Give Tease a Chant: The Public Mood Expressed Through Song

One of the more surprising elements of this year’s college football season is the prevalence of a certain crowd chant taking place around the country—you know the one. But why is this happening? Three reasons come to mind: First, considering the mess the country has been plunged into in eight short months, it may very well be deserved. Second, football crowds tend to be rather rowdy and one cannot completely discount the possibility of the impact of alcohol.

Third and most importantly, though, its popularity is because the rhythmic structure of the chant itself perfectly matches another popular chant from fans used across the country: “F**k Joe Biden” has the same cadence as “Let’s Go Red Sox (or Yankees or Seahawks or any other team with a two-syllable nickname) so the crowd is very quickly able to understand and join in the chant. And by the way it sounds on television, it seems to be in the same key as those other chants (crowds tend to sing in C). All that’s missing is the “bum bum bumbumbum” organ beats between vocalizations.

Crowds singing is nothing new, obviously. Everyone has sung—or tried to sing— “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a sporting event. The only national anthem in the world that ends in a question (how’s that for the symbolism of a future of endless if unknown possibilities?), it is also one of the most difficult to sing as the tune was based upon an old English drinking song that, by being able to sing properly, one proved one wasn’t thaaaat drunk.

Recently the NFL has been trotting out the Black national anthem— “Lift Every Voice and Sing”—to a lesser degree of success. That may in part be due to unfamiliarity or, as a friend and local NAACP chapter president once lamented, “We had to pick a song that’s even harder to sing than the real national anthem. Good Lord.”

But it seems as if relatively impromptu mass vocalization has taken off this year, going beyond the Biden chant. A Tom Petty tune and many country songs centered around defiance and freedom have been “covered” by crowds of late which could be an interesting window into the mood of the country east of the Hudson River, outside the Beltway, beyond the TMZ (a thirty-mile zone around Hollywood that defines if an actor or grip or sound girl or whatever gets paid extra for travel, etc. and yes that’s where that comes from), and more than 20 miles away from Silicon Valley.

Even some renditions of the national anthem feel as if they have certain overtones—take for example the recent Ryder Cup golf tournament in Wisconsin. More than 20,000 relatively (it was early in the morning so let’s hope so) sober golf fans belted out a version that was quite often intermingled with shouts of “Trump 2024” (and even a little “F*** Joe Biden”). One could venture a thought that if the event had been last year and every fan had been given a ballot (considering the recent attacks on election security, sure, why not?) he would have won the state.

Beyond politics, many singing traditions also invoke a very particular note of wistful connection. Take the surprisingly moving version of John Denver’s “Country Roads” belted out by West Virginia University students after a home game win. There are dozens of versions of this rather singular event posted on YouTube, one of which evinced a truly moving comment: “This made me Cry.... I Live in Germany and am a german”

The singing of crowds—beyond examples like the “La Marseillaise” in the 1790s or the “Internationale” until the beginning of the Cold War—has played a role in politics before. For example, the Soviet Union national anthem had lyrics but, after Stalin died, they were never sung as they referred directly to that particular mass murderer quite often. But in the late 1970s—apparently after noticing how odd it looked that Russian fans at international sporting events were all just standing at attention during their anthem and not singing along like the people from every other country—the lyrics were modified and it was permissible (read: strongly encouraged) to sing them publicly.

If one wonders why the current Biden chant was not aimed at Trump—who as we all know is/was properly despised by every single American—one of the problems is that it just doesn’t quite scan as well. “F**k Donald” won’t work, “F**k Don Trump” really fails, in part because he has never been called simply “Don” in his life, and, while “F**k The Donald” does hit the right beats the “The” designation is simply not well known enough for a crowd of 70,000 to play along. “Or-ange Man Bad” kind of works but, as you see, the word “orange” has to be emphasized oddly so that’s out, too.

What about other current politicos? “F**k Ka-ma-la” does not work for several reasons, including that the name would have to be pronounced incorrectly and everyone knows that mispronouncing someone’s name is a micro-aggression or, in the case of 70,000 people doing it, one supposes a macro-aggression. (Oops—I just checked my constantly-being-modified list of bad things and mispronouncing a name has been bumped up to hate crime. My mistake).

“F**k Nancy” fails to scan unless it is changed to “F**k You Nancy” and that is too directly personal for a crowd to get behind, so that’s a no-go. What does work, from a rhyming standpoint, is “F**k DeSantis,” a fact that we must hope goes unnoticed should he move into the White House in 2024.

The chant may be joyously rude, but it is only a word. Sadly, President Biden is currently consistently, concertedly, and contemptuously taking the actual meaning of the word to a whole new level.

Thomas Buckley is the former Mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter. He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at planbuckley@gmail.com. You can read more of his work at https://thomas699.substack.com.

Image: A popular internet meme, creator unknown.

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