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Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, January 29, 2009

Last Saturday, after many years, change finally came to Notre Dame. What I mean is that for the first time in recent memory, our team lost a major sporting event without having the student section chant ‘We Are ND’ during the waning moments of the game. Yes, the Leprechaun Legion took the loss to Connecticut very hard, but the students as a collective did not utilize the cheer that has become far too prominent following losses. For once, our fans took the loss with grace, but it did not last long.

By the time Monday rolled around, however, change had abruptly eroded and the student body returned to business as usual inside the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center. As the final seconds ticked away in the Irish Men’s fourth straight loss, the students began the one cheer that makes me cringe more than any other.

WE ARE [clap clap] N. D. [clap clap]. WE ARE [clap clap] N. D. [clap clap].

I don’t know if it is because the dozen or so Marquette fans that were present started a similar cheer, but our fans started to proudly proclaim who they are as if our team had just won the game. Because the Irish hadn’t won the game, however, the cheer was unnecessary and incredibly uncalled for.

Many schools have similar ‘we are’ cheers, but I would be shocked if any of their student bodies utilize the cheer in a time of defeat. Penn State makes their whole stadium shake by doing the cheer with a rousing rendition of Zombie Nation during their football games. Our rivals Boston College, Marquette, and USC have all been heard doing it after victories. Nobody can forget Matthew McConaughey using it to inspire his team to victory in the film We Are Marshall. All of these uses are much more appropriate than the way our students utilize it, and all of them show far more class.

When Notre Dame Students utilize this cheer in defeat it is as if we are trying to proclaim our superiority over the team to which ours has just lost. The cheer inherently makes a value judgment over the other student body that somehow we are something that is better than them despite the outcome of the game. It is the Notre Dame students’ way of saying, “It’s ok that we lost the game because we are smarter than you” or “It’s ok that we lost the game because we have better character than you.” Regardless of who we are a loss is a loss; on this day we are not the best. The cheer is a blatant assertion of our perceived supremacy and when we do it as a student body it says more about what we are than who we are. When we do it in a time of defeat it says that we are cocky and arrogant.

We collectively think that we are better than schools like Marquette and Michigan State because we have been trained to think that way. During Freshmen Orientation, the students are gathered in the JACC and told by several speakers how special we are. As a part of my Frosh-O, we were taken to Fr. Sorin’s grave and given a speech about how special we are. “You didn’t choose Notre Dame, Notre Dame chose you” we are told. Notre Dame Students act arrogant because from the moment we step foot on campus, we are told that we are special (which makes us think that we are in some way more special than students at other schools).

In doing the ‘we are’ cheer at a time when we are losing, we become no better than our aspirational peers such as Northwestern and Stanford. I once heard Northwestern fans do a cheer that went, “That’s alright, that’s ok, we’re gonna be your boss someday” and I instantly despised how much arrogance the cheer contained. However, our ‘we are’ cheer is worse because it doesn’t just assume that we are going to have better jobs than the people from the other school, but it assumes that Notre Dame students are somehow better people than they are. This is unacceptable.

While I cannot stop the student body from doing the cheer any more than I can convince Mike Brey to utilize more of his bench players, I can refuse to do the cheer. When we inevitably lose to Louisville in a couple weeks, I will again contemplate leaving the game early just so I don’t have to sit through the cheer, but I will stay. I hope that more students will join me in silence next time one of our teams loses. That would be change I can believe in, and it would show people how special we are.

Bob Kessler is a senior majoring in political science and economics. You can contact him at rkessler@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.