May 04, 2010

Thoughts on the "We are ND" promotional video, the future of stadium music at ND stadium, and why Darius Walker is right about the stadium atmosphere.

There's nothing like the Notre Dame offseason to get people riled up over nothing. Spring practice is over, so I guess it's time to find something new to get angry about. Everything from scheduling (which is justified) to "The Shirt" to gold flanks on the uniforms to pep rallies. From about April 25 to August 1, it's pretty much full-fledged silly season with not a whole lot of actual football discussion going on.

Well, it looks like we have an early candidate for this year's thing to get everyone riled up. Here it is. ND's new promo video, "We are ND."

I mean, I get that it's cheesy. It's impossible to deny that. But is it really that bad?? Why are people so upset about this?? Disgusted?? Really?? Over a goofy promo video about ND sports? Do people have no sense of humor anymore??

I really don't think it's that bad. I'd go so far as to say that I like it. Not in the sense that it's the greatest song of all time, but it serves its purpose as an upbeat song to get people fired up
about ND sports and see the spirit on campus. After listening to it a few times, the main hook was pretty much ringing in my head the rest of the day.

It reminds me of your standard 1980s team-oriented theme song. As much as people like to say they hate those songs (Go Cubs Go, Who Dey, Super Bowl Shuffle, San Diego Super Chargers, etc), people always go nuts and start singing whenever they come on.

The Bengals have hands down the cheesiest touchdown celebration song
of all time. "Bengals Growl."

People have been mocking this song for as long as I've been a Bengals fan. But when you're down at Paul Brown Stadium and that thing comes on after a score, the place goes crazy. It's hands down the most popular song that they play. There's just something about singing some cheesy lyrics with 65,000 other people and laughing while you're doing it because you know the song is so dumb that you'd never embrace it in any other setting.

Is "We are ND" capable of becoming a silly "theme song" for ND sports?? Probably not, but I like that ND tried something different to sort of loosen up a little and not take itself so seriously.

For further feedback on the new song, I went to my best source for the opinion of the casual ND fan: my wife. Someone who is more into watching the cheerleaders than the running backs and cares more about the soft pretzels at the concession stand than Dayne Crist's completion percentage.

She hadn't seen or heard anything about this song or the "controversy" stemming from it, so we loaded it up on Youtube and checked it out. And honestly, even though she probably thought it was a little corny, she seemed to like it (or at least she said she did, so maybe she was just humoring me).

Here's the thing. The song isn't meant to appeal to 60 year old men who go to ND games to hear the band and don't want a bunch of fluff. It's not even really meant for the diehard 25-35 year old guy who spends a little too much time reading about recruiting or following spring practice. Those fans are already a given. Maybe it's not fair to take them for granted, but ND doesn't need to reach out to those fans.

This is meant for younger fans, women, high school kids who might not know much about ND, and the current students. ND can send this around for promotional purposes and present at least some sort of upbeat tone that goes beyond the "Sounds of the marching band with Dr. Kenneth Dye!" cd. If you hook even one person on ND sports because of it, it's worth it.

Now, I can see what everyone is thinking. This song is so "white" and Midwestern and lame that it's impossible to embrace it even as sort of an ironic joke or as a change of pace from the usual ND stuff. If Brian Kelly loads this up on an email and sends it off to some dude down in Ft. Myers, the guy is probably not going to be too impressed by seeing Freekbass strumming on the guitar with some other white guy
rapping. If there's a video out there to reinforce the notion that ND is very white and a little corny, this video is probably it.

But I stumbled across this post on Facebook from a certain former ND
football player who takes a backseat to nobody in recent ND lore.

How about that??! If it's good enough for #3, it's good enough for me. Having seen that guy's dad on tv for four years, I think he's got more than enough "street cred" to speak on how recruits would react to this video.

Think about what Darius Walker is saying here though. He's basically saying that ND's crowd and atmosphere doesn't get players fired up. I think there's something to be said for that.

