When I had my going-away party before moving to Connecticut, a couple of my friends gave me a pretty cool present: a mix CD of college fight songs. They know me too well, because I love a good fight song.
Fight songs are a large part of what makes college sports special. They, perhaps more than anything else, embody the collegiate spirit better than anything else. And if your team is taking the field to a good fight song, they seem to be a little mightier than most.
And so, given that we have a bye-week and without further ado, I am ranking the Pac-10 fight songs, from my least favorite to favorite. And I'm warning you right now: you will disagree with this list. Let's start with...
10. UCLA: "Sons of Westwood" Have you ever gone to a UCLA game, heard their band play that fight song, and thought to yourself, "Man, that song sounds familiar"? It should sound familiar... it's almost the exact same as Cal's fight song. [Actually, it is the same song - UCLA was a southern spin-off division of UC, of course]. The Bruins made a couple of changes here and there, but it's nearly the exact same song, note for note. So, right off the bat, on the originality scale, this song ranks a big, fat zero.
But if you're going to steal a song and make a few changes, those changes had better improve the song. They don't. The part where the notes are slurred together messes everything up, and the grand finale is totally unnecessary. Those changes remove any substance the original song had.
It just sounds so... Hollywood. All style, no substance, and no originality. If P. Diddy wrote fight songs, this is what he'd come up with.
9. Oregon: "Mighty Oregon" One thing a fight song definitely should not be is boring. On that count, "Mighty Oregon" fails miserably. It doesn't go anywhere, it doesn't really inspire, and it doesn't stir up any emotions.
Even the original lyrics aren't exactly what you think of when fight songs come to mind. "Who can tell her tale of triumph/Scores can never show it all." What? Are they saying that Oregon may have lost on the scoreboard, but that's not the whole story? A good fight song never ever ever even approaches the possibility of their team losing the game.
Nike's Phil Knight fixed the football stadium (boy, did he!)... maybe his next project should be fixing this snoozer of a fight song.
8. Oregon State: "Hail to Old OSU" There's a fine line between "catchy" and "annoying". This song falls safely on the "annoying" side. Oregon State has a goofy mascot, and it only stands to reason that they have the fight song to match. The melody is about as grating as it gets. If you go to a Beaver game in Corvallis, it will be burned into your brain by the time you leave.
7. Washington: "Bow Down To Washington" To me, this song is just like Amy Winehouse's "Rehab". It's got a great hook and a catchy chorus, but the rest of it just sits there. I can't recommend it as a whole. Then again, I've long thought that UW should replace its band and have Sir Mix-A-Lot perform the halftime shows instead, so what do I know?
6. Arizona: "Bear Down Arizona" Not bad. Not great, either. It's way more listenable than "Mighty Oregon". But I've never mindlessly started singing this song, unlike some of the other songs higher up this list.
5. Arizona State: "Maroon & Gold" I like the quick tempo. I like the "A-S-U" chant at the end. And even if it sound a little similar to Texas' fight song in spots, it still sounds good. For the most part, this song gets the job done. But to me, it's not quite as good or as emotion-stirring as the last four songs on this list.
4. Stanford: "All Right Now" No, it's not the most original fight song on this list. Heck, it's the only song on this list guaranteed to pop up on your friendly neighborhood classic rock station. But it's our fight song. And every time I hear the Stanford band play it, I know three things: 1) I'm in a good place, 2) something good has happened, or 3) something good is about to happen. And those things count for a lot.
3. U$C: "Fight On, Tribute to Troy" and "Conquest" I hate these songs. I hate them. But I love to hate them. That's why these three songs, as much as I hate them, are so high on my list. Not only should a fight song inspire those who root for that team, it should also tickle the gag reflex of those who root against that team. With these three songs, it's mission accomplished.
"Conquest" captures Trojan football at its cornball-spectacle best. "Fight On", although simple, is what a fight song should be. But the gem in this triple crown is "Tribute to Troy." The incessant drumbeat. The blaring horns. The repetitive three notes. This is the only song they know, and this is the song that kills your brain cells. And above all, this is the song that either makes you love U$C, or makes you love to hate U$C.
2. Washington State: "Washington State Fight Song" Surprised? I'm kind of surprised myself. I'll admit I didn't like this song when I first heard it. It sounded too much like high school. But it's grown on me ever since.
To me, a fight song should be fun to sing. And this is definitely the most singable fight song in the Pac-10. I'll admit it, sometimes I'll be in the car driving somewhere, and all of a sudden I'll break out with "Fight Fight Fight for Washington Staaaate! Win the victoooooorrrreeeeeee!" It's just fun.
