Tradition matters to me. Maybe it’s because I don’t like change, or maybe I just like knowing what to expect. Christmas Eve is a big one. I want the same routine every year. Get dressed for church and sit in the living room by the tree eating cookies we decorated. Listen to music while sipping sparkling cider. Pile into the Suburban, drive around looking at Christmas lights then off to candlelight service at 11. Open presents Christmas morning. From this there must be no deviation or it simply isn’t Christmas.
I’m not sure when it started or how it happened, but yelling “SOONERS” instead of the word “brave” at the end of the national anthem, has become a tradition in Norman. Most OU fans probably didn’t pay much attention to the lyric change until last weekend. With the Air Force Academy coming to Owen Field, Bob Stoops asked the Sooner faithful to not only cheer for the Falcons when they entered the stadium but to break tradition and sing the word “brave” out of respect to the young men serving our country. The previous Saturday, the ninth anniversary of 9/11, the school made the same request to fans, only to hear “SOONERS” drown out any bold enough to say “brave.”
I’ve been in that stadium and trust me, there’s something powerful about hearing “SOONERS” spring from the throats of 85,000 people. I never thought much of it; just a small part of the OU gameday experience. There is way too much political correctness in this country. But there is a time for reflection and sensitivity and I think that time is now Sooner fans.
No matter where you’re from or what football team you support, I believe you are an American first and a citizen of your state second. College football isn’t just an Oklahoma thing, or a Texas thing, or an Arkansas thing. It’s an American thing. It’s part of our sports identity as Americans.
Now ask yourself, “What allows me to be here on this gorgeous fall Saturday? What allows me to tailgate, wear what I want, scream like an idiot when it goes our way and mope when it doesn’t? What allows me to bring my son or my daughter to this place for the very first time and share with them the magic of a football Saturday? Simply stated, what allows me to be a fan?”
The answer is blood. The same answer for why we enjoy so many spectacular freedoms in this country. Blood shed around the world and here at home, by men and women who sacrificed to make America the great country it is today. “Brave” isn’t just a word that closes out a catchy tune. It means someone left home, left their family, voluntarily went into harms way and paid the ultimate price for you. I’m guilty of going through the motions with the national anthem. Let’s get the game going already. But a little reflection on its words goes a long way toward changing my attitude.
The fans who choose to say “SOONERS” aren’t being intentionally disrespectful. They’re not going out of their way to diminish the anthem or try to make some kind of statement. They’re red-blooded, patriotic Americans, embracing a tradition. However, sometimes tradition needs to be put aside. Can’t you still get chills from tens of thousands yelling “brave” instead of “SOONERS?” I’d hope so. Cutting out the “SOONERS” doesn’t make you less of an OU fan. Come on, nobody is mistaking you for a neutral party when you’re decked in crimson from head to toe and you’re wearing a schooner hat.
Plus, there are plenty of perfectly good traditions already in place. The drum major strutting his way across the field. The giant Oklahoma flag and the way the P.A. announcer says, “It’s footbaaallll tiiime in Okkk-la-homaaaaaa!” There’s the singing of the alma mater, and the video that declares, “There’s only one Oklahoma.” One side of the stadium chanting “Boomer” and the other side screaming “Sooner.” You’ve got Ruf-nex firing shotguns, a pretty girl in a covered wagon, and that moment when you’re team finally takes the field. How much more fired up do you need to get? If you still insist on yelling “SOONERS” why not do it at the end of the Oklahoma state song?
We’re only sayin’, you’re doin’ fine Oklahoma! Oklahoma, O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, Oklahoma!…SOONERS!.
Sing it in your head. It works – believe me.
Old habits die hard, Sooner fans. This is the right thing to do. After all, new traditions have to start somewhere.