Not quite "falcon awesome"

At first I thought it was falcon clever.

It was edgy, and I like that. I like things to cause a bit of a stir and those who know me would be hard pressed to find an ounce of prudishness, for better or for worse.

It was a bit risky, but, if it helped school spirit and boosted involvement, let’s give it a try, I thought! I could falcon support this.

However, of late I have become falcon concerned. The final game of the NCAA Division II West Regional tournament here at home was amazing. The crowd was alive, the stands were packed and the team played phenomenally. And they won! My hats off to them!

The stands were also filled with Western fans. They cheered and booed and heckled, just like us. They were mad at the referees, just like us. They wanted their team to win… just like us.

As I stood among the students, I heard many interesting chants. Sure to demoralize any NCAA athlete or man in stripes was the classic and always clever "you suck." There were also: "You’re blind, ref!"; "What game are you watching?"; "Airball!"; and so on. Good fun was had by all. Then I heard some interesting cheers filtering out of the crowd.

"Burn down Bellingham!" Ouch, that’s my home town, guys!

"FAL-CON AWE-SOME!" Ah, yes. The campaign chant was given new life when yelled by 500 strong.

"COA-CHES DAUGH-TER." Huh?

And, the piece de resistance: "GO HOME WESTERN!" A sparkling finish to a great game.

My long time friend, former roommate, best man at my wedding and fellow Western alumnus was also at the game sitting opposite the student section. He had brought several work friends who I don’t believe are Christians. I spoke with him following the exciting conclusion and he agreed at what a great game had taken place.

Then he asked me in an indirect critique, classic for him, "So what’s the deal with ‘falcon awesome?’"

I wasn’t quite sure what to say. He pointed out that when a whole mass of the crowd is shouting it in unison, the words take on a whole new meaning. And I can assure you, the meaning was not lost on Western’s fans.

I meekly replied, "Well, some of the students came up with it to get the school more excited about athletics and get people to the games."

"Wow," he said. "I was surprised to hear it. You would never hear that at a UW game. They’re all about class over there. They’d never let students do something like that."

What more could I tell him? Initially I thought, "Hey, you can’t judge us on that! We are Christians, and a silly chant doesn’t change that fact!" And I’m right. It doesn’t change that fact. We know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. However, we can do plenty to separate others from the love of God (whether this is one of those things, I don’t know. I am just engaging the question).

Now, this article, in itself, is a bit risky. I don’t want to side with anyone on this. Those of us on the one side may be saying, "Lighten up. It’s just a word. I’m tired of all this sensitivity, politically correct, perfect Christian image we have to portray all the time…" To some degree that’s right. "Falcon" is just a word. And those of us on the other side are telling our friends, "I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. What about our witness?" To some degree that’s right also. We should be concerned about our witness. But I want all of us to consider this issue thoughtfully before dismissing or heralding my points. Can we be edgy, raucous and fun without creating a questionable image? What do you think?

Rather than feeling exhilarated, I left the game discouraged. As faceless heads in the crowd, we can yell things we wouldn’t say to someone’s face, and we can take part in a collective experience where our responsibility is diffused to let out our aggression "without anyone getting hurt." We can hide in the mob and then not be held accountable for our behavior because no one can pin it on us: "I was just part of the crowd. Everyone was doing it. My credibility as a Christian is not in question!"

From what I have heard Western’s coach, Brad Jackson, and his son (remember "COA-CHES DAUGH-TER!"?) are Christian men, lovers of Christ. Likely, some players on Western’s team are not. Likely, there were fans in the audience visiting from Western who were not. I don’t know what they took from their experience at SPU after the game; some, likely, nothing but a discouraging playoff loss in a hostile gym — not unusual. Others, I am almost certain, left with questions of "What do SPU students represent?"

Now I have to be honest. I love the "Falcon Awesome" campaign for its spirit, energy and excitement — and for its edginess because to me, it’s just a word. However, I see that it conflicts with an identity that I long to promote more strongly, that of the life and love of Christ. I feel compelled to honor Christ first and let that dictate my school spirit. In that case, given the events of this last game, I do feel the need to raise critique about how we show our enthusiasm and appreciation for our school and the athletes that work so hard.

So where does that leave us?

We have a job to do. To honor God, to shine light, to support the (bleep) out of our athletes and demonstrate a school spirit without compromise because we are being watched, fairly or unfairly.

That’s the reality of life.

My challenge to you is this: show school spirit, honor others and our Father in heaven, without giving others the bird.

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Title: Not quite "falcon awesome" | Author: Kris Thomas | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 2006-04-26 | Internal ID: 5015