“Charge!” cheer: Gopher ties?

by Lindsay Guentzel

As the clock ticked towards halftime, things didnâÄôt look good for the struggling Minnesota football team. The GophersâÄîwho went 1-8 the year beforeâÄîwere losing the last game of the 1959 season to Big Ten rival Wisconsin and were about to end the year with a 2-7 record. University alumnus Steve Nelson remembers the season well. From his place just off the field as the Gophers cheerleading captain, Nelson could see the desperation on the faces of the dejected Minnesota fans that crowded Memorial Stadium. He knew something had to be done. In a moment of uninhibited spontaneity, Nelson bounded up to the somber fans, put his megaphone to his lips, and yelled out what would become one of the most recognized cheers in sports history. âÄúDa-nuh-na-nuh-na-nuhâĦ. CHARGE!âÄù In that brief moment, history had been made. Or so Nelson says. Like any well-rehearsed story, NelsonâÄôs tall-tale has its doubters. âÄúWe were going up on a fishing trip and he started telling us this story about this cheer he had created,âÄù his son and fellow University alumnus Doug Nelson said. âÄúI said, âÄòThere is no way!âÄôâÄù The Nelson familyâÄîwith three generations along on the fishing tripâÄîcontinued to argue over the controversial cheer before the elder Nelson finally stormed off to bed. âÄúI thought if he went to bed mad, maybe itâÄôs true,âÄù Doug Nelson said. It would seem fitting for the cheer to have been started at the University, the birthplace of cheerleading. The concept of cheerleading was introduced in 1898 by student Johnny Campbell whoâÄîafter three consecutives lossesâÄîcame up with a plan to help stir up some support for the struggling football team. His plan was put into affect against Northwestern on Nov. 12, 1989 when he led organized cheers in the stands with his fellow âÄòyell-leaders.âÄô The Gophers went on to a 17-6 victory , fans deeming Campbell the reason for the teamâÄôs success. Doug Nelson said it was his dadâÄôs deep-roots in cheerleading history and enduring school spirit that led him to believe the story at first. âÄúThe whole reason I went to Minnesota was because he did,âÄù he said. âÄúMaroon and gold is more in our blood than purple and gold. I remember football Saturdays raking leaves with the Gopher games on the radio.âÄù He added: âÄúThereâÄôs no doubt that he did the cheer. The thing is, he didnâÄôt create it.âÄù If you get Nelson alone, heâÄôll admit he first heard the cheer at a local hockey game before using it at the Gopher football games. Google it and youâÄôll find out the Houston Astros claim to have started it, leading to the development of their mascot Chester Charge. Regardless, the origin of the cheer remains unclear and Doug Nelson is perfectly okay with his dadâÄôs fishermanâÄôs tale. âÄúThatâÄôs our history,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs stories like this that give spice to life.âÄù