Traditions are an odd thing to pin down. They exist to bring people together whether it is formal or informal. Sometimes they can be extremely meaningful. Other times they’re downright bizarre, but you hold onto them because they’re yours.
In the world of sports, traditions can be downright bizarre. Those types of traditions make grown men and women act like complete lunatics for a few hours. And not only it is accepted, but it’s also encouraged. To be a fan of the team, you almost have to express yourself fandom through these acts.
I didn’t graduate from the University of Notre Dame, but over the past 10 years I’ve become a fan of the football team through two of my best friends who went there. Very early on, I was told I had to uphold certain traditions if I wanted to call myself a fan. Since I didn’t go to a school with a football team (or any nationally ranked team for that matter) the whole thing was completely foreign to me.
Since becoming a fan of the Irish, I’ve witnessed many of these during the numerous games I’ve attended over the years: the band playing “The 1812 Overture” at the end of each 3rd quarter, students lifting other their friends into the air mimicking push-ups after the Irish score (I’ve always wanted to do it but never have) and the elongated yelling of “Goooooooooooo Irish” at the beginning of each game just to name a few.
Those of course, school traditions – the ones that almost everyone knows. Many fans have their own traditions that take part in during game weekends. Among my Domer friends, this consisted of going to a dive-bar in South Bend on game weekends. During the week it’s a bar for locals, but on weekends it is turned into an over-crowded spot known for its mass quantities of Long Island Iced Teas. The music that blared mostly relied on tried and true favorites of the football crowd. A good chunk of the songs didn’t date past 1990.
One of the biggest reactions comes from Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down” from Born in the U.S.A. Bruce Springsteen doesn’t come to most people’s mind when they think of dancing (though his music is perfect for tailgating and you hear it from many cars) but for whatever reason, “I’m Goin’ Down” as always elicited an excitement from the crowd.
The Boss by himself is an odd choice for sure, but “I’m Goin’ Down” is even stranger. It’s not one of his most well known songs. It’s tucked away on Born in the U.S.A. behind the numerous other hits from that album. It’s like a lot of the other songs on Born in the U.S.A.: a guitar oriented pop song that sounds like fun on the surface, but is actually pretty bitter. All the elements of classic E-Street from that era are in place: strong melody, booming drums from Max Weinberg and a classic Clarence Clemons saxophone solo.
But still, the first time you hear you think it’s a throwaway, considering Springsteen’s standards. Everything seems to be in place, but it’s lacking something that keeps it from becoming an absolute classic. Springsteen himself seems to have forgotten about the song. He played it on the Born in the U.S.A. Tour sporadically, and it went dormant for almost 25 years. It was finally revived in 2009 and continues to pop up occasionally on The Wrecking Ball Tour.
The fact that “I’m Goin’ Down” seems to have been largely forgotten by Springsteen himself and rarely mentioned in critical circles, makes it all the more special during game weekends. Springsteen is known for being inclusive in his songs – that’s a big reason why he has such a devoted following. But on fall weekends, “I’m Goin’ Down” belongs to fans of the Irish.