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Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Look Within - Season Ten Countermarch

One week ago, DCI wrapped up its 2017 campaign. One week from now, college football gets underway with limited "Week Zero" action. It's only fitting I should post this at halftime.

In celebration of ten seasons of 80 Minutes of Regulation, I'm doing a look within. In part, it's something I was considering anyway, and the fact that a few other entities I admire are celebrating has inspired me. It's not necessarily an anniversary - while the content that became 80 Minutes started back in July 2007, the blog itself didn't launch until February 2008 - but with my two primary seasons being drum corps and college football/marching, it's the end of the 10th season of one and the start of the 10th for the other.

As I mentioned, a few other entities are celebrating milestones around this same time. Halftime Magazine is celebrating its 10th anniversary, while Solid Verbal, like 80 Minutes, is going into its 10th season. Unlike either of them, however, 80 Minutes of Regulation is a solo act on my part, so this retrospective will feel more like a look in the mirror than it may otherwise. I'm up for it.

The Origin Story
80 Minutes of Regulation was born of the merger of two separate endeavors. In the mid-aughts, a mere half decade after the Cash Money Records takeover, Facebook and Myspace emerged and introduced social media as we now know it (sorry, Friendster). Their impact was undeniable, and was quickly emulated throughout the internet. A few such imitations manifested as social blogging sites. This was a world with which I was already familiar, having maintained a LiveJournal for several years beforehand, and I was already using some social spaces, including LiveJournal and message boards, to chat, mostly sports, with some band thrown in because I can't help myself. So when the Worldwide Leader launched MyESPN, I started talking over there, and when Halftime Magazine came into being with a social blogging aspect, I quickly took to it as the home of my marching chatter. In February of 2008, 80minutesofregulation.blogspot.com came into being, and the site was born.

While it's on a boilerplate somewhere, 80 Minutes of Regulation draws its name from college football - the equal interest in both the 60 minutes of regulation play and the 20 minutes allotted for halftime. I don't recall exactly how I came to that name or even my early feelings about it, I couldn't imagine it being anything else now. I have tried on a few taglines: The longest enduring was "From referee's whistle to drum major's whistle and back again"; it was briefly in some spaces "A band site with a sports problem"; and now, speaking to the full offerings and throwing in a pun for good measure, I've settled in on "The Cadence of Gameday".

Early on, due mostly to the timing of the launch, I actually talked my fair share of basketball and lacrosse. While there were some greater thematic pieces, I also stuck pretty close to programs in which I had a vested interest; namely, my alma maters and primary fanships. Still, even in the early days, I was able to speak not just sports and marching/athletic music, but their intersection.

I'm going to interrupt myself for a quick usage note that also speaks to the beliefs of the site itself. It has always been my unwavering belief that sports and sports-adjacents (primarily marching, though I've incorporated tailgating and more of the gameday experience as well) ought to be discussed in the same space. But I've always stopped short of considering marching band a sport. This takes absolutely nothing away from the activity. The performers are undeniably athletes (at least those doing it right!) and marching band members have always worked as hard as, or harder than, the teams they support. Calling something a sport doesn't add value; it's not some sort of high-water mark that all physical activity should seek to achieve. No, marching/athletic music is absolutely valuable for what it is. My use of the term marching/athletic music is information-rich by design - the music (whether marching or pep) occurs in an athletic space, and again, its performers are athletes.

Over the years, the blog has taken on some additional projects. The most notable of these is the Band on the Road Project released each year (next week for 2017!) as a crowdsourced database for marching bands attending road games. Band on the Road also highlights a Game of the Week and its marching band matchup. As each college football week wraps up, I also (usually) recognize a notable band in High Notes. Each bowl season, I take on the challenge of the Big Band Bowl Battle, previewing the band matchups in what has ballooned to over 40 games. And in March, more on social media than the blog itself, I keep an eye on the #bracketbands seeking their One Shining Moment.

I ventured briefly into podcasting with the 80 Minutes (Give or Take) Podcast. While fun, it ultimately proved an unsustainable exercise in listening to myself talk. I've also been fortunate enough to have the site (or myself) featured in a few different spaces for its unique take.