I've been to probably 40-50 ND home games in the last ten years, and I can count on one hand the number of truly epic crowds we've had in the last ten years. Part of it has certainly been the team's performance, but part of it is a stadium atmosphere that has gotten a little stale. Even for the "big" games. Take the 2009 USC game for example. That was a genuinely big game at the time, and the crowd was basically dead for 55 of the 60 minutes. Like lifeless dead. People got excited in the last five minutes or so when we clawed back into it, but where was the energy from start to finish?? The loudest cheer of the night was when we gave the team a standing ovation after the game for losing to an 8-4 USC team at home. Yippee.

People talk about the 2005 USC game as a sign that ND fans can still rise to the occasion, but that was ONE GAME in the last decade. That's the best we can do??

That brings me to the ND band. I love the ND band and apologize to all things Dr. Kenneth Dye. But if I have to listen to that song where we pump our arms slowly up and down a hundred times, I might start sneaking a pillow and blanket into the crowd. Fans are literally falling asleep in the stands. That's a homefield advantage??

Blame IPODs or short attention spans or whatever you want, but when all you have is the marching band for musical entertainment, it's hard to stay "up" for an entire ND game these days. Between the four hour games, bad product, bad schedule, and long commercial breaks, it's a grind. You gotta give people a reason to get fired up.

I was always a huge "no jumbotron, no goofy stadium music" guy because I've seen it cheapen the experience at other venues. Ohio State has become way too commercialized and stale. I didn't want ND to become like that. You should go to watch the game and not some dopey scoreboard race or commercial or promotion video.

But I will admit that I had two experiences last year with the stadium music/jumbotron for ND road games that turned me around.

1) Michigan -- I think Michigan has really done this well. When they renovated the stadium to add luxury boxes, it made the stadium more enclosed and much louder. And now they sprinkle in some random Michigan-themed pop/rock songs like Kid Rock or Eminem or Bob Seger and some of the other usual suspects that you might hear at a game (Journey, Bon Jovi, etc).

Honestly, it worked. They didn't do it every timeout (the band still played the majority of the songs), but played maybe 3-4 songs over the course of the game over the loudspeakers to put a little pep in people's step. It seemed like every time ND started to make a push, they'd throw a song on and the crowd would come to life. I think it legitimately affected the game. People would start singing and dancing, and you could see that the Michigan players got fired up when the crowd got going. Isn't that what it's all about?? Getting your team pumped??

People love hearing the band and the fight song and all that, but there is something cool about singing "Don't Stop Believin" with 100,000 other people. Heck, all the Notre Dame fans in our section were singing too. It just added to an already big time atmosphere.

2) Pitt - We lost the Pitt game twenty minutes before it even started when they threw on this music video montage for the band introductions that culminated with the band running out of the tunnel through the old Miami Hurricanes smoke. The freaking band! I'm not even kidding. I don't even remember what song it was, but the crowd was going nuts.

Meanwhile, we were in the corner just sulking. You could tell at that moment that we were done.
Pitt probably overdoes it because they have an absurdly large Jumbotron to work with at Heinz Field, but they were cranking songs and videos the whole game. They also did a Sweet Caroline thing before the the 4th quarter that got people going for the stretch run. When was the last time we had the entire ND stadium singing and rocking out all at once??

Sure it's cheesy and a ripoff, but here's the thing. IT WORKS! Isn't that the goal?? To help get the crowd pumped and win football games?? Why is this a bad thing??

I appreciate tradition and all that. Really, I do. I love ND stadium because it's like going back in time. It's like Wrigley or Augusta or any of the great places in sports where they haven't overcommercialized everything and cheapened the experience.

But I think ND fans are turning into a bunch of Billy Paynes. "We heahhh at Noootuh Dayume don't caahhhre for that kind of music in Rock's House." It's not golf. It's college football. And it's not 1954. We aren't showing up in sports jackets and fedoras to watch football anymore. People want to sing and dance and have fun.

I'm ready for some stadium music at ND. I've heard some rumblings that it might be coming in the near future, so we might as well start now with the Brian Kelly era. We already have the speakers, and Kelly has said repeatedly that he wants to change the culture at ND. The band can still dominate the action, but a little spice of Bon Jovi or Journey wouldn't hurt anyone. It might just get this program over the hump and back to playing great football at home in front of great crowds.

