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Sunday, August 28, 2016

NPS 100

This year - and specifically, this week, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. Admittedly, this is an interest of mine that stretches outside the normal boundaries of sports, marching/athletic music, and tailgating on which 80 Minutes typically focuses, but it doesn't require an HBCU drum major's flexibility to tie marching music and even sports back to America's Best Idea.

I live in Greensboro, NC, and I've often said this city is at its peak in mid-March, when the ACC basketball tournament is taking place across town from the reenactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. It was at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park - where I made this weekend's centennial pilgrimage - that I first learned the ACC-ubiquitous *dut diggy dut dut, dut diggy dut dut, dut!* Go [Team Name] is actually based in a Revolutionary War-era snare call for attack.

Military music is the most obvious point of connection with the National Park Service units. The Marine Band has regular summer missions on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The Navy Band was involved in the rededication of the the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina, and each of the premier ensembles have a role in military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. At Arlington and other NPS units where Taps is sounded, I'm reminded of my own connection to the bugle call, as my college pep band director is its foremost authority.

Happy anniversary, NPS!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Band on the Road Project 2016

(Less talk, more database? Here you go.)

You love your team. You love them more with a soundtrack.

For some, the series needs no introduction. Band on the Road, now in its sixth year, documents marching band travel to away and neutral site games over the course of the season. As in any year, the database is completely open source, so while I've laid the groundwork based on bands' public schedules, anyone with insider information should feel free to add any travel that is missing.

Last year, the database underwent a pretty big change, and It's stayed the course for 2016. Where there were once separate lists for each game week, there is now one list, in calendar format. I've stuck to the Power 5 leagues, plus Power 5 adjacents Notre Dame and BYU, again out of scope, not slight. And I've included all HBCU classics, regardless of division, where once I had simply included the Division I HBCUs.

Without further ado...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cooking with Gas

The new grill and its majestic floral backdrop.
I don't know if it was low cost of entry, an innate, caveman instinct in my brainstem towards building a fire, or really effective marketing from Kingsford, but I've always considered myself a charcoal griller. My tailgate lot start began with with a fold out Wal-Mart unit that set me back just a couple of Hamiltons, but Old Faithful was put out to pasture after over a decade of use a few months ago, having been replaced two years ago by a walkabout propane model just in time for tailgating DCI Championships in 2014. That one became the home grill for a bit after my home charcoal model didn't make the move a year ago. But now, the beaut you see here is the new home model.

Purchased this summer and up and kicking in time for a Fourth of July party, I've since become decently proficient, if I do say so myself. I actually gave it a trial run before having folks over for the 4th; after all, with limited gas experience, I had to make sure I knew what I was doing. Turns out I had nothing to worry about; if anything, I took a step down in difficulty switching to propane. While I've often been the sort to fire up the grill frequently, there's something to be said for the easy on, easy off of gas. I'm not hauling this bad boy to the tailgate lot anytime soon, but it'll be the face of homegating from here on out.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Tale of Two Shows

I realize a week is a lot of time to wait for a drum corps post. By now, the summer tour has wended  its way far from my southern encounter, inching ever closer to next weekend's finals in Indianapolis. But a week ago, on the Sunday and Monday that flanked the July-August threshold, I got out of the summer's relative drum corps radio silence on my part and into a couple of shows in North Carolina and Virginia.

I had opined philosophically - on multiple occasions - about how Wake Forest's BB&T Field was the ideal location for NightBEAT, but hadn't fully experienced it in reality until a week ago. As previously stated, there is a formidable case for leaving the event in Winston full time. One of the first things I noticed this year - which may have been in place last year, but our schedule kept us from realizing - is that NightBEAT is far more of an event in Winston-Salem than it is in Charlotte. It's a similar argument to keeping the ACC men's basketball tournament in Greensboro instead of larger metros: While events can get swallowed up in larger cities, the smaller ones can truly roll out the red carpet. In Charlotte, the event wasn't even in the area's premier stadium, while it certainly is in Winston (sorry, Bowman Gray). Heading west on I-40 into Winston, highway display signs guided "event traffic" along their way. I even wondered aloud for a moment of we were headed to the "event" of which they spoke, having never received such guidance in Charlotte, and it quickly became evident that we were.