From the vision and mission, two points that continue to guide what I think the blog has always been and will continue to be. 80 Minutes of Regulation:

  • Strives to be the leading and most sought-after source in opinion and reaction related to sports and marching/athletic music; and 
  • Will be at its best when drawing parallels between occurrences in sports and marching/athletic music that outlets specifying in one area or the other would likely miss.
Connections
In the early days of the site, I began a simulcasting relationship with the YardBarker Network. I recall having been a bit turned off early on by some of their ad placement requirements; I had a naive (and frankly, foolish) belief in my role as an amateur hobbyist, and feared that monetizing was "selling out". As you may notice, that belief does not endure. I did make a few relationships in those days that added some value to being networked.

While the internet is full of sportswriters of varying calibers, the marching media are a tighter knit group, and I'm pleased to say I've gotten to know a good deal of them. I believe my connection with the author of The Line series predates even this site. I've graced the pages of Halftime on a few occasions. I was interviewed for the Marching Podcast. I chatted with the founder of CollegeMarching.com early on, and I've long been connected with the founder of the5thquarter.com. There are many other folks who may not maintain other spaces but are content creators in their own right. Elsewhere in sports-adjacents, I go back to the YardBarker days with Tailgating Ideas. While the connection is certainly important, I'm inspired daily by the way these folks, and many others execute their craft and continue to carve a space for interests I hold dear.

I'd consider my entrance into Twitter, now arguably my primary platform, to have been a bit off. I stayed completely clear for longer than many, and when I first stepped on in early 2010, it was intended to be just for 80 Minutes, but it also soon became my personal account. It does keep me connected with people I know personally and some I've connected with outside of the sports and marching/athletic music realm, but I fear digressions into life or politics may turn off some who simply signed on for the 80 Minutes content. Though my circle is smaller than it could be, it's been cool to get to know folks who I found or who found me through simply the shared interest. It took me far less relative time to find my way onto Instagram, the Facebook page has been a mainstay, and while it's not as dynamic as I'd like, I occasionally get things up on YouTube as well.


Fortes
Absent evidence to the contrary, I think I can legitimately say I'm the best at my particular specific niche of the intersection of sports and marching/athletic music. Out here in the blogosphere or other media, there are millions who talk sports better than me. There are at least dozens who talk HBCU marching or DCI better than I do, and probably a solid handful who talk general marching better than me. But there's no one out there - at least not that I've encountered - who is bringing this particular combination to the table like I am. To that end, I think I make for a formidable generalist. I'm as comfortable talking Power 5 conference bands as I am HBCU bands, DCI, or some of the other top-flight college bands. Even in the sports world, I can slide into lacrosse as easily as basketball or football. Other sports-adjacents, like tailgating, travel, and uniform design, fall within my sphere as well.

Difficult Passages
There's an Onion article that I sometimes look to for - is strength the right word here? - when I feel I'm not giving the site the attention it deserves. The headline is the story: Find The Thing You're Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life. The fact of the matter is, since 80 Minutes began, I've gotten married, had two kids, become a homeowner twice over, taken on additional work responsibilities, and all sorts of things that take precedence over fanatical updating or keeping atop all of the latest stories. It's nothing I apologize for - again, this is a hobby - but in an ideal world I'd love to be producing more. Still, one of the great things about having other great folks in this space is that I can amplify a lot of what they do. After all, I love sharing what's out there more than I love my own ego.

While I'm no slave to analytics, I do have a pretty good idea of what kind of numbers I do. Frankly, they're small enough that I'm only truly beholden to myself. My discipline is decent but not infallible. Truthfully, if I hadn't set myself a deadline (and already written a date dependent opening) y'all might not have gotten this on time.

