Boston: BU fans curb language, but not enthusiasm
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Mon Oct 30 13:51:46 UTC 2006
BU fans curb language, but not enthusiasm
By Keith O'Brien, Globe Correspondent | October 29, 2006
It was, to be honest, a perfect time for cursing. Here was the Boston
University hockey team, barely six minutes into its first home game of the
2006 regular season, and already the Terriers were losing 2-0 to crosstown
rival Northeastern University. The students, crammed into Section 118 at
Agganis Arena and decked out in scarlet and white, stared at the ice,
befuddled. Their pre-game chutzpah was long gone. Their team was getting
out-hustled and outplayed. And now, to make matters worse, the referees
had made a call that the students found questionable. Mike Anton , a BU
junior, cleared his throat and began to chant:
No one joined him. The fact is, fans simply don't chant "erroneous"
following a bad call. Anywhere. Ever. If anything, under these
circumstances, fans of both collegiate and professional sports chant a
two-syllable curse word loosely defined to mean the poop of a male cow.
But such language isn't acceptable at BU sporting events any longer. Just
before the hockey season began, the university banned cursing altogether,
threatening to eject violating fans from the building in an effort to
improve the atmosphere at games. In response, students did what students
do: They cursed. Anton, a diehard hockey fan, was especially upset about
it. In the days after the university announced the cursing ban in
September, the tall, bearded film major penned a letter to the Daily Free
Press, BU's student newspaper, suggesting that fans respond with silence.
"The silent protest was my little cheeky way of getting back at the
administration," he said. "You want to silence us? We'll silence us. We
won't say a word. We'll have a silent arena and you'll be able to hear the
puck scratching across the ice the entire game." But Anton quickly
realized this was impossible. He and other BU students love hockey too
much. At a school without football, hockey is the sport, the thing to do
on a Friday night, the biggest source of school spirit. The students could
complain all they wanted, but they would simply have to find a way to
cheer without cursing or face the possibility of missing out on hockey
games. This was why Anton, 20, thought shouting "erroneous" was a perfect
chant for the times. Pam Bechtold , a senior sitting to Anton's right,
disagreed. "It's never catching on," she informed him.
In response, Anton cursed.
The university's new policy shouldn't have come as a surprise. Even the
most fervent BU fans admit that things got a little out of hand last
spring in the Terriers final game of the season, a 5-0 loss to arch-enemy
Boston College in the NCAA tournament. "By the middle of the third period
when we realized there was really no chance of coming back -- or very
little chance -- everyone just got upset and it just went from there,"
said senior Josh Zeisel . The BU students, always loud, were now vulgar
and loud. At issue, in particular, was what students call The Song. Sung
during power plays, after goals, and with the band at the beginning of the
second period, The Song's official lyrics are, "Rough 'em up. Rough 'em
up. BC (expletive!)" But somewhere over the years -- when, no one can
quite say -- the lyrics morphed. "Rough 'em up" became something fouler,
and the new, obscene chant became something of a tradition; part of the
school's rallying cry. And BU students made sure BC players -- and
everyone else -- heard it in the waning moments last spring.
"It kind of snowballed," said Anton, recalling the profanities that
students chanted in BC games. "And then we sang The Song and used the full
lyrics. And that was pretty much the death knell of swearing at BU
sporting events." Kenneth Elmore , BU's dean of students, said a change
was necessary. He was concerned, he said, about the way the students were
representing themselves and the school. But that didn't make it any easier
for many students to swallow. In a column that he wrote for the Daily Free
Press shortly after the new policy was announced, sports editor Nick
Williams said administrators couldn't have devised a better way to
"deflate the camaraderie of a university that struggles to develop any
school spirit to begin with."
He wondered if students were going to be hauled off "by a
Scarlet-and-White-clad Gestapo" and many others generally predicted the
demise of school spirit over a few choice words. "I think the reason why
people were so upset about it was not the fact that we can't swear, but
that the university was taking away the one thing that unified this
school," said Bechtold, Anton's friend. The four-letter word chant "is a
ritual and something we've been doing here for years." Now, with BU losing
2-0 to Northeastern and Anton's chanting "erroneous" all alone in Section
118, these fears seemed to be realized. Maybe BU had lost its mojo. Maybe
The Song had lost its punch. Maybe it was time to dare fate and swear.
"It is raining [expletive] on Boston University right now," said Anton.
"You mean poop," said Zeisel, correcting him. Anton nodded. He corrected
himself. "It is raining excrement on Boston University right now," he
said. The students around him laughed, then laughed some more as they
shouted down another student who insulted the mother of Northeastern's
"In-a-pro-priate," they chanted.
"And really wrong," Anton added.
"There are new rules here," shouted Zeisel, chiming in. "New rules." But
the students were still loud -- very loud. And they could still chant
"Ug-ly goal-ie" and "Dir-ty Chea-ter" and "Let's go Terr-iers." And they
soon realized that they could do just fine without cursing, that they
could be even more creative than they had been before. " 'Rough 'em up'
doesn't sound any worse" than the more obscene version, said Zeisel. "It's
OK. 'Rough 'em up' works." And the comeback began.
BU scored late in the second period to cut Northeastern's lead to 2-1.
They tied it in the third and then took the lead with another goal with
two minutes and 44 seconds to go. But the BU students had hardly finished
celebrating when Northeastern scored to tie the game 41 seconds later. The
game now seemed to speed up, the puck moving faster, the players manic.
The clock ticked down and with 56 seconds left to play, the improbable
happened: BU scored right in front of Section 118, giving the Terriers a
4-3 lead that they would not relinquish.
Anton and friends fell all over each other, hugging and high-fiving and
screaming and rubbing the head of senior David Ritchie until his hair
stood out in all directions. Let the record show that in these final,
frantic, euphoric moments -- as BU scored two goals in less than two
minutes and the Terriers won the game -- a few kids may have slipped up.
They may have cursed as they sang The Song. Old habits die hard. But let
the record also show this: With eight minutes and 11 seconds to go in the
third period of BU's first home game of the 2006 season, a new chant was
born in the wake of what was perceived to be a bad call on the ice.
"Er-rone-eee-ous," the students said in unison.
As the chant took hold, spreading through the crowd, Anton shook with
glee. His chant was catching on. A small but growing group of BU students
were following his lead, and school officials would have been proud. There
was no swearing whatsoever.
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