The CrownEVENTS team has never skimped on making sure this was not just a drum corps show, but an event. This year was no exception: The Voice's Katie Basden provided pre-show entertainment, the Commandant's Own Marine Drum and Bugle Corps returned in exhibition, and the show featured a flyover - reportedly the first in DCI history - from the Bandit Flight Team from Raleigh. As a North Carolinian of over a decade, this is where I proudly puff out my chest and note "First in Flight". Wake Forest's stadium has a jumbotron; I haven't been in a non-finals show with one since 2004-05 in the Citrus Bowl, and I don't recall that having been used for commercials, previews, and different angles on the corps for those who chose to look. We were seated at about the 2 yard line on side 2; until the kids are older and can sit more still, we opt for the cheap seats. In ACC parlance, we made it through a Notre Dame conference football schedule - just five of the eight corps - before the heavens opened with a rainstorm that ultimately called the show. While we missed Crown, the Cadets, and Blue Devils, we did get to catch this year's conversation piece and current clubhouse leader, the Bluecoats.

The next night, I was a single rider, driving solo up the road to Salem, VA for the Summer Music Games of Southwest Virginia. The two stadiums are night and day: NightBEAT took place in the fairly recently renovated stadium of a Power 5 team in an urban area; the Salem show was in a stadium most often used for high school football nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I've made the trip a few times, and Salem Football Stadium has long been one of my favorite places to watch drum corps for the scenery alone. It's also often been my chance to catch DCI's mid-majors - while I'm certainly not lamenting having a Tour of Champions show in my relative backyard, Salem's always been a chance to see what else the summer has to offer. True to form, this year's show only featured the Cavaliers of the G7 corps, while treating me to West Coast road warriors in the Mandarins and Oregon Crusaders, as well as the Blue Knights, Crossmen, Jersey Surf, and Spirit of Atlanta. I think between two nights, I might have caught every cymbal line marching DCI this summer: Santa Clara and Madison on Sunday, and Jersey Surf, Mandarins, Spirit, Oregon, and Crossmen on Monday. As a crash squad enthusiast, seven out of eleven distinct corps is not a bad haul.

I realized that before Sunday's show I had gone over a year without seeing an actual field show: With only lots and practice last DCI season and the anomaly of no live football games last season, I hadn't seen a band/corps perform a full show in uniform since last year's Crown Preview.

Remind me not to let that happen ever again.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Here We Go Again...

As a USF alumnus, I've always felt a certain kinship with the University of Houston.

This may sound like convenient, revisionist history, but let me explain. Over a decade ago, when preparing to graduate from grad school at USF, Houston was a school (among many others) I considered, and interviewed with at a conference. When doing my research, quite a few things stood out to me. Geographically, both UH and USF are large schools in major metropolitan areas that sit a bay away from the Gulf of Mexico. Each is a multi-campus system with a Research 1 main campus. Their home states are the second- and third-largest in the US, by population. Both states are unequivocally considered football powerhouses.  Both schools sit in the next tier of state schools with a pair of vaunted state football programs and a heavy hitting private school or two. We were conferencemates in Conference USA, and are once again in the American.

As the Big 12 once again kicks the tires on realignment, there's another commonality in which I'm interested: Leadership. Long considered a longshot because of Big 12 saturation in the state already, the University of Houston is emerging as a frontrunner, with support coming most notably from Austin - both the state house and the flagship university (and Big 12 800 pound gorilla) located there. How does this relate to USF? Houston's president, Dr. Renu Khator cut her academic teeth at USF, spending 22 years there before taking her current post at Houston. During my time at USF, Dr. Khator became the interim and ultimately permanent provost and senior vice president, and while serving in the role, helped USF into its previous major conference step up: The move to the Big East in 2005. It's reasonable - likely, even - to assume that she played a big role in ushering in the change and in doing so, she worked alongside USF's then- and current president, Dr. Judy Genshaft. While I don't know what their relationship is, I would imagine that anything other than abject bad blood would leave Khator with a favorable impression of her former school and her presidential colleague.