Coda
So what's to come for 80 Minutes of Regulation? Simply put, I don't see it going away, perhaps ever.  For all of the what, how, and when I've gone through, I may have glossed over the why. In all seriousness, I'm obsessed. I'm a sports fan, I'm a band nerd, and in fact I'm a sports fan because I'm a band nerd. I do it because I love it, and if I weren't actively writing here, I'd probably be throwing the same stuff onto Twitter, Facebook, or social media to be named later. I do it because I can't NOT do it. It's how I'm wired, it's how my brain works, and it will always be a part of me. It's never been my goal or even fantasy to go pro in this (though if could pay for some game or show tickets here or there, I'd welcome it) but it's great to have a platform to put something out into the world. Here's to the next ten seasons!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Perfect Ten

This month, Halftime Magazine is celebrating its tenth anniversary. In preparation for the occasion, they invited readers to write in with stories and well wishes. When the issue arrived in the mail yesterday, I was lucky enough to once again fond myself within the pages of this done publication. My letter was well summarized, but here, in full, is my love note for a publication as integral to the inception of this space as anything else.
*          *          *

Dear Halftime Magazine,

 Without you, there would be no me.

It may seem a romantic, even dramatic notion, but it's true - Halftime Magazine is directly responsible for the existence of 80 Minutes of Regulation. I was excited about Halftime as soon as I learned of your founding, and subscribed shortly thereafter. More than simply a print magazine, one of the things I found most valuable about Halftime was the opportunity to engage. Due in no small part, I'm sure, to the then-recent rise of Facebook, Halftime's online presence included a social aspect, and among its features was a blog where participants were invited to discuss all manners of topics within the marching arts. Thus spawned a big part of what would ultimately become 80 Minutes of Regulation. It was in that sphere that I began blogging about marching/athletic music, and a similar feature available on ESPN led me to combine it with sports content to create the presence I have today. Thank you.

But this isn't about me; it's about you. For the past decade I've been a regular reader, faithful subscriber (except for that one time it lapsed... whoops!), and occasional contributor to the product you've built, and I've loved it every step of the way. You've been the go-to in marching media in your time in the space, and in that time, you've covered the marching arts with a breadth and depth none can match. The magazine is at once for the student and teacher; the fan and the practitioner; the novice and the expert. You transition from DCI to HBCU bands deftly, and are at ease talking colorguard or drumline technique. While none can claim to be everything to everyone, Halftime does it as well as anyone in the marching arts, and I'm certain you have inspired others as you have me.

I've also attached a photo. At some of the professional conferences I attend, it is tradition to adorn one's nametag lanyard with pins. Halftime Magazine always makes an appearance on mine!

Thanks for everything,

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Music of the Night

A record crowd of over 10,000 enjoys NightBEAT 2017.
My case for NightBEAT - Carolina Crown's home show and Tour of Champions event in Winston-Salem, NC - has been pretty well documented. But this year's edition was just about everything a fan could have asked for.

For starters, we got an upsized show this year, thanks in part to Atlanta being between stadiums. In addition to all seven Tour of Champions corps, we got seven more in The Academy, Boston Crusaders, Colts, Crossmen, Madison Scouts, Mandarins, and Troopers. netting us ten of last year's top 12. This made for a longer than usual show, starting at 5pm. This runs the risk of being beastly in the south in late July, but all was well because...

The weather was amazing. Last year, rain curtailed the show. The year before was as hot as one might expect. But this year was perfect - so much so, in fact, that I reversed course on the plan not to tailgate and packed the grill and the cooler after all.

With two kids - a six year old and a three year old - I've shied away from tailgating the past couple of years. Both time in the heat and attention span being considerations, it didn't make sense to spend time in the lot and then head into an open stadium that would offer no respite. But with the agreeable weather, we headed out that way with a friend who was traveling with us. We even had DCI Twitter luminary Momma DCI and her husband, who were down from Wisconsin for the show, stop by.

Once inside the stadium, the mild temperatures meant it was no burden to be outside of the welcome shade of the press box. Because the show's original function was as a Tour of Champions show, the mid-majors took the first half, pre-INT. Before the first notes were sounded, however, we were treated to a parachute team, because the CrownEVENTS crew always brings their A game.

