Letter to the Editor: Response to Balk

Alexander W. Stephens

Tim Balk raises many interesting issues in his recent piece “Let’s retire the ‘state school’ chant” about Northwestern game chants. However, he is simply just wrong about the entire issue.

At the heart of the “state school” chant is a reminder that our athletes are the best of both worlds: students who can pass Northwestern’s academic muster and play at the Big Ten level. It’s our David versus a state school Goliath, many of whose undergraduate populations would fill every seat at Ryan Field and McGaw Hall, combined. The cheer precedes Mr. Balk, the ’87 grad that I am, and more than a few generations before me. Mr. Balk’s posit that “We’re better because we’re richer” just doesn’t hold water to the chant’s long history.

Contrast this to the recent Michigan/Northwestern game which I attended in person. For every NU dropped ball or futile run, a lusty and coordinated cheer of “you suck” came up from the crowd. While Mr. Balk may have tried to adopt it for his own cheer, it certainly doesn’t elevate anybody’s idea of fandom. Indeed, watching last weekend’s Wolverine/Sparty matchup on TV, I could clearly hear the “you suck” chant as Michigan State’s wide receiver dropped his diving attempt near the end of that close, hard-fought game. Of course, the next sound from Michigan Stadium was simple stunned silence at the last play of the game, and a few folks in green and white screaming in joy and disbelief, and nary a “you suck” to be heard.

If there is one point of reassurance for all of Mr. Balk’s mistakes, it is his report that in this day and age of electronic pass cards and other digital media for entering a building, folks still bring their keys to the game to jangle at kickoff.

Go Cats.

Sincerely yours,

Alexander W. Stephens, WCAS ’87