Every step of realignment to date has shown that it's far less about things like academic ranking and university prestige and more about media markets and network dollars. Still, USF stacks favorably on all of these metrics, and having a friendly face after the same goal can't hurt. Ultimately, university presidents cast the votes, and while it's true that Houston isn't yet in and thus doesn't have an official vote or voice, I would imagine that if they're a serious candidate, their opinion may be valued. While the academic portion is often lip service in realignment, it's worth noting that USF was recently designated an "emerging preeminent" within the state of Florida, continuing to carry the baton passed by Khator in her days as chief academic officer. While USF hasn't been engaged in the open lobbying some other potential candidates have been, those in the know will note that real Gs move in silence, and leveraging such a relationship would certainly be a strong behind-the-scenes move.

My read? If we're truly cranking the realignment wheel once again, USF's fate remains intertwined with Central Florida's. If the Big 12 expands to 12, there's a good chance that USF gets left out in the cold, pairing UH for a top independent in BYU or a closer-to-the-footprint Memphis or Cincinnati. If they go to 14 - where currently, every other Power 5 league except the Pac-12 sits - I think USF and C. Florida get the call.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Flam

Just two quick hits for today:
-My attempt to bring Scouts Honor to the Triad has unceremoniously faded into oblivion; the deadline for reaching a critical mass of reserved tickets has passed, and I missed the mark. At the risk of sounding like the losing team's postgame interview, I didn't hustle hard enough, I missed some opportunities, and at the end of the day, I couldn't get it done. That said, I still believe in the film and intend to see it; if you feel the same way, it's now available on home DVD and Blu-Ray.
-I'm re-reading Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer by Warren St. John this college football preseason. The book spends a season amongst the RVs that follow the Alabama Crimson Tide throughout a typical football season. I've been known to revisit my favorite college football escapism before the season before - see also Clay Travis' Dixieland Delight - but a decade or more after my first read (if I recall, I read it after grad school but prior to moving to Greensboro), I've got a more mature sports fan palate and a current fascination with RVing, so I look forward to enjoying it all over again.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Fundraising for FREE

Photo courtesy of DCI.org
A special needs drum corps has been invited to perform during DCI Championship weekend, and they need your help.

The FREE Players Drum Corps is an Old Bethpage, NY-based ensemble that emerged in 2010 from the Family Residences and Essential Enterprises (FREE) Inc. Theatre Arts Day Program, which serves individuals with intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and traumatic brain injury. Already, the FREE Player Drum Corps has put its stamp on the marching arts world, having performed at DCI's Eastern Classic in Allentown and WGI's World Championships in Dayton. As they prepare to make a 2018 appearance in Indianapolis, they need help with the cost to get them there. If it's in your means, please consider helping them out on their GoFundMe page.

Off-Brand

I am not a brand.

Sure, the website, the social media accounts, and the occasional use of an unnecessary first person plural may lead this to be perceived as such, but 80 Minutes of Regulation is, at present, the work of one man. Specifically a black man living in America, where the past few days have been tough.

I've always stayed obsessively on-topic, sticking to sports, marching/athletic music, and related sports-adjacents, but somehow it didn't feel right to just pick up and write another post as though all was as it was when I last posted a week ago. in the time since, the particularly harrowing past few days have seen the loss of life of two black men at the hands of police: First Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA; and then Philando Castile in the Twin Cities metro of Minneapolis a day later. Last night, in Dallas, a sniper killed five police officers (not all names have yet been released, the only reason for their omission), wounding several more, in an ambush that broke out following a peaceful Black Live Matter protest.

