Columbia’s football game against Cornell last Saturday has received a lot of attention lately. It’s not the team’s stellar play that has people interested—they are 0-9 on the season—but rather the school band. Perhaps they were simply fed up with the program’s disappointing performance, or maybe—and this seems more likely—they were just flat-out bored, but on Saturday when it came time for them to lead the crowd (or what was left of it) in the school’s age-old fight song, they took the liberty of making a few tweaks to the lyrics. They sang:
We always lose lose lose; by a lot and sometimes by a little; we all were winners at the start; but four years has taught us all the value of just giving up, cause we really suck; why are we even trying?; we always lose lose lose; but we take solace in our booze.
A funny prank, even if the lyrics are painfully uninspired. (Perhaps when accompanying a tune, they really come alive. Unfortunately we were unable to find a video of the event). But, nevertheless, the powers-that-be were less than amused, and the athletic director banned the band from playing in Saturday’s upcoming game against Brown, saying, “Our football players, coaches, alumni, parents are extremely hurt, disappointed and angry by the band’s behavior at Cornell.”
National media outlets, including ESPN, Deadspin, and The New York Times, quickly picked up the news of the stunt and the resulting ban. Reactions were polarized. Michael Samuels a Stanford senior who plays in his school’s band told the Times that he thinks the Columbia band should “have some pride in [their] school and respect for [their] players.”
“Also, if you are going to be ‘irreverent,’ at least be funny,” he said, before ridiculing the Lion’s flat prose. “Our band would never come up with such profoundly obvious and uninspired lyrics like ‘We always lose, lose, lose; by a lot, and sometimes by a little.’”
(Band shots fired.)
On the other hand, according to The Columbia Spectator, many thought the sanctions were too harsh, especially considering that Saturday’s game is the last of the season, and thus the last hoorah for the seniors in the band. Some Columbia alums threatened to withhold donations if the ban was not lifted.
In the end, free speech won out. This is a college, after all. In the face of growing media attention, the athletic department announced last night that it would be lifting the ban:
We are proud of our talented and dedicated student-athletes,” said Dr. M. Dianne Murphy, director of intercollegiate athletics and physical education, “but as we have discussed this is issue over the past day, we come to the conclusion that the core free speech values of the University are best served by providing a forum both for speech that might sometimes offend—as well as for the kind of open discussion that ultimately leads to greater understanding and collegiality among all members of our community” [sic].
We contacted Jose Delgado, the band manager, to get his take on the victory, but it seems that the band members are either under strict orders not to comment, or fear potentially incurring the wrath of a recently appeased athletic department, which, after all, maintains the power to reban the unbanned band. After claiming that he was too busy with homework, Mr. Delgado explained that he’d rather not comment, as that might open the media floodgates leading to an utter inundation of interview requests. Georgia Squiyres, who is listed on the bands website a “Minister of Propaganda,” also declined to comment, referring us back to Mr. Delgado.
If you’d like to go see Columbia’s now-infamous marching band (we know you aren’t going for the football), they’ll be playing tomorrow at 12:30 at the Robert K. Kraft Field as Columbia takes on the 7-2 Brown Bears.