It’s Homecoming! Aren’t you excited? Time to blow off work and walk to the football stadium, where 100,000 students and alumni will be there to greet you. You’ll tailgate, reminisce, then head inside, where a beautiful King and Queen are waiting for you. As the team gets ready to take the field, the ground shakes and the crowd erupts with cheers...
Only joking, you go to Columbia. Get back to your midterms, hooligan. Who filled your head with all these silly tales of “school spirit?”
Ah yes, “school spirit,” that Holy Ghost that Columbia has been fruitlessly searching for since 1968. We know it’s out there, its face all painted, its throat sore from cheering, yet we just can’t pin it down. School spirit is like pornography: we can’t define it, but we know it when we see it, and we can watch videos of it on the Internet as long as our headphones are in and our roommate isn’t home.
School spirit is the White Out at Penn State, the Gator Chomp at Florida, the Script Ohio at OSU. It’s a complex cocktail of pageantry, pride, and blind devotion to Alma Mater. Columbia students, the argument goes, are too cynical, too stressed out, and too apathetic to display any school spirit at all.
To which the Band says: Fuck THAT.
See, what those critics don’t understand is that “school spirit” isn’t all rah-rah and pom-poms. All the examples listed above aren’t great because they represent some abstract enthusiasm that you can apply across the board. They’ve achieved their iconic status because they’re unique, capturing a particular institution’s tradition and character. True school spirit should look different wherever it goes.
No matter how much we Columbians enjoy the little moments where we can pretend we go to a big state school and party it up, in our hearts we know our view of athletics is different. We’re outspoken, which gives our cheering a little edge. We’re independent, which compels us to shun the conformist attitude that leads to a “football-is-everything” mentality.
We’re smart—smart enough to realize that we’re watching Ivy League sports and we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. Columbians have created a different kind of sports atmosphere, and it’s something we should recognize and even embrace. School spirit cannot be manufactured, no matter how much free stuff you give away (but don’t get us wrong, it really helps. Light Blue T-shirt, anyone?).
School spirit arises organically, coalescing without anyone fully realizing what’s going on. It’s the embodiment of a zeitgeist, an expression of the collective. Before you know it, it has given rise to traditions and institutions all its own—like a smart-ass marching band, for instance.
We’re proud to be an embodiment of Columbia’s school spirit and its unique history. Like Columbia students, we’re not shy about making our voice heard, and we certainly aren’t known for following the crowd. We march (or scramble) to the beat of a different drummer, and we’re as much about “ha-ha” as we are about “rah-rah.” We tell jokes during halftime, we cheer in French during the game, we play “Hava Nagila” during timeouts. It’s weird, it’s eclectic, it’s slightly nerdy ... but then again, so is Columbia. And that’s very important to us, keeping the “CU” in CUMB.
So you see? You had school spirit all along, even if you didn’t know it, just by being your weird, nerdy self. But even weird nerds need to cut loose and have fun once in a while. So here’s our pitch. Follow the Band to Baker tomorrow.
We promise you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained. Exercise your unorthodox school spirit and cheer whatever geeky thing you want as loud as you possibly can. Fill Wien Stadium with Columbianess. Trust us, it makes a difference. You’ll have fun, you’ll get some swag, and you might even glimpse the mythical beast known as Lee C. Bollinger walking the sidelines. Those problem sets can wait, don’t you think?
Columbia’s unique athletic culture comes with a unique fan experience, and at the center of it all is the Columbia University Marching Band. The CUMB (the “B” is silent, like in “bass”) is the nation’s pre-eminent scrambling humor force, as well as The Cleverest Band in the World (tm). To witness its antics, visit cuband.org.