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A fight song is a song associated with a specific sports team, sung by fans to express solidarity and get excited about sports matches. Fight songs are also used to rally crowds at sports events, and the term is used by extension to refer to any song used to whip up or excite a crowd. While the term is American in origin, the practice can be seen around the world, with other countries using terms like “team song” or “sports anthem” to refer to a fight song.
Fight songs can be found at all levels of athletic competition, from Little League to professional teams. College athletic teams usually use a fight song associated with their institution as a whole, so the same fight song will be heard at basketball meets, football games, and so forth. Other fight songs are linked to a specific team, rather than a larger organization.
A typical fight song is very easy to learn, with basic rhyming lyrics and a simple beat. Spectators at a sport may spontaneously burst into song, or they may be led by cheerleaders and bands. Fight songs are also often played when teams take the field or score points so that fans can express their enthusiasm. The mascot of the team may also be referenced in the fight song, with team mascots dancing along when they hear the fight song being performed. Some fight songs reference specific rivals: the United States Navy fight song, for example, includes a section on sinking the Army.
According to Merriam-Webster, the use of the term “fight song” dates to 1954, although athletic teams certainly had theme songs and anthems before this period. Fight songs serve to unite a crowd of fans across social, color, religious, and class barriers, allowing them to express solidarity with their teams and with each other. Universities and colleges often use fight songs at student rallies, whether or not athletic teams are present, to encourage students to feel like part of a larger whole.
The fight song is closely related to the stadium anthem. Stadium anthems are generic songs played over stadium loudspeakers to get spectators enthused. Many stadium anthems reference their home teams or include pieces of fight songs along with pop music, while others include pieces of iconic music which all fans recognize and associate with sporting events.
There's a scene in the 1973 Walt Disney cartoon "Robin Hood" where chaos erupts after the archery tournament and several college fight songs play as the background music. My dad could name them all. If I remember correctly, Notre Dame's fight song is played, along with "On, Wisconsin!"
It's always fun to see that sequence and try to remember all the fight songs they play.
The University of Alabama had a fight song -- and called it that -- by 1926. That's when the school's official fight song, "Yea Alabama!" was chosen as the fight song and has been ever since. So, while the term "fight song" might have only been in the dictionary since the 50s, it's been in the common vocabulary for a lot longer.
Auburn University adopted its current fight song, "War Eagle," in 1955, but did have an official fight song before then.
Most of the universities with long football traditions have had fight songs since the early part of the 20th century.
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