“Brek-ek-ek-ex, ko-ax, ko-ax!”
Unless you’re a classics major or an alum from before the ’60s, you may have no idea where these strange sounds come from. Do “ribbit” and “croak” ring a bell? What about something called the “Long Cheer?” Well, the sounds come from a chorus of Frogs in Aristophanes’ play of the same name — and they just happened to be the start of an old Yale chant shouted out many years ago at the Bowl.
Leave it to old Yalies to have fun with their Greek homework and turn it into a rousing source of commonality.
While we certainly still have some amount of pride for Yale, our fading memories of old traditions such as the “Long Cheer” point to a greater concern for our community. We don’t share as much joy in celebrating “Yale” as an entity, as students used to do years ago, when sports chants like “Boola boola” were posted on a tree outside the Vanderbilt courtyard for everyone to learn before athletic events.
Of course, this trend makes sense when we consider Yale’s approach to community. For a rare few months after we have been accepted to Yale but haven’t yet been sorted into our residential colleges, our pride can only be directed at the University. But soon, we are fragmented into particular communities. This can be wonderful; my closest friends are in my college or from the activities or academic subjects I’m involved in. But sometimes we are left with an unfortunate residual apathy for Yale as a whole.
The Game is a chance for Yalies to reflect on what it means to take pride in — and be grateful for — our community at large. Not just to show the usual pride for our residential college, student organizations, our major or our friends, but to throw ourselves into a rare show of unified happiness for Yale, the University.
Ask any current Yalie what their favorite part about Yale is and, without hesitation, most students will reply: the people. Yet when asked about Yale, the institution, most will say, “I love it, but …” following with a series of critiques about areas in which the University is “not doing enough.” But our disappointment in particulars usually only amount to misguided protests and idiotic columns. A better and healthier mentality for all of us, especially this weekend, is to think outside of ourselves. In 1701, Yale was founded in order to add “Lux” to Harvard’s failing “Veritas” — it is in our whole community where we should feel that light most strongly.
Now, I know I should keep things in perspective. I went to a high school with lots of pride — we were known for our pep rallies and marching band. Our football games were filled with a pulsing energy from the crowd. When I came to Yale, I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed. “Yale Up” was a sad excuse for an introduction to Yale spirit, and The Game two years ago felt a bit deflated; unsurprisingly, we lost. But my sophomore year was different — the energy was palpable on our side in Harvard’s stadium. We had nothing to lose and we had a great time. We cheered for Yale as one, we forgot our complaints, we sewed our fragments and we threw ourselves into support behind what we all as students can share — pride for the place we will someday call our alma mater.
With hope, and thanks to our football players’ tremendous efforts on the field, our energy and pride will carry us to a decisive win against Harvard and sole possession of the Ivy League title. But more than that, maybe it will renew a universal sense of pride in us all.
Last family weekend, so many groups got together to show off Yale at its best, and that will happen again this weekend. We will showcase our best traditions and our best selves and realize, for a moment, that Yale, the institution we critique so frequently and forcefully, is really made up of us. Yale is really just a collection of Yalies, past, present and future.
So when you start to think, “I love Yale, but …” I suggest following with a loud, proud, “Brek-ek-ek-ex, ko-ax, ko-ax!” The mentality of this silly but smart cheer, which purportedly “inspired the universal nonsense words of cheers all over the country,” is what makes us, above all, forever better than Harvard. Sometimes, our finest moments come from forgetting our particular worries and embracing a silly, passionate sense of pride in the place that will, inevitably, be our key to the world.
Let’s think outside ourselves. Let’s practice the art of the Boola. And above all, let’s beat Harvard.
Leland Stange is a junior in Ezra Stiles College. His column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .