October 15, 2003

Keeping Cornell's Traditions Alive

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It came as no surprise to me. Sitting with junior offensive lineman Kevin Boothe this preseason, he mentioned his favorite part of collegiate football was winning. I mean if it’s the Rose Bowl or just a game of two-hand touch, anybody involved has one thought: win the game.

No, the surprising thing for me was what Boothe liked best about winning. I understood the feeling of community and accomplishment. It was the next part I didn’t quite get.

“That’s the best feeling in the world, winning the game,” said Boothe. “It’s just the excitement from going over and singing the victory song with the band, and then going into the locker room.”

Now I know what you’re thinking. Singing? Kevin Boothe the offensive giant, the 290-plus pound lineman, singing?

Well it happens, take my word for it.

Last fall, at the football team’s annual awards dinner, the Hangovers were invited to lead the group in a few Cornell songs. Athletic Director J. Andy Noel, head coach Tim Pendergast, the team captains, and several of the older players joined us. We sang Davy, the alma mater, and eventually Cornell Victorious. We even got applause from the guys, something I never expected from a room full of athletes. What caught me more off guard, however, was what happened next.

From the back of the room, one of the guys stood up. “That was real nice, but I think we should show them how we do it,” he said. And the next thing I knew, every player was on his feet, singing Cornell Victorious — that song Kevin Boothe and others hope to hear every Saturday afternoon.

Now it’s been a while since Boothe and the team have sung that song, but that’s not the sad part. The team will win again this season. With the talent it has it’s bound to happen. The sad part is that when it does win, there may not be anyone to share the moment with it.

A few weeks ago, two of my fellow columnists wrote about the fan apathy at Cornell, yet in doing so, they overlooked another tragedy that has befallen our University. It’s not just fans that are disappearing, it’s traditions.

It happens. I mean, don’t tell me I’m wrong. How many of you know the words to Cornell Victorious? How about the words to Big Red Team? I’m even willing to bet that the guys on crew don’t know they have a song. How would they when a majority of the regular student body doesn’t even know the words to the alma mater, let alone recognize that it even exists.

It’s sad to see students at University events, athletic and otherwise, and see them not recognize the alma mater. They leave hats on, remain sitting, and talk. It happens at football games, hockey games, and I’d even wager money that it’ll happen tomorrow at President Lehman’s ’77 inauguration.

If Gene Nighman ’81 wants a good way of distributing hockey tickets, he should test students on the Alma Mater.

If fans want a comprehensive history lesson of Cornell athletics, and a chance to hear all of the above mentioned songs and more, they should check out the Glee Club Concert on Oct. 25.

The club is regarded as the last bastion of song in the East, and is in league with similar clubs from MIchigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. Now, when was the last time you heard Cornell, Michigan, OSU, and Notre Dame all mentioned in the same sentence?

If the 1999 Sabres were the hardest working team in hockey, and the current St. Louis Rams are the best show on turf, then the Cornell University Glee Club is the best thing you can see in a church this side of the second coming. One sign of how great these guys are is their web address, www.gleeclub.com. I mean, I don’t see the hockey team owning the rights to www.hockey.com, or the Student Assembly cornering the market on their domain name.

Guys in tuxes, and they sing well too. That’s a given for a club that’s shared the stage with world renowned soloists, sold out Lincoln Center, and even premiered outstanding works from even more so outstanding composers.

So next Saturday night, make some time after the big game. Make a detour on your way to the library, or just put off drinking the week away for another hour. Bring your mother, brother, friend or significant other. Bring them to Sage Chapel for a history lesson you won’t fall asleep for, and come hear some Cornell songs. Whether it be Oct. 25 now, or 25 years from now, someone should be able to sing along with Kevin Boothe after the game. What’s stopping you?

Archived article by Matt Janiga