Ask Abe: The Cheer

Rose S. ’13

When did “the Cheer” start? (You know the one I mean.)

Abe

It’s not entirely clear, but the Cheer has probably been around for about 40 years. The Cheer, in which students in opposing sections of Camp Randall Stadium explore their command of vocabulary by chanting alternating sentences, one of which contains a certain verb and the other a certain noun, is a parody of sorts on an old series of Miller Lite television commercials. In the beer ads, various celebrities and sports stars argued over the merits of Miller Lite. “Tastes great,” shouted one (implausibly), while the other countered, “Less filling.” Each side repeated its claim with rising volume and vigor until the scene escalated into a brawl. The first ad in this series ran in 1974, and variations continued into the 2000s. Ad Age listed “Tastes great/Less filling” eighth out of history’s 100 most effective ad campaigns. Somewhere early in this run, UW students decided that the proper argument wasn’t whether a low-calorie beer tasted great or filled less but which of two obscene statements ought to be chanted louder — one in the imperative, the other a subjunctive. To the despair of many administrators, parents, and fans, the Cheer is now as venerable as many other UW traditions, in age if not in esteem.