Come up with some sort of pregame theme song right before kickoff (or before the team runs out of the tunnel) to get people cranked up for the action. I don't have a recommendation at this point, but just something to get people hyped up.

For example, Auburn comes up with a new video every year to get the crowd going before the team takes the field.

I'm not saying ND should put in a Jumbotron like Auburn has done. I don't want a big screen. But come up with a song (Rocky, Rolling Stones, T-Pain, Freekbass, whatever you want) to get people pumped as the team is coming out of the tunnel and/or getting ready for the opening kickoff, and play it over the loudspeakers. We already do it for our basketball team. Why not football??

From there, let the ND band do its thing, but sprinkle in 1-2 pop songs a quarter. The type of stuff you'd hear at the Boat Club/Backer. Maybe even throw Freekbass in there if you want, or come up with some other ND-themed song to get people pumped. Heck, throw on one of the upbeat songs from Rudy.

Darius Walker has a point here. He's basically saying that he's never heard an upbeat song before or during a game at ND. He's right. If you think it's boring for the fans to hear the same stuff over and over, imagine what it's like to be a player. They probably feel like they are playing football at a museum. That needs to change.

Maybe Freekbass isn't the answer. Maybe we'll need to come up with more "urban" material to appeal to recruits or look a little more hip. But it's a start. If recruits see that ND is trying to present a new message and get with the times, it might have a beneficial effect for the program down the road.

I just want to see a rocking ND stadium atmosphere. ND is still a great place to watch a game, but it could be even better and a more intimidating, hyped-up atmosphere. Ultimately, that should be the goal.


Titus said...

Notre Dame: just like you, but with less-talented pop musicians.

I don't care what the team listens to. Heck, if they need to hear something upbeat, do whatever they want; get DJ Drew to spin a few in the locker room before the game But the stadium is dead largely because the team has been dead.

There is less than no point to doing anything related to Notre Dame if ND insists on being like everyone else. The world does not need a smaller Purdue with shinier buildings. In fact, Purdue is a good example: I have never seen a stupider, more unintentionally hilarious load of schlock than the multimedia extravaganza that is a Purdue football game. If that ever happens to ND stadium, I might have to turn my diploma frame to the wall.

Were they piping music in the 80s when we'd get sideline warnings for crowd noise? I think not. I mean, if they want to start playing "Don't Stop Believing" or the Rudy theme after the first quarter, it wouldn't be the end of the world; it would probably even be cool. But really, what we need most is a stadium full of fans who aren't desensitized from two decades of getting drummed. Playing catch-up in the world of crappy promotional music is not a winning strategy.

Besides, this video isn't the product of some grand strategy from Swarbrick or anyone else in the Gug. It's the pet project of a film prof from Cincinnati who wanted to pass some upper-midwest exposure to a hometown artist. The song and video are largely replicas of a piece Freakbass did for the Reds. I mean, if we're going to be lame, why can't we at least be originally lame?

NJ Irish said...

Schools must evolve. A little music on a new Jumbotron (OU designed a classy one) would help. So would 10 wins per year...

Jimmy said...

Tried the "Wife Test" last night without giving any background to the hullabaloo. For the most part, she liked it. She thought Freakbass was on the screen a little too much, the song ran 30 seconds too long, and the dorky white rapper was lame, but overall impressed with the end result.

The chorus IS catchy and gets you in the right frame of mind, even if some of the words are muffled.

I'm coming around on it. I like the initiative and think they can do even better.

Doug - you didn't play up the basketball intro music enough. When they introduced that a few years ago, I thought the whole schtick was a farce, especially the smoke blowing from each basket. After a couple games, I found myself racing to be sure to see the starting lineups for the intro music alone. It was done well and got the crowd - and team - pumped up.

This year's music video from the drop down screens was a little overboard, but not brutal. It serves a purpose, as you well argued, to draw more fans to the team and school.

Irish fans who follow recruiting and blogs are more concerned with the product on the field/court and W-L column than the peripheral stuff, but that's not every fan out there and it'd be foolish to ignore those potential fans.