While I knew of many of this season's uniform changes, seeing them in person was its own experience. Phantom in black, Troop in cream, and Madison and Boston looking far from what we expect. Uniform watch aside, this year has its share of enjoyable shows. Unfortunately, no one in our party was able to weigh in fully on the Bay Area battle that's been brewing all season - my wife missed Santa Clara immediately after intermission, and I took the kids to the restroom during Blue Devils. Still, catching 13 out of 14 shows wasn't bad, and NightBEAT in Winston-Salem continues to impress.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Solid

This is one part open letter, one part hat tip, and perhaps a bit more fanboying that I'm typically comfortable with. But as the Solid Verbal commemorates the start of their 10th season (and did so with an origin story retrospective) I feel inclined to give them their due.

The Solid Verbal Podcast came into being right around the same time 80 Minutes of Regulation did, though I didn't know of their existence until a few years later. Hosts Dan Rubenstein and Ty Hildenbrandt are also around my age (slightly younger and older than me, respectively), so the show has always felt right in my wheelhouse. The two hosts met - only virtually for the beginning of their relationship - as both were in different facets of Sports Illustrated's college football media. From there, they created, cultivated, and grew a podcast that is a source of enjoyment, news, and humor for many of us.

I remember my exact point of entry: The guest was Mark Ennis, then of SB Nation's Big East Coast Bias. I looked up the Solid Verbal to check out Mark, a Louisville guy who was the citizen-commissioner of Big East Twitter (#weallwegot). I loaded the show up on my clickwheel iPod prior to a trip up to Ocean City to visit family. What I recall is being immediately impressed with the quality of both the audio and the hosting. I don't remember exactly where my familiarity with podcasts was at the time - they may have been my first indie podcast - but for two self-described random guys from the internet, they had it. I listened to the podcast and a few more, and despite heavy leaning on an Animal Plant show called Whale Wars I had never heard of (in their defense, it was the offseason) they became part of the rotation.

Years later, they aren't just part of the rotation, they start it. Despite subscribing to more podcasts than my weekly commute has time for, a new Solid Verbal episode gets the immediate bump to the top of the stack. Dan and Ty's knowledge is formidable, their guests are excellent, and they're just damn enjoyable to listen to. What I once considered non sequitur diversions like Whale Wars I now recognize as part of the show's charm, and there are far more hits than misses with me in terms of familiarity. They digress into and back out of pop culture seamlessly as one might when chatting with friends about football and whatever else. And while it's weird to say "I've watched them grow up" of a couple of guys my age, it's been cool to see a few key life changes - Dan's move to the East Coast and employment with SB Nation, the show taking on sponsors, distribution, and strategic partnerships, increasingly bigger guests and events, and both hosts getting married - the last of which has manifested in a "window of opportunity" report for us married folk who can't post up in front of football all Saturday, much as we would like to.

We operate in different media, and do things differently - one a helluva lot more successfully than the other - so I wouldn't first be inclined to say they inspire me or keep me going. But they definitely add a lot of enjoyment, which is to say nothing of the wealth of information they bring with a delivery method I favor over some other folks in the space. I listen to quite a few of their competitors - and to be clear, as Dan and Ty are, while other podcasts are in the same space doing the same thing, they're brothers in arms more than anything else. Their grind is absolutely admirable, at a clip of one to two shows a week for over nine years, and Dan spoke of a love for creating things no matter how many people are listening. It is from there I draw my inspiration, and it was a pleasure hearing them talk through the process of creating and sustaining what is, as far as I'm concerned, an institution. Thanks guys, stay solid.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

An Honor and a Privilege

This time last year, I was just wrapping an unsuccessful campaign to bring Scouts Honor to a theater near me. Now, a year later, I've finally seen the film.

The documentary follows the 2012 Madison Scouts through their season and focuses specifically on three members: a rookie trumpet, a returning snare, and a guard age out. The first sounded notes of the film set the tone: They are from MalagueƱa, a piece that Madison played in 2012 but has had other notable appearances in the corps' history, including their championship in 1988 and fan favorite A Drum Corps Fan's Dream Part Dos in 1996. This introduction sets the tone in more ways than one: Both musically, and by revealing that the film is, by design, as sonically true as one can be to a drum corps show without being present. While I'm certain my living room speakers didn't do it justice, I know it's something in which the directors took great pride.

