- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Want to see something awesome, something that reaffirms your love in college basketball -- not in the game itself, so much, but in what it means to its most dedicated fans? Of course you do.
Here's what you do: Type "youtube.com" into your web browser. Enter the search term "I believe that we will win." Click on the second video. Watch:
Yes, that's "I believe that we will win," the Utah State student section's pregame chant. I've seen it before, but never in such high video quality, not until the tremendous MileHighMids passed it along on Twitter. It's everything a basketball chant should be: Organized, direct, supportive, intimidating and not the least bit hokey. It's not cocky, either; when I hear "believe," I hear less expectation than faith. That's what sports fandom is. It's a form of faith.
To be honest, I think our English neighbors tend to outdo us when it comes to chants and songs; we yell "DE-FENSE," they sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." But I'm not sure I've heard a chant this good in the last five years. I'm all goosebumps. I could watch it 10 times. (Correction: I have watched it 10 times. I could watch it 10 more.)
Tipster Mids was curious: Is this chant spreading, "Zombie Nation"-like, across the country? Thus far, the YouTube evidence is slim. The majority of the videos on YouTube are of Utah State's student section; some are higher quality than others, but all of them are impressive. There are a few clips of San Diego State's "The Show" student section organizing the chant last year. There is one clip of Harvard students doing the same -- be sure to wait for the guy dancing at the :19 second mark. And New York Red Bulls fans -- come on you, Red Bulls! -- have given it a decided football flair. (It does sound soccer-y, doesn't it?)
Utah State has been doing this chant for years, so I assumed they invented it. Turns out, that's not the case. According to a Dec. 6, 2003 story in the Washington Post, the chant originated at a Navy football game, when Navy -- in one of their first promising seasons in decades -- was trailing No. 25-ranked Air Force 28-25 in the final minutes:
In October, the Midshipmen were in the last minutes of a 28-25 win over Air Force, then ranked No. 25. Navy hadn't beaten a ranked opponent in 18 years -- longer than some Mids had been alive. Yet some in the Brigade, which stands throughout every game, began jumping up and down at FedEx Field. "I," they chanted softly, then louder, "I believe . . ."
Sources say a group of Navy lacrosse players started the ruckus, though you can't be sure because urban legends are quickly springing up around Johnson's 7-4 team.
"I believe that," they yelled as more joined in. "I believe that we . . ." Until finally, the whole Brigade, more than 2,000 strong, was bounding up and down, screaming, "I believe that we will. ... I believe that we will win!"
Just when you think this chant can't possibly get any cooler, you go and learn something like this. It's been eight years in the making -- maybe longer, but the first T-shirt sale reference at Navy came in 2003, too -- but "I believe that we will win" finally seems to be entering the college basketball mainstream.
It may do so solely as a mid-major rallying cry: The Mid Majority's Kyle Whelliston added the words to his masthead this season to commemorate the start of a new, collectively driven era of coverage at the site. (Whelliston is on sabbatical, but his readers are attempting to travel to 800 games as a group, and the early results have produced some fantastic writing).
Or maybe "I believe that we will win" will really sweep the nation the way Zombie Nation once did, infecting student sections at schools both large and small. As much as fans from Navy or Utah State may want to preserve the unique nature of the chant -- and as much as the chant feels like it should be reserved for the underdog -- I ... I believe ... I believe that ... I believe that I wouldn't have any problem with that. Would you?
Want to see something awesome, something that reaffirms your love in college basketball -- not in the game itself, so much, but in what it means to its most dedicated fans?