There is nothing I love more than to have a beer and a hot dog and scream at a field. It is a joy, a gift. I love to yell! I do not like to yell at players, but I love to yell at a referee, or a coach, or just to yell in unison with other fans. Which is why, generally, I am very much in favor of unified fan behaviors. I accept The Wave. I accept cheers that go on too long. I accept, begrudgingly, whatever the uncoordinated hat waving thing the Washington Nationals do after they score a run. Still, I do have a modicum of self-respect, and I must put my foot down in front of one particular chant of the Washington Spirit’s.
Now, I like the Spirit. I’m a season ticket holder. I like to go. I’ve written about being at the games this year in the midst of an entire upheaval of the season and the league. I have been incredibly impressed by the coordination and gumption of the Washington Spirit Squadron, who my seats are right next to. They have chanted “Sell the Team, Steve.” They have brought banners. They have a big drum they bang all game.
But there is something they do that I absolutely cannot stand and it is this: There is a chant they use that is no good.
Here is a screenshot from the Spirit Squadron’s game day chants page:
There are a lot of chants on that page, but this is the only one from the list I’ve ever heard them do. Every time they do it, which is at many points during a game, I have to turn to people with me and ask what the hell they are saying. Part of this is because I am deaf in one ear, but the other part is because it doesn’t make any damn sense.
When I root, I root for the Spirit …
What does this mean! What kind of half-assed fandom is this! Something about the if-then structure of the cheer strips it of its positivity and makes it bizarrely conditional and disinterested. Whenever I yell it, I feel like I might as well be saying, “When I can be bothered to care about soccer, I guess I root for the Spirit.” That is not the vibe I want! I want motivating! I want exciting! I want a cheer that the players on the field hear and are forced to remember that I am here and want them to win!
There are plenty of cheers like that. They could consider classics like “Here we go Spirit, here we go!” Instead, we could just chant “Let’s go Spirit!” There is no need to invent a new cheer. I’m not even a cheerleader! I can’t be expected to learn the words to whole new chants! Chants are supposed to be simple, clear, exciting. It feels bad to go to a game, perhaps for a team or a sport you aren’t already invested in, and have to ask someone else what the chant is!
When I root, I want a chant that has some spirit!