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Thursday, December 1, 2016

#WinningSaturday to #GivingTuesday

I don't know how exactly a team can sneak to a double digit win season, but USF seems to have done it.

Win #10, the final win of the regular season, came over C. Florida in the long-dubbed, now-recognized (and trophied) War on I-4. I'll fully admit that my views on the rivalry have evolved. I don't like C. Florida. I-4 is a punk ass state route that calls itself an interstate, Orlando is in nom-coastal Florida (so what's the point?), their mayor is a mouse, and while I don't follow MLS, I root against Orlando City just because. So yeah, it felt glad to beat them, raise the overall series leader to 6-2 (2-2 since becoming conferencemates) and put the newly minted trophy in the trophy case that Knights love to talk about.

But yeah, swag my Bulls out. SB Nation just did. Sure, at times our defense thinks we're still auditioning for the Big 12, but with the Gulf Coast Offense averaging nearly 40 points a game, we've almost always been able to afford it. The team finished 10-2, brought home a co-division championship (shut up, I'm counting it) and burst into the rankings in the two major polls (but no love from the CFB playoff committee). Yet it's somehow been reasonably quiet - which I don't mind one bit. Granted, I don't think that any search firm worth its salt will overlook Willie Taggart as a candidate for some high profile jobs - reportedly Oregon's already sizing him up - but my hope is that having finally come home to USF and the Tampa Bay area, combined with unfinished business and a talented QB/RB tandem that may be able to be convinced to stay, given USF's relative obscurity, he may give it another go.

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This past Tuesday was culturally and commercially designated #GivingTuesday, and I took the opportunity to revive the Little Drummer Project, getting a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad to donate through Toys for Tots to a kid in need. This year, I actually get to combine my gift with my day job; our NPHC students are working with Toys for Tots to sponsor a family, and I'm donating my gift directly through them. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Staccato Notes/BOTR Game of the Week 2016 Week 12

It's been weeks on weeks since the last game of the week, but it's returning after a few short non-sequitur notes.
-Colorado's had quite a run this season, and I continue to root for their success. Because Jim Leavitt.
-Speaking of USF, I need someone to go ahead and kneecap Temple. There I go rooting against Philly football again.
-Barring that, however, we're looking at an all mid-Atlantic championship game in the American if we get Temple vs. Navy. Cresap's War redux, if you will.

For this week's game of the week, Ohio State travels to East Lansing in what this season's precedent would predict will be a shellacking of Michigan State. TBDBITL is making the trip, however, so halftime with both bands will be something to look forward to.

In the SEC Network What to Watch For, it's cupcake week in the SEC, which is surprisingly fertile ground for band matchups. My eye is drawn to the Plains, where In-state ag rival Alabama A&M will travel to Auburn and bring the Marching Maroon and White with them. The game kicks at 7, and halftime will be available via SEC Network+.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Wake Up

Recapping the game from Wake Forest about a week ago (Shmoney dance)

I headed west to Winston late in the Morning with Solid Verbal (and later The Old College Try) riding shotgun. My first stop was the Publix in Winston, which has been there for about six months. Buffalo chicken fingers Pub sub and a six pack of Blowing Rock Brewing's High Country Ale. I got to the stadium about 2 1/2 hours before game time and could already hear the Spirit of the Old Gold and Black's  horns and drums at work for the Deacon Walk. If you're familiar with the layout of BB&T Field and its environs, most of the common parking is by the LJVM Coliseum, Wake's basketball arena, and you cross through a tunnel to get to the stadium. I could hear SOTOGAB loud and clear upon parking, and headed immediately over to catch what remained of Deacon Walk and the concert by the Deacon statue.

I really try not to be condescending when discussing Wake's size, but some things can't be denied or ignored. Wake Forest is the smallest school by enrollment in the Power Five conferences, and their stadium, in kind, is the smallest in the Power Five. The atmosphere, while lively, is probably on par with many in the Group of Five or high level FCS programs. And while I do genuinely enjoy what SOTOGAB has to offer, I like big bands and I cannot lie. While I could've, I didn't directly count membership, but I'd say they're 60 members soaking wet at best. While I know I've seen them march more - and play more in their pep band, in fact - they had just two sousaphones, which is one of my key shorthands for band size. Still, they packed a decent punch even from the game, where I was across the field and still about 80 yards from them.

After their concert, I headed back to the car for a bit more of my sandwich (I scarfed half and rushed through a beer upon my arrival) and realized that while my plan was not to tailgate, even having thrown a chair in the back of the van would've probably been a better look than standing awkwardly by the side of the car, though I ultimately decided to take it over to the memorial pillars in front of the Coliseum. I enjoyed some of the area's other offerings at a leisurely pace: The school-sanctioned tailgate area, a beautiful fall day on North Carolina's Piedmont, and eventually SOTOGAB warmups and the march to the stadium. I headed in as they did.