Did you "friend" D. Walker? What's he up to these days?

Anonymous said...

You know what will get people excited about Notre Dame football? A competent team that consistently wins against a decently competitive schedule. Throwing a video montage in there will only make things look ridiculous, a la the basketball team. That pregame montage with the smoke and random highlight footage ("Look! Luke Zeller's only college dunk!") is just embarrassing when the team comes out and flops.
Furthermore, if you want a lively stadium, the whole "Catholic Disneyland" has got to go. People don't get rowdy for over-scripted and sanitized 'pep rallies' or the other over-commercalized parts of the 'gameday experience". They get rowdy when some spontaneity creeps into the events, when they've spent the day drinking at tailgates, and when the general "we're so nice" attitude falls by the wayside. In short, when the administration treats it like a football game rather than the Masters.

Anonymous said...

I don't think any serious Irish fans wants a lot done, and yes winning is a large part of turning around the atmosphere. But still, something has to change and something needs to be done. Why does it have to be a 'powerful' Irish team (circa 1988) or a nailbighter for the game to even be remotely pulse raising? I've only been to two games, one each of the last two years. In 2008 I was merely taking in everything and felt too blessed to really get a feel for the atmosphere. Last year, I attended the Navy game and wanted to fight people after the game I was so angry at the loss, yes, but also from the way the crowd acted the whole game and then just shuffled out of the stadium like they'd just watched nothing more than their nightly sitcom. I see a few problems and some solutions. First, too many old people...not much to do there, let's hope the next generation isn't content to sit on their hands for three hours. The band is nice, but it doesn't work for an entire game. You can't hear them, the songs are repeated and get old, and even before the game starts we've heard the fight song 3,367 times. Why is that the only time in my entire life that I've NOT wanted to hear the ND fight song is at an ND game? Isn't there something wrong with that? At this point I'm all for adding a jumbotron and music. But the kicker is, we don't have to be "like everyone else." Sorry if I want to see replays, but we could only use the jumbotron very sparingly, maybe a pre-game pump up video, rockne speeches, would be awesome. Keep all the other stuff (adverts, silly stuff nothing to do with football off it). And let's just hear four or five songs a game..make them Irish themed or something, break out some bad ass bagpipe song, it can be done tastefully. Anyway, I've got the sense (and put your PC stuff away) that Kelly is making the program geared more towards the African American ethos so to speak. He's singled out numerous black players as leaders, the team is loud and full of energy the way we'd expect heavily black teams like Miami to be, etc. I wouldn't say he's "ghettofying" the program but I think he sees the advantage in having a strong black presence and swagger with his teams. And guess what, the ND crowd is so far on the other side of the spectrum its not even funny. I'd expect some changes soon. Even the new jersey, if the one I've seen is it, seems much more in line with changing the culture.

Anonymous said...

I have a couple other things as well. It can't just be "we have to be winning" to have a great atmosphere. I've gone to Buffalo Bills games during some of the most pathetic football ever witnessed and you can't hear anything for four quarters because the crowd is so loud. There isn't a ton of music and the jumbotron isn't that distracting, it's just that the crowd is full tilt in support of the team the entire time. I mean, I imagine going to football games at Auburn and Tenessee and places like that and it being a great atmosphere regardless if the team sucks that year or that game. It just doesn't make any sense. We've taken perhaps the greatest home field advantage in all of sports and turned into pretty much the exact opposite. Our crowd is dead, our team plays tight and afraid to lose, the other team loves the attention the game provides, they feed off the history and past, and it always seems the visiting team is more pissed off whether they are heavy underdogs or not. Perhaps Kelly's teams will become dominant, or as close to that as we can be in the 21st century, but I'd like to see some changes. Put in field turf already for crying out loud, paint the field once in a while, get some music blaring from time to time, jack the "We are ND" chant through the PA so people in Seattle can hear it, let Kelly do his thing on the field and turn this funeral atmosphere around. It will still be the House that Rockne Built, there won't be ads anywhere, we'll still feel the throwback atmosphere, except I won't feel like murdering thousands of people after games!