Psychological Look at Fans in the Crowd

It is arguably the most controversial topic on campus. Every time the NDSU football team gets a first down, the crowd does the same chant.

“First Down! Move those chains! Go Big Green!”

That is what the chant should be, but it isn’t.

Instead, it ends “Sioux suck shit!”

It has been a very controversial topic to say the least. Everyone has chimed in, from opinionated Spectrum writers up to the president of this university.

What is the fastest way to start and argument on campus? It might just be whether the chant is appropriate or not.

That is not the point of this article. This article has to do with why students say the chant in the first place.

Speaking with a faculty member in the department of psychology (who wished to remain anonymous in the article), maybe there can be a better understanding of what is going on in the stands.

The biggest issue is called blasting. Blasting, put simply, is putting down rivals in order to enhance one’s self.

“Fans blast rivals because it makes their own team look better by comparison.”

Looking back at the history of the chant, it is hard to find a starting point. The earliest reference to it was a person on a forum saying that it was used in the late ’80s. That was when the Bison were in the middle of their most successful streak against the Sioux.

The first dust-up between fans and administration came in 2002, when students wearing shirts with the saying on them were asked to turn them inside out, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

Before the game at the Fargodome in 2002, UND had taken seven of nine from the Bison.

The Sioux took both the 2002 and 2003 games before the teams went 12 years without facing each other.

By then, the chant was considered “tradition” and kept on rolling. This leads to the next psychological phenomena, conformity.

Conformity is thinking or acting in the same way as everyone else, something that occurs commonly in large groups.

“Joining in with the ‘Sioux Suck’ chant is an example of conformity. One reason that people conform is that they want to be liked. So, often fans will join in with a chant, not because they agree with it but, just because they want to fit in.”

The conformity goes together with another phenomenon, deindividualization.

“Deindividualization is the loosening of inhibitions that results from being lost in the crowd. People are much more likely to act objectionably if they are anonymous than if they are identifiable. So, often fans will join in with a chant that they know to be offensive, because they feel confident that no one will notice them doing it among all the hundreds of others doing it.”

Add the fact there are thousands of students in the student section at football game, the deindividualization multiplies.

A less psychological point worth making is on the intent of the student yelling that chant. Here, there are two trains of thought.

First, there is the simple fact that fans are directing the chant straightly at UND. While it would be arrogant to say there are no other effects of the chant, this is still a possible reason. This view portrays one sports team with a deep underlying hatred for another.

Second option, the fans do fully realize the scope of the chant and how it affects all parties and still say it.

Now, the calls for the chant to cease have been working, to an effect, toward the end of last season. President Bresciani’s call seemed to open the eyes of some students. While the chant was still audible from the press box, it was less loud.

Toward the end of some games, as some of the students leave, the “Go Big Green” chant was the more dominate.

Perhaps this is the start of the chant leaving the Fargodome, but if there is any real hope of it going extinct it best be gone by 2019. With UND joining the Missouri Valley Football Conference, any reminisce will be alive and well when the team meet.

Some traditions die hard and maybe trashing UND will never leave NDSU, but Bison fans could at least have the decency of updating the chant to make it more relevant to reflect UND’s name change.


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