(I need help. But you knew that already.)
1. Cal: "Big C" and "Fight for California" Trust me, I'm not overly thrilled about placing cal's fight songs at the top of my list, and I realize that my Cardinalmaniac™ membership might be up for review during the offseason. But the simple facts are these: those two songs are good, and they sound even better when their band plays them. Heck, "Big C" was so good that UCLA decided to stea-I mean, borro-I mean, sample it.
"Big C" has all the substance and strength that "Sons of Westwood" does not. "Fight for California" is distinct. And both songs are fun to hum along to.
And I want to hear as little of those songs as humanly possible on December 1!
While we're at it, here a couple of my favorite non-Pac-10 fight songs:
Notre Dame's "Victory March". I mean, come on. If hearing or humming this song doesn't spark some sort of emotion, be it inspiration or hatred (or, this year, uncontrollable laughter), then you basically have no soul. I know I said Michigan's "Hail to the Victors" was a better fight song a few years ago, but I was wrong. And by the way, "Rakes of Mallow" (from the John Wayne classic film The Quiet Man) is pretty cool, too.
Tennessee's "Rocky Top". This may be the most fun fight song to sing in college sports. Until I see it for myself, I can only imagine what it must be like to hear 102,000 orange-clad Vol fans screaming at the top of their lungs, "Good Ole' Rocky Top! Whooooo!"
Wisconsin's "On Wisconsin". This song was so good, they changed the lyrics and adopted it as the state's official song. Plus, this is probably one of the few songs out there that actually sounds OK when someone plays it on an accordion. Not that that's a good thing, necessarily, but it's something.
Wake Forest's "O Here's to Wake Forest". For my money, my favorite fight song on the planet. It's singable, it doesn't sound like any other fight song out there, and it even has a sexy little breakdown in the middle. Great stuff. Then again, maybe I have a soft spot for this song because I kept hearing it while Stanford took down Tim Duncan and the Deacs in the 1997 NCAAs. Ahhh, the memories.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
The good news from Saturday is that Tavita Pritchard looked good throwing the ball, for the most part. The bad news is that Richard Sherman, I think, would have been the difference in this game. The ugly news is that Pritchard has developed a bad habit of committing game-killing turnovers when Stanford needs a score to stay in it…
Once again, Cal's offense let them down. And don't look now, but U$C's defense is getting its groove back...
That Washington-Oregon State game was so bizarre on so many different levels, I don't know where to start. Actually, I do. Watching Jake Locker walk back into the stadium just a couple hours after leaving the place in an ambulance was amazing. Of all the incredible sights we've seen in the Pac-10 so far this year, that might be the list-topper…
I'm baffled as to why Oregon State didn't run the ball more in the second half. Lyle Moevao was clearly struggling in the passing game, yet the Beavers stubbornly tried to make plays in the passing game. This was even more puzzling when tempers were flaring, players were getting ejected, and Washington was somehow taking control of the game. The Beavers could have restored order, slowed things down, and physically pounded the Huskies with their running game. Instead, they chose to make that game more interesting than it should have been…
That blown call on Yvenson Bernard's goal-line run that would have sealed the game for OSU was the most heinous call I've seen in years. I don't ever advocate people losing work assignments unless absolutely necessary, but I was glad to see the Pac-10 step in and suspend the game officials and replay officials earlier on Wednesday. Could you imagine if that blown call had cost Oregon State that game?
Oregon @ Arizona. This game has all the makings of an ambush setup for Oregon. Thursday night game. On the road. On national TV. I suspect the Wildcats will be game, but unless Dennis Dixon isn't as healthy as we think he is, I can't pick them to win. I like Oregon by 16.
Cal @ Washington. Last year against the Bears, Carl Bonnell threw five costly INTs. At the rate Nate Longshore is going, he may match Bonnell this year. The Bears are still the better team, though, and unlike Mike Riley last week, I'm sure that Jeff Tedford will commit to running the football. I like Cal by 19.
Oregon State @ Washington State. Alex Brink is getting all the hype, but don't forget about that Coug secondary, which has racked up some kill shots on some receivers over the past few weeks. Something tells me Wazzu stays hot this week. I like Washington State by 17.
Last week: 3-0 (straight-up), 2-1 (ATS).
This year: 21-6 (straight-up), 17-9-1 (ATS).
Last year: 21-15 (straight-up), 17-19 (ATS).
Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or anything else in general? Have a different set of expectations for Stanford Football this year? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!
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