Saturday, September 15, 2007

Michigan vs Notre Dame: which fight song is harder to sing with a straight face?

I will always bleed blue. I just didn't know it would be from such a ripping wound.

Last week I went to Purdue's rout of the Eastern Illinois Panthers. And lightning struck. And the stadium was cleared. And few fans returned. But the faithful who returned to Ross-Ade Stadium had the thrilling opportunity to cheer and bellow in approval of Curtis Painter's record-tying 6 TD passes.

Michigan's first two home games have not been so exciting--for Wolverine fans. Lightning struck. And the Wolverines were burned. And The Big House was cleared. Only the faithful will return.

After last week's games I had to resort to phonetics for an argument that Michigan is an easier team to root for than Purdue. Most stadiums have familiar cheers that the home fans know how to perform. At Michigan it's a very simple and effective exchange of "Go!" and "Blue!" from one side of the stadium to the other.


It works well because it emphasizes two simple vowels with stable formants. They're back vowels with good energy in the low second formant making a nice resonant roar with a lot of energy at those lower frequencies.

The Purdue crowd yells "Go Boilers!" in the same cross-stadium exchange. Boilers isn't as good for the cheer. The [ɔ] in "Boilers" is hard to maintain. It's shorter because it falls into the [ɪ] of the diphthong killing that 2nd formant. Then the [lɹ̩z] syllable has no true vowel in it. And a second unstressed syllable composed mostly of approximants just doesn't create much of a boom.

But who needs sustained back vowels when you're scoring so much more than your opponent? I'll take TDs over IPA in a football game.

Last year the Michigan/Notre Dame game was a contest between two promising 2-0 teams: the winningest team in the history of I-A football (vs the 2nd winningest) and the team with the highest winning percentage (vs the 2nd highest). Tomorrow will be an unprecedented 0-2/0-2 showdown between a two teams that have never before been played each other when neither was ranked (since 1936 when ranking began).

It's a coin toss. I just hope it comes up heads.

Snow image from here.

Coin image from here.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. What about "Yankees suck," the three syllables always on the verge of breaking out at any New England sporting event, social function, or gathering of either four born and bred Soc fans that may or may not involve beer?

  3. That one works nicely.

    The stressed vowel in "yankees" is a good low vowel. If nothing else that allows a good open mouth for added volume.

    The "-kees" doesn't matter because it's so short and unstressed that it just leads right into a very harsh voiceless [s] that provides a nice hissing onset to the vowel.

    Now I'm almost certain that "Suck!" is pronounced more like "Sok!" Am I right?

    And that sudden voiceless stop at the end makes for a nice punch to the sound. It's a good derisive cheer.

  4. Flava Flav has the ability to sustain a quality "Boi," but that is about all he has contributed to society.

  5. Well that's more of a [bo.yi:] that he sustains.

    And that would still make for a bad cheer because the rhythm makes it hard to synchronize the change in the vowel. How long do you hold one syllabe before going to the next?

    And the syllable he sustains is the [yi] syllable which sounds more like a squeal than a cheer.


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