Kirby: University of Utah fight song may be better left behind

By Robert Kirby

Tribune Columnist

Published: April 14, 2014 06:13AM
Updated: April 13, 2014 10:34PM
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Robert Kirby, Tribune columnist

Entirely against my will, my family moved to Utah from California in 1970. I was forced to finish an abysmal formal education at Skyline High School.

Skyline was deep in the Reign of Schmidt that year. Coach Ken Schmidt had taken the football team to the state championship the previous year and would do it again my final year ... as well as three more times.

I only know this about Ken because we were inducted into the Skyline High School Hall of Fame on the same evening in 2004. The irony of simultaneously honoring a brilliant football coach and an idiot newspaper columnist still makes me smile.

All prior connection to Ken was the terror my friends and I experienced at the idea of him catching us smoking under the bleachers, a condition known among us as being scared “Schmidtless.”

I went to one football game that year but only because a friend dragged me to it. Skyline was playing West High that day. My friend was herbally challenged and wouldn’t stop cheering for the Eagles — on the Panther side of the field.

Several displeased West cretins soon announced their intention to follow us into the parking lot to settle some pointless school score.

“We’re going to kick your asses because Skyline sucks!”

Scared, I said the first thing that came into my head: “Hey, man. SCHOOL sucks.”

There was no arguing with that, and they laughed. It remains one of the few times my poor impulse control has actually saved my life.

I told you that to tell you this. I can’t remember a single line of any Skyline school song, not even the melody. I have a vague recollection of something to do with beagles.

The lines to a West High rally song stick in my head, though. I probably keep it there because it helps put into perspective the recent controversy over the University of Utah’s fight song, “Utah Man.”

Some say the song, written a long time ago, is demeaning and even exclusionary to women. Others love the song for tradition’s sake.

Back in the day (early 1900s), West High was Salt Lake High School. They had a lot of “vum” and “veevo” and “vivo.” It was important school-spirit stuff.

“With a veevo! With a vivo!

With a veevo, vivo, vum,

Cannibals! Cannibals! Sis, boom-bah,

Salt Lake High School, Rah! Rah! Rah!

I have no idea why that was worth yelling during football games. Maybe you had to be there for it to mean something.

I do have a pretty good idea about what comes next. It’s not really a song but rather one of the fight “yells” from the 1910 Salt Lake High School “Red & Black” yearbook.

If you’re one of those people who think tradition shouldn’t bow to change, you’d have a harder time yelling this at a West High football game today:

“Jupiter this, Jupiter that;

“Jupiter in a cake of fat.

Eat the meat, chew the gristle,

That will make a [N-word] whistle!”

Future church, civic and political leaders once brainlessly yelled this spirit stuff at school events. No one but a racist would dream of doing it today, which perhaps shows just how far we’ve come with our hallowed traditions.

Some things are better left behind. But since I felt the same way about school in general, I could be wrong.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.