For those of us already familiar with the activity, the beginning goes a bit heavy on the "what is drum corps?" which I understand is absolutely necessary for unfamiliar audiences, but feels a bit like your GPS directing you out of your own neighborhood. Still, it sets the stage for a documentary that, as the full title suggests, tells the story of the brotherhood the men in the corps share.

So is this the story of three young men and the 2012 season, or of the now nearly 80 year history of the corps? Yes.

While the story is told through the then-current season, the continued theme is the longitudinal brotherhood that the corps members share not just with their brothers at that moment in time, but the generations of Scouts that came before them. It even shows the transition as the 2012 ageouts join the ranks of the alumni, and implores them to continue the support of the men they leave behind who can return to the corps. In one scene that stood out given my professional and personal interests, it is clear that within this band of brothers are brothers of another sort: A member of Lambda Chi Alpha and a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, stand, arm in arm, bound by their Madison Scouts brotherhood. Moreover, the members of the corps - one of the young men featured in particular, learned, in the truest sense of the corps song, you'll never walk alone.

Another piece that I noticed due to my personal interests is that the film steered clear - whether by design or chance - of sports analogies. In describing the role of the center snare, for instance, a quarterback or point guard analogy may have been apropos, but it never came up. Whether intentional or not, it allowed the activity to stand on its own two feet. On another personal note, it dawned on my while watching this film that I actually didn't see Madison live during the 2012 season, so there was genuine, drum corps fan joy in watching their show come together.

I've waited quite some time to see this film, and it was worth every bit of it. I urge you to check it out as soon as you can; for Apple users, it's available for $0.99 rent of $9.99 purchase via the iTunes store.

Beer Review - Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale

Another summer, another beer review.

Along with drum corps, beer is my favorite summer sports-adjacent, and two of the last three years have brought some form of a review. While I made the annual trip to Delmarva that spawned the other two, I picked this one up locally, despite it also calling the Peninsula home.

Two years ago, I said that 3rd Wave's Sour Lime was what Bud Light Lime wanted to be when it grew up. Well, Dogfish Head's SeaQuench Ale has a steady career with a 401k and stock options. Released in 2016 and canned this year, SeaQuench Ale is a Kolsch/Berlinerweisse/Gose blend that calls itself a session sour but, in my opinion, drinks as a gose with its varied lime elements and sea salt. It's a great summer drink that in cans travels well to the beach of even early season tailgates.

It's also gotten a few bits of critical acclaim lately - some of which I care about more than others. Men's Health names it among the best light (lite?) beers, a stat that appeals to me simply on the basis of how filling it is. Both USA Today and Food and Wine note that while some beer may be refreshing, SeaQuench Ale actually quenches your thirst. And my Baltimore-Delaware dual consciousness is particularly pleased that Dogfish Head developed this in conjunction with the National Aquarium.

While I've long been a serial trier, you can expect SeaQuench Ale to be my summer go-to for the foreseeable future.

If you care that I care about beer, find me on Untappd.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Heating Up

This summer, throw the records out the window.

Whatever you know about DCI's pecking order, it's being shaken up this summer. Earlier this month, the Boston Crusaders beat The Cadets head to head for the first time in my lifetime. Six time DCI World Champion Santa Clara Vanguard has been on the climb as well. While the corps hasn't so much as medaled since their 1999 championship, they came within a point of their Baymate Blue Devils for the first time in a decade (damning with faint praise, I realize) and currently sit in second in DCI's ("for entertainment purposes only") standings. Both the Boston Crusaders and Blue Knights also crash the party of the self-segregated Tour of Champions corps, relegating The Cadets and Phantom Regiment to seventh and ninth, respectively.

The current standings also put me in an interesting place. While I've probably shouted Crown the loudest, Santa Clara and Carolina have long been my two favorite corps, with my love for SCV lasting the longest. So now, as SCV jockeys for position, it's at the expense of Crown. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing both corps continue to climb, and I'm particularly pleased to see Vanguard's resurgence. Next weekend, I'll get to see the Tour of Champions in action across the Triad in Winston-Salem.

Buckle up, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Overdressed

Skin is in.