It's been a trying few days, and I'm simultaneously hopeful and fearful for what's to follow for any individuals and for us as a nation.

And now, I hop down from the podium. Y'all be good to each other. March on...

Friday, July 1, 2016

But Please, Don't Dare Call It...

The Cadence of Gameday wouldn't be complete without tailgating, food, and beverages. Every now and again, and especially now for the holiday weekend, that's the focus.

Cackalacky makes the finest barbecue sauce that would never dare call itself that.

It wouldn't dream of it. North Carolina-based Cackalacky draws its name for the vernacular of a region where barbecue is taken seriously, and its sauce is distinctly vinegar- or tomato- (or, if you must, mustard) based. Cackalacky's sweet Cheerwine sauce, in contract, edges much closer to the sweet, sticky sauces one might find in Memphis or Kansas City.

But that doesn't change one fact: It's damn good.

The good folks at Cackalacky started in the sauce business over a decade an a half ago. Their flagship offering is a tangier sauce that's sweet potato-based, and also delicious, but when they joined forces with fellow North Carolina product Cheerwine, the results were legendary. As a soda, Cheerwine's taste is unique among typical offerings, but the cherry flavored treat is undoubtedly of the Carolinas. In similar form, the Cheerwine sauce is sweet and tangy, and while it wouldn't call itself barbecue sauce, following the lead of your favorite sweet sauce might give you some guidance as to where you'd like it best. That may be topping a sandwich, saucing something on the grill, or flavoring shredded chicken or ground beef. Rumor has it it's even great on pulled pork, which is probably as perfect as it is sacrilege. In another Carolina collaboration, the sauce is now the feature of a new pork chop sandwich from Biscuitville. I treated myself to one yesterday (for research. Yeah, that's it. Research.) If you're still figuring out your eating plans for the 4th of July, I'd highly recommend grabbing some if it's within reach.  It's available by the jar, though I tend to go for the family size bottle.

Whatever you do, just don't be like this guy.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Let's Play Two

While it's not yet a done deal, it's looking more like I'll be making it to two drum corps shows this summer. Carolina Crown's event arm has brought back its early season show, CrownBEAT, and a friend and former fellow band member of mine have been talking about going down to South Carolina to see it. If we make the trip, it'll be my first true multi-show season in a few years: Last year, as money and time was tied up in a home purchase, we went to Crown's preview show and were lot rats at NightBEAT; two years ago, car trouble kept us from NightBEAT in Charlotte, so we "only" made it to Championship weekend semifinals.

Since the advent of the Tour of Champions concept, the closest show has been such an event. NightBEAT, which has called Rock Hill, SC; Charlotte, NC; and now Winston-Salem, NC home has featured the seven corps who constitute the series, plus whoever joins them at that show in any given year. While I expect no sympathy for being forced to watch seven of the best in the activity year after year, I do appreciate that catching an additional show allows me to see some of the mid-majors.

The term, which many will recognize from college athletics, is a fitting one for several of the corps that make up the next tier behind the G7. Several of the corps I look most forward to seeing are perennial or near-perennial finalists, while others may dance near the border of top-12 territory or pray each year to make it to Championship Saturday. At FirstBEAT this year, I'll get to see the activity's Mountain West and Big East/American: Boston Crusaders and Madison Scouts, respectively: Boston is a force each year, and often finds its ranking among the top corps (a similar case could be made for Blue Knights, who also share geographic interest with the Mountain West); Madison shares that distinction, but is also the only existing corps from outside the Tour of Champions group to have actually won a championship. CrownBEAT will bring both of those, plus a few more corps I always enjoy seeing: Crossmen (formerly of northern Delaware, like yours truly), Jersey Surf (from right across the bridge), and Spirit of Atlanta (who will be playing Georgia this year!), along with The Cadets and Bluecoats from the Tour of Champions group, and Legends from Open Class.
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