Gridiron Rhetoric: Week 3

[Cross blogged for Leland Quarterly]

If you’re a fan of Stanford Football on Facebook—and you should be, seeing as there’s no greater way to declare your undying love for something than that alluring thumbs-up button on Facebook—you may have noticed some swanky new uniforms heading the Cardinal’s way for our game against Notre Dame in November, courtesy of Nike (and, I imagine, Nike’s founder Phil Knight, of Knight Management Center fame).

Awkward turtle.

If you then watched Nike’s debut video, you may have noticed this quote in between action shots of jukes and cleats:

C A R D I N A L  R E D
is a rich metaphor for the very pulse of life.
“forever and forever stanford red.” 

Nike’s right, it’s a pretty decent metaphor.  A rich red conjures up images of the heart, blood, vitality, etc., etc., etc.  But I’d disagree with the “life” part.  Football rhetoric is all about crushing your opponent into a bloody pulp.  That’s what the blood-and-thunder color red is all about: death, destruction, rampaging and pillaging, extermination previously unknown to mankind.  There’s a reason tackling the quarterback for loss is called sacking—it can be devastating.

Nowhere is this violent rhetoric more evident than in a university’s fight song, exhorting its vicious football warriors to dismember, maim, trample, and otherwise decimate its opponent.  Which is why Nike goes on to quote from Stanford’s (official) fight song in that last line.

…Except our official fight song is called “Come Join the Band,” and the most violent lyrics are “When Stanford Red has won the day / Praising her name / Onto the field we’ll force our way.”  It’s all about cheering and being supportive.  No ad hominem attacks, no threats of violence, not even a single mention of the word “fight.”  Even our de facto fight song, Free’s “All Right Now,” isn’t particularly violent, though it does smell slightly of a not-entirely-kosher sexual encounter.

Now, let’s compare our fight songs to some of the others in the Pac-12:

  • Our opponents this week, Arizona, have “Fight Wildcats Fight!,” which describes them as “A raging team of Wildcats / Growling for the fray” that will “Circle the ends and crash thru center, / Hit hard and gain on ev’ry play.”
  • “Mighty Oregon” urges its listeners to “Roar the praises of her warriors / Sing the story Oregon / On to victory urge the heroes”—downright Homeric.
  • USC’s fight song, “Fight On,” contains the lyrics “fight on,” and frankly not much else.  They also have a warhorse.  God, I hate that horse.
  • And the University of Washington?  That red-bricked institution in the peaceful northwest, sitting calm under that serenely clouded sky, among its cherry trees and coffee houses?  It’s fight song is called “Bow Down to Washington.”

Let’s face it, “Come Join the Band”—or even “All Right Now”—isn’t the most confrontational song.  But we’re an erudite bunch here in Palo Alto.  Leave the petty fisticuffs to that other riffraff.

Except these Nike uniforms?  They’re called “Pro Combat” uniforms.

So suit up, boys.  It’s time to kick some ass.

Finally, a look at some rhetoric from around the internet:

Remember last week when I talked about student-proposed mascots? Yeah, well, we don’t have shit on Ole Miss.