Organized cheers at sporting events have been around a long time when it comes to athletic contests in America.
Princeton University is cited as the birthplace of cheers when students began chanting “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Tiger! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h” at athletic contests as early as 1877. It was an all-male activity then and was chanted by both spectators and athletes. (Yes, I had to look that up!)
Fifty years ago, it remained an American tradition.
A couple of old Army pals, however, believed in sharing that age-old tradition.
I don’t remember exactly how it started. Perhaps it was at one of our Tuesday night German-American language “lessons” (more for sharing a stein of German liquid than for learning) that the idea first arose. My Army pal, John, who’d gone to high school in a Minneapolis suburb blurted out one of his old high school cheers — “Ish-Biddely-Oaten-Doten! Bo-Bo-Se-Deeton-Dotten! Hah-Cha-Rah-Cha-Ricky-Chicky-Rah-Rah! Sis-Boom-Bah! Sis-Boom-Bah! Roosevelt High School! Rah-Rah-Rah!”
Yes, it was a nonsensical chant, but many cheers of those days were just that.
After we’d sampled a couple liters of German fortitude, however, the chant seemed to be quite relevant. Even our German friends were amused. They’d never heard anything like it.
And, so it was, at that German-American language lesson, our German friends suddenly became more interested in learning those inane words than they were about learning something meaningful. They couldn’t wait to share their newly-learned chant with their wives and by the time our regular Friday night gathering rolled around, several ladies asked John and I to repeat the chant.
We did. They all giggled. And an amazing thing began that night. They all wanted to learn the chant, every single one of them.
So, John and I, prodded by our new German friends and fueled by the contents of several steins of liquid refreshment, began teaching the phrase. Over and over we repeated the chant. Over and over our German friends began learning to repeat our words.
Needless to say, none of them understood what they were chanting. Heck, I still don’t have a clue as to the meaning, if there is one, of the senseless high school cheer.
John and I could tell that our German friends were serious about learning those words. In fact, they learned them quite rapidly.
It just so happened that all of them were soccer fans. John and I had accompanied our German friends to several soccer games involving First Futbol (soccer) Club Nuremberg, more commonly referred to simply as “1 FCN.” I’ve saved my very own “1 FCN” flag for a half-century.
Things got even crazier once our friends had mastered the cheer.
That weekend, Nuremburg was playing against perennial German soccer powerhouse “Bayern Munich.” Anyone who watches sports programs, even a little, will be familiar with that German soccer team. It’s still the perennial German champion.
That particular Sunday afternoon, however, Nuremberg put seven goals into the net, while Bayern Munich managed just three. Sixty-five thousand fans became a raucous bunch with every Nuremburg goal.
Suddenly, my friend Manfred looked at John and I and said, “It’s time.” We knew what he meant. Everyone, in unison, about 20 of us began chanting “Ish-Biddely-Oaten-Doten! Bo-Bo-Se-Deeton-Dotten! Hah-Cha-Rah-Cha-Ricky-Chicky-Rah-Rah! Sis-Boom-Bah! Sis-Boom-Bah! FC Nuremberg! Rah-Rah-Rah!”
As we chanted, one thing became obviously apparent. Although we were oblivious to our fun, others around us were dumbfounded. Most stared with open mouths, a look of astonishment on their faces as we all cheered in unison.
If anything, the camaraderie we shared with our new-found German friends deepened after we’d departed that afternoon.
Several more soccer games followed, as did many other weekend get-togethers. We became quite close and developed a friendship that has lasted for a half-century. I’ve lost all touch with my Army pal, John, but still hear regularly from German friends so far away.
The friendship didn’t start with a high school cheer with some inane words. But, I’ll never forget the time we taught the words to a group of Germans in 1967.
Bill Haglund is a retired writer for the Boone News-Republican and Dallas County News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.