. Stevenson said that he gets 10-20 calls complaining about the cheer after each game. But what is his real responsibility — to gratify this small faction or to please the approximately 800 student season-ticket holders?
And this is why I was surprised by the student body’s comprehensive conformity this weekend. (Students only began to really get into the cheer late in the third period, when the game was in hand and students didn’t care if they were kicked out.) Although I never really took to this cheer, I thought it was more to the diehard student fans than just a disposable series of vulgarities. I thought this cheer was the pinnacle of rowdiness in Yost. I thought that this cheer, although slightly improper, really united the student body and exemplified Yost’s famed hostility toward visiting teams. I thought this cheer was worth fighting for.
Maybe I should just pop a soma.
Gennaro Filice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.