Among the 4,287 ways college football beats the living beaver
snot out of pro football--e.g., cheerleaders with real breasts,
teams that don't pack up and leave at midnight, mascots who
actually bite--the best is fight songs. As they say in Texas, a
good fight song'll give you chill bumps. Your star and your
coach may leave, but your fight song never will. Even at 96, on
her death bed, with the pastor reading from the Good Book, a
true college fan, upon hearing her fight song played on the horn
of a passing Winnebago, will leap up and bellow from the bottom
of her bellower:
Kick 'em right in the knee!
Yeah, fight songs are corny, and their lyrics make no sense. So
how come if you go up to a 300-pound Duluth mechanic and sing the
Minnesota fight song, which includes the tender phrase Rah, Rah,
Rah! For Ski-U-Mah, he may begin weeping into his socket
The best fight song in all college football is, of course,
Colorado's (my ol' alma mater), and the worst is Nebraska's
(steroid-guzzling rival). Here's how the Cornhuskers' fight song
goes in our house:
There is no place like Nebraska,
(Which isn't as bad as what my brother-in-law, who went to
Oklahoma, taught his kids: Whenever they went number two, they
were to look into the bowl as they flushed and say, "See ya in
Most people begrudgingly concede that either Notre Dame's (Cheer,
cheer for old Notre Dame) or Wisconsin's (On, Wisconsin!) fight
song stirs something deep within them. Me, I like Michigan's.
Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
The champions of the West!
Problem is, that's pretty much the whole song, repeated over and
over. What do you want from the state that gave you the K-Car?
Still, it's better than Oklahoma's, which consists almost
entirely of the words boomer and sooner.
My guess is, the song's composer, after stealing the tune from
Yale (Boola, boola!), came down with writer's block early on.
Bobby Joe Gunrack: "Hail, fellers, this song's got two dang
Boys lying around the Dairy Queen: "Aw cripes, Bobby Joe, cain't
ya get rid of one?"
I don't care. I just love college fight songs. I love St. Olaf's
(Um ya ya!). I love Kansas's ('Cause I'm a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay
Jayhawk! With a sis-boom, hip hoorah!). I love Akron's (Zzzip!
Zip go the Zi--ips!). I, however, hate Utah's:
I'm a Utah man, sir,
and I live across the green.
Our gang, it is the jolliest
that you have ever seen.
That stirs the ol' blood, eh? Can't you see the Utes coach at
halftime? "Dadgummit, gang, we're losin' 51-7! Now get out there
and get jolly!"
I love fight songs, but I don't love them near as much as Matt
Nelson of Birmingham does, who can sing, upon request, in hearty
voice, 115 fight songs without slipping a single
Something-something. Go! Fight! Win! in there. Not only that, he
can play them on the trombone.
Nelson, who perhaps isn't well, was taught Auburn's War Eagle at
age four by his mother and now, at 26, knows all the Division I-A
football fight songs but five--Connecticut's, Nevada's, UTEP's,
Kent State's and Buffalo's. (Of course, Nelson says, even Buffalo
doesn't know the lyrics to Buffalo's, because its football team
was defunct for a while, and, although the team is back, Nelson
can't find the words.)
"My favorites--besides War Eagle, of course--are Mississippi
State's and Washington State's," says Nelson, who admits his
phonographic memory gets him a lot of free beer. "But they're all
I ask you, what does the NFL have to compare? I mean besides Bud
sense, but I love them all (except Nebraska's and Utah's).