What do maritime things have to do with horses?

Saturday night, I attended the Western Michigan Broncos home opener against Nicholls State. While much has been written already about the Broncos’ sub-par performance against a Football Championship Subdivision school that went 1-10 each of the previous two seasons, I couldn’t help but be mystified at a couple of the new traditions introduced by new coach P.J. Fleck. While it remains to be seen if they will have any impact on the rest of the season, the product on the field needs a bit of work if they are to pick up a win given their tough schedule.

“Row the Boat”

The befuddlement actually started last weekend when I saw a couple friends use the hashtag #rowtheboat on social media posts in relation to the game against Michigan State. It was not something they used in any posts related to Bronco football in prior seasons, so naturally I wanted to ask one of them where the hell it came from. There’s nothing inherent in Western Michigan University’s history about boating or rowing. When I saw official WMU accounts using the hashtag, I knew then it was more than just a whim of a few people.

Eventually I found the video which highlights all these new traditions, so now I know the basis. But it still feels like an odd metaphor for a school not known for maritime activities or mascots. If this were Lake Superior State University, it would certainly fit better. While the mantra of “Row the Boat” isn’t bad, I’m having a hard time getting behind it right away.

The in-game DJ

If you watched the video linked in the previous paragraph, you would’ve seen that a DJ is now being used to complement the band. While that itself doesn’t bother me, the use of certain songs in certain situations started to unnerve me. First off, using “Chelsea Dagger” after touchdowns is a turn-off for me, as it’s the song used after goals scored by the Chicago Blackhawks, bitter rival to my Detroit Red Wings. Second, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is a much-liked song, but it can get annoying when used on every defensive third down. The sound system at Waldo Stadium also seems to mute the sound of the bells. Perhaps the use of other songs which seek to exemplify the peril of third down could be rotated.


Traditions are born out of an organization’s rich history. While I have no ill will towards Mr. Fleck or what he wants to bring to the Bronco football program, I can’t help but wonder just how “Row the Boat” or any of the new things tie-in to Western Michigan’s history. He certainly is passionate about getting the students engaged, and they seem to want to engage him. And while two games certainly aren’t enough to properly assess his coaching ability, if what he’s done to get more support for the team works, at least they’ll have a passionate fanbase, win or lose. As a sidenote, it was interesting to learn while I was typing this entry that Fleck is nearly three months younger than I am (the first Football Bowl Subdivision head coach born in the 1980s). Whether you like it or not, the next generation of coaching has arrived.


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