It was a cool, crisp November night in 2017 as the LSU and Texas A&M football teams took the field in Tiger Stadium.
The crowd was impressive considering many were still enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday at home with their families, but there were enough empty seats in the student section to still notice a less-than-sellout attendance. These empty seats gradually became vacant sections as the Tigers began to put the finishing touches on what would be a 45-21 victory against the Aggies.
The ear-piercing noise of the fans that make the stadium famous was traded for the sound of constant murmur as the remaining students began to casually converse amongst themselves.
Then, excitement began to build.
Rumors swirled around the pantheon of concrete and steel as if carried by the fall breeze itself. Odell Beckham Jr. was in attendance at this particular game, and he was spotted talking with the director of the Golden Band from Tigerland. Could it be? Would the students’ wildest dreams come true? As time ticked away from the game clock, familiar notes spilled out of the band’s brass instruments.
The near-empty student section burst into a roar that echoed into the Louisiana night. The song that everyone considered to be as gone as the Dodo bird was back from extinction.
For the first time since 2013, the band was playing “Neck” in Tiger Stadium, thanks to some arm twisting from Beckham Jr.
“Neck” has a complicated history at LSU. It was a song that was, at one time, as steeped in tradition as the “LSU Fight Song” or “Tiger Rag.” The stadium would erupt when the band played “Neck,” and the song could turn the dullest point in the game into an exciting moment.
As time went on, students unfortunately decided to add their own unique lyrics to the tune. Each time the band played the song, a chant not so safe for work would reverberate throughout the stadium and into the living rooms of families around the country tuned in for a national broadcast.
Embarrassed by the vulgarity of the student section, the school decided to ban “Neck” in 2010 before attempting to revive it in 2013.
This attempt to bring back tradition proved to be futile as students continued to sing their own, far-from-clean version of the song.
Although many believe “Neck” is gone for good, students still plead with the band to play it and have even added their inappropriate lyrics to other songs the band plays. Recently, “Neck” has returned as a topic of popular discussion after coach Ed Orgeron was asked if he thought the band should bring the song back.
Orgeron answered diplomatically, saying that he enjoyed the song but not the lyrics, and that, at the end of the day, what the band chooses to play is none of his business.
As a student, I’ve thought diligently about where I stand on the controversy, and I believe I’ve arrived at a solution that will be palatable to my peers without disqualifying myself from holding public office in the future.
While it should go without saying that the improvised lyrics to “Neck” are indefensible, I, like Orgeron, love the tune of the song and think it should be played for tradition’s sake. Herein lies the compromise.
Recently, students have been chastised by the school and alumni for leaving games early. Early departure has become a serious problem across the country in college football, and there has been no legitimate solution advanced on the issue.
However, LSU could give students incentive to stay until the fourth quarter by choosing one designated time in that quarter to play “Neck.” School officials could then relay that time to whichever station is broadcasting the game, so the network would know when to cut to commercial or mute the crowd microphones.
This way, LSU avoids a fine and embarrassment while the band keeps a worthwhile tradition alive.
Sure, it’s not a perfect solution. It’s unfortunate that kids would do something stupid like adding vulgar lyrics to a great song. I’m also sure that as my classmates look back, they’ll be a little embarrassed that they participated in the inappropriate twist of lyrics. I’m also sure that every single adult has looked back on something they did as a kid, especially in their college years, and cringed a bit. It’s part of being a kid.
As long as these cringe-inducing moments in our youth don’t include participating in illegal activities or harming other people, acting like a fool is synonymous with being a kid. Who knows? Maybe there will be a point in time when the student body matures sooner rather than later. A moment when the kids realize that the lyrics aren’t as humorous as they thought and reflect poorly on their university’s reputation if heard by a national audience.
You don’t reach that level of adulthood by living in a bubble, though. Sometimes you have to make harmless mistakes to learn how to be a better person. Sometimes, you just have to let the band play “Neck.”