There are only a few competitive or recreational summer activities where the players are traditionally clad head to toe, wrist to ankle. NASCAR, reenactments, and drum corps. In NASCAR, it's for safety; in reenactments it's for authenticity, and in DCI it's... well, we've always done it this way.

Both reenactments and drum corps owe the genesis to their military roots, and in drum corps, it's more closely tied to present-day marching bands. But despite the temperature difference, the summer activity has historically parted relatively little from their colder weather counterparts. This year may represent the largest departure from traditional uniforms, with short sleeves, no sleeves, and a variety of lighter weight materials being represented on the field. I'm certain current marching members think it's about time, and former marching members add another notch to their "back in my day..." belt. And, of course, it's probably no small coincidence that the Bluecoats just won a championship with nontraditional uniforms.

While I air musically on the traditional side, I mostly welcome this potential renaissance in uniform design. While I prefer corps pick a style and stick to it -uniformity across time, if you will - I've got no problem with them picking styles, lengths, and fabrics that will make the marching members' experience a little more pleasant.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It Is What It Is



It was Father's Day. That means I get to do what I want, right?

Instead of holding their preview show at Gardner Webb where they do spring training, Carolina Crown brought the show home, instead showcasing in Fort Mill, where they are headquartered.With about an hour shaved off of the round trip from Greensboro, I decided a couple of weeks ago to make the trip. So after brunch and with a twinge of parental guilt for heading out on Father's Day sans the kids, I made the trip south.

I made a couple of stops along the way: First Cabela's, because #rvftamademedoit, and then a planned stop at Full Spectrum Brewing, Fort Mill's first brewery, for a bit of beer tourism. I had a couple of brews I rather enjoyed at the latter, and brought home a six of their infrared IPA - a bit of a commitment for me as a serial trier. From there, it was on to Nation Ford High School for the show.

I settled into a spot in the shade of the press box and anxiously awaited the full corps while being treated to a pit feature. A few things were immediately evident: The color of the bibbers (matte and metallic gray) and the fact that Crown was re-incorporating purple, this time in the jacket.

On to their 2017 production, It Is. I'll give the key takeaways Ive provided in a couple of other venues:
1. Trying not to fly into a curmudgeonly rage over vocal soloist.
2. Trying not to curtail curmudgeonly rage just because it's Crown.
3. This brass. On preview day. With an entire season to mature? Good GAWD.

More specifically: With very little exception, I don't want any vocals in my drum corps. What made Crown's incorporation of the vocalist all the more egregious is that she sung through the ballad. Crown's brass alone has put together some beautiful ballads throughout the years, and it's a shame, in my opinion, that they saw fit to sing over it this year.

But to my last point: The only other time I've made it to CrownPREVIEW was the year of Inferno, and I found it refreshingly human that I was hearing bumps and flaws in the hornline that are typically absent from later season shows. This year, the corps seemed to already be firing on all cylinders, so I'm really excited to see what they become.

If you had any reason to doubt it, drum corps season us upon us.




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Raise High the Black and Gold.

The College World Series gets underway today. Two weeks ago, I made a stop (and subsequently, an exit) on the Road to Omaha.

I headed a half hour to my west with my kids to see UMBC take on Maryland-College Park in the loser's bracket of the Winston-Salem regional. While I was gung-ho about catching both UMBC games, I allowed reason to get the better of me and didn't hightail it out there after work on Friday evening, knowing they were guaranteed a Saturday game.

While my wife didn't travel, I took both of the little double-legacies to cheer on the Retrievers at Wake Forest. We opted for the Bojangles tailgate as a way both to get something to eat before the game, and to pop up the flags. A fellow UMBC fan suggested I might confuse folks flying a Maryland flag and a UMBC flag; I reminded him that the flagship does not own the state flag. I also chatted with a College Park fan in the lot, and surprised myself with how much I was able to offer about the team's current events, despite not following regularly.

In the shade behind home plate that housed nearly all of the spectators on that hot early June day in the south, I watched the good guys get mollywhopped and end their season to the tune of 16-2. It wasn't anything I didn't expect, and it was great to see the ovation the team got as they left the field. Too bad I couldn't get anyone to join me in singing the alma mater.
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