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viewpoint

Notre Dame’s dysfunctional cheering culture

| Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dear Ms. Agolia,

As I read through your viewpoint letter today, I felt as if I could see into the future. A future where you attend a game as an alum sitting quietly asking, “Could you sit down please?” to any fan in the rows in front of you who dare stand up and cheer for Notre Dame. To be crystal clear, I am not advocating for any incivility, inappropriate language (especially in the presence of children) or slurs that degrade anyone as a human being. However, when you analyze the sport being played, the atmosphere created by game day and the fact that fans have the ability to impact the performance on the field, it is absolutely necessary that the fans show up “to play” on Saturdays. I’ve been privileged to attend many games at Notre Dame Stadium in my seven years as a student and the one word I would use to describe the Notre Dame fan base is disappointing. I’ve been out of school, and out of the student section, for three seasons now, and each time I return I wish I could go back into the student section where I won’t be chastised for standing and being loud for the entire game. You don’t want to lose the camaraderie of the Notre Dame experience? Then why are you trying to reduce the camaraderie to a bunch of people who sit and whisper quietly to each other in the stands? The players play, the fans cheer. That’s how football games work. To use an NFL example, the Seattle Seahawks fan base is called the 12th man for a reason. The Seattle fans know their loud cheering can directly improve their team’s chance of victory. I have never heard anyone say, “Boy, that Notre Dame Stadium is a tough place to play for opposing squads.” Why? Because it’s not. We owe the Notre Dame coaches and, especially, players more than that. I was at Florida State in 2014 and Clemson last year. I’ve also been to games in the SEC. Those fans/schools know how to impact games. Those fans know they have power. Those fans support their players, coaches, ushers, announcers, band members and cheerleaders by helping the team achieve what everyone wants going into the game — a W.

Football, by its nature, is aggressive, emotional and violent. If the fans want to have a meaningful impact on the game, they also need to be aggressive and emotional (obviously violence has no place in the stands). Again, this can be done in a civil manner and that is what I’m advocating. I also understand that if I’m going to advocate that fans be aggressive and emotional with their cheering, you’re going to get some who take it too far. If that’s the trade-off, I can live with it. I care about the football experience at Notre Dame being exactly that — a football experience. If someone uses any kind of degrading slur or constantly uses offensive language, then I’m all for kicking that person out of the game. If someone is overly intoxicated and his or her intoxication causes them to become offensive, kick that person out too. I cannot, however, let a few bad apples turn me into someone who thinks the stands in Notre Dame Stadium are where the fans aren’t a part of the game. By the way, did you consider the person yelling in your friend’s ear who “sank behind [you] in a drunken stupor” at halftime did so because we were losing to a less talented Michigan State team? I wasn’t drunk, but I was in a stupor at that point too.

As you mentioned, you attend (I attended) Notre Dame. The greatest university in the world and greatest football program in history. Now let’s act like we care about helping the team win and stop worrying about someone calling out the ref for not seeing a call.

Brian Salvi
class of 2009 and 2013
Sept. 21

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

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  • T-Mac

    Brian showers with his dad!

  • warmupthediesel

    Isn’t ND Stadium a “safe-space”? 😉

  • Tom

    Best response I’ve seen so far

  • GoIrish

    I think your response is extremely valid, except in one respect. I don’t think you fairly represent the point that Grace was trying to make, and therefore your response doesn’t devalidate anything she argues.

    Grace says that “Yes, there is a certain camaraderie intrinsic to Notre Dame football, especially in the student section, but that should not include harm to self and to others.” In the course of her letter to the editor, she argues against excessive, irresponsible drinking and classless insults. She does not detest crowd noise, enthusiasm, or team spirit. Contrary to what you have written, it IS possible to have both – a loud, spirited crowd and a sense of dignity and respect – and Grace is saying that that should be the standard we aspire to as Notre Dame students.