Chants at Sporting Events Create Unnecessary Division

SHS fans should heed a lesson from Lord of the Flies

Michael O’Connell, Editorial Editor

Socioeconomics has become an increasingly potent political weapon: Donald Trump led a rebellion against political elites all the way to a presidential victory, and Bernie Sanders seeks to drastically upset the status quo of wealth and class in America. Class consciousness has had the unprecedented power to motivate previously untapped wells of partisanship.  As social class moves to the forefront of political consideration, it also bleeds into more unexpected corners of our lives. Take, for example, the fans’ cheers and chants at recent boy’s basketball playoff games.

In a recent game against local rival Hingham, Scituate students chanted, “Daddy’s money!”  In the next round against Whitman-Hanson, the “Daddy’s Money!” chant changed direction, and in response, Scituate fans chanted, “Daddy’s welfare!”  Hooligan fan behavior is part and parcel with high stakes sporting events; for instance, you’d be hard-pressed to attend a game at most UK arenas without a few foul chants and jabs stirring up. Nevertheless, chants highlighting social class at a high school basketball game are something different.  

Use of these chants begs a simple question: Why do high school students use a town’s perceived social class as a weapon in their stadium rhetoric?  Moreso, why does punching up at Hingham feel so much different than punching down at Whitman-Hanson? The first question has a fairly obvious, albeit elaborate, answer.  

People are exceedingly self-conscious about class; for that reason, millions choose BMW over Toyota or Gucci over Old Navy–products made by these companies may provide the same service, but they are world’s apart in what they provide for a customer’s image.  The insecurity people feel about their socioeconomic position manifests itself in chants of “Daddy’s Welfare,” accompanied by the depressing desperation to inch just a little higher on the ladder.

The Whitman-Hanson chant tried to equate the prevalence of welfare recipients in the Whitman-Hanson district—an area only slightly less affluent than Scituate—with talent in basketball, but it backfired when Scituate lost by 14 points.  This false equivalency is the most important part of the story. It speaks to a generation of middle class (mostly) men raised by Reagan-loving fathers, who have turned the race tinged platitudinous criticisms of welfare made by that president and his administration into a muscly “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” Americana gospel.  In their mind, only a dumb, lazy person could be on welfare. Or apparently bad basketball players, too.

This is not to say, however, that Scituate High School students only have a problem with people on welfare, because they were just as willing to latch onto class when playing against Hingham. It’s confusing that students feel empowered both in a proletariat chant of “Daddy’s money” and a bourgeoisie chant of, “Daddy’s welfare,” but the former seems to feel less mean spirited.  

Despite being favored on the court, Scituate’s win against Hingham was still an underdog victory. Hingham fans may have bigger houses and fatter wallets, but Scituate finished with more points on the board. If chanting “Daddy’s welfare” was a way to climb up the ladder, then “Daddy’s money” is a way to pull someone down the ladder.  It doesn’t feel mean to chant “Daddy’s money,” because the insult is perceived to be about jealousy, whereas “Daddy’s welfare” is an insult that comes from abhorrence.  

There is something to be said about the effect these chants can have. There are people living in Scituate and students attending Scituate High School who utilize government assistance, and chants like this make them question their self-worth and identity. Furthermore, these chants dilute the quality of the game. If fans are still determined to use arbitrary characteristics to insult opponents, other less pernicious ones exist.  

As Sanders and Trump’s popular appeal demonstrates, the vast majority of Americans are fed up with the establishment elites and are chomping at the bit to see their demise.  However, if the 99% truly want to upend the control of the 1%, solidarity must first develop. At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, the 1% relish in chants of “Daddy’s money,” and “Daddy’s welfare” because infighting at the bottom consolidates their hold at the top. Furthermore, it demonstrates the central illusion of class mobility in America: the belief that an ascent to the top is purely a mechanic of persistent subordination.

Students at SHS get the chance to read the classic story of juvenile instincts run amok in Lord of the Flies. The same inclinations and commentary captured in William Golding’s novel are evident in the game day chants: This iconic story warns of the dangers of mob mentality and the challenges of remaining virtuous in a compromising world. Scituate fans can do better than chanting about their opponents’ social class at sporting events. In fact, many students are too ignorant to understand any of the implications of socioeconomics in America–or they are too privileged to care. Nevertheless, all students know repeating these chants will create division where it does not need to exist.