As coincidence would have it, i was in section 9, meaning the last time I walked through that tunnel was the rainout of NightBEAT back in July. The weather was far more on my side last Saturday, and my seat wasn't too bad either: Home side, side 2 6 yard line, about 5 rows from the action. I picked it up on the secondary market, though admittedly, I waited a bit longer than I should ave, price-wise. The game was a good one between two middling ACC programs. I rooted for the home team, and was pleased to see them win and gain bowl eligibility. The crowd immediately surrounding me was energetic, if not pessimistic, and they certainly felt a bit of inevitability when #accrefs struck. Virginia had a running back who was capable of taking advantage quite a bit both from handoffs and as a receiver, and Wake had some of the most lethargic QB/RB exchanges I've ever seen, but they were able to generate enough offense - helped by the defense, including a couple of key late takeaways. Wake scored the go-ahead touchdown deep in the 4th and was able to hold on for the victory.

Spending a fall day at a random act of football, the way nature intended, had me considering again if I want to consider a partial pass to Wake Forest football. While there's no actual allegiance, if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with. I know next season will include a USF game on my turf (we play at ECU in odd years) and likely some action up in Boone, as a friend's son will be playing at App State. Still, Wake will always be an option for delightful filler.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Glass of The Finest

Here I am, after hitting the inevitable midseason slump like USF of old (and thankfully not now - how bout 'em?) and this weekend I'm hitting the road... a bit. I'm taking my talents to Winston Salem to catch my first live college football game since Clemsom-Louisville in 2014, if you can believe it. This time it's UVA at Wake, for no other reason than it's live football nearby.

Wake Forest is my closest Power Five school, at a distance less than half that of the next closest, a couple of shades of blue in Chapel Hill and Durham. If I were the sort to handpick allegiances (no), rock with private schools (hardly) or root for the contrarian choice (debatable), I might hop onto the Deac wagon, and barring that, season tickets so!etomes seem tempting. Still, as many times as I've been in their venues, it has never been to root for the Demon Deacons. Rather, Wake has always been where I've gone to catch the other team, be it my own Bulls or Retrievers, my friends' Seminoles, or my part-time Terps. This weekend, I'll actually be clad in (their) black and gold, rooting for the home team with lukewarm enthusiasm.

Oh, and seeing the band.

There's always been a bit of a cruel intersection with two of my primary gameday passions. To be fully immersed in the tailgate lot often means missing some of the band's pregame traditions, and occasionally the pregame show itself. Tomorrow, I'm flying solo with no plans to tailgate intending instead to immerse myself in the Deacon Walk, pregame concert, and other traditions of the Spirit of the Old Gold and Black. I've been alternately critical and praiseworthy of SOTOGAB, due at least in part to my admitted big band bias, but I certainly enjoy them and I'm looking forward to spending some time with them.

While I had briefly considered doing what a reasonable person would consider "the most" and stopping by the A&T game vs South Carolina State before leaving Greensboro, I instead settled in on spending a complete gameday with the Deacs. The plans as of now are as follows:
-A Pub sub. There's now a Public inm Winston-Salem and the one-time Floridian in me has not yet taken advantage.
-Something brewed of the local variety: Winston's own Foothills or Small Batch,or perhaps something a bit further up the hill like Appalachian Mountain Brewing.
-Wake Forest's school-initiated tailgate zone. Not always my scene, but I'm interested to see what they've got going on.
-Deacon Walk, followed by SOTOGAB's pregame concert. In the tradition of slappoing -gating on the end of things, let's say I'm bandgating.

That's the plan, and beyond that, it's shaping up to be a gorgeous fall day in the Triad. Can't wait!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Clash

Earlier this month, Clash of the Corps debuted on Fuse. Produced by The Rock's Seven Bucks Productions, Clash of the Corps follows the 2016 drum corps season through the eyes of two corps: The Blue Devils and The Cadets. The Rock previewed the first episode the day before it aired on his Facebook page, and since then, three episodes have aired, treating us thus far to both corps' training camps, Blue Devils' first performance and Cadets' preview show. We've gotten to know quite a few of the members, both corps directors, and several other members of the staff.

The show leaps right into the action without a bunch of exposition or explanation as to what exactly drum corps is. It's a little surprising, since I think corps fans often feel the need to explain first, but they're either counting on the likely audience already being familiar (I'm sure most of us are) or the story carrying well enough without the audience knowing a mellophone from a baritone (and so far, it does). It focuses on the two most decorated corps in the activity, though knowing how last season went, I'm certain the Bluecoats are watching like:
Despite the false dichotomy, I've really enjoyed the show so far. I'm interested to see if we see much of the other corps as the season wears on. They seem to be playing the show to sports crowds as well, giving us easy-to-recognize venues like the Rose Bowl and Lucas Oil Stadium, where Blue Devils and Cadets began their respective seasons. One thing I hope to see and hear more of as the show continues are the actual corps. There has been a lot of scoring thus far, even as the corps are playing; I don't know if that's a stylistic choice, or done in part to avoid copyright issues.

If you're not already watching, Clash of the Corps airs at 11pm ET on Fuse, and can be found afterwards on Hulu and the Fuse app and website.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

All Hail

It's been a rough two week stretch for the State University of New Jersey. Last weekend, Ohio State blanked Rutgers to the tune of 58-0 in the Horseshoe. In round two of a rousing game of Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better between the archrivals, Michigan headed to Piscataway and handed the Scarlet Knights at 78-0 loss last night. In the second half, the Rutgers Band, perhaps weary from a dearth of their own fight song, did something few would have have anticipated:

They serenaded the visiting Michigan fans with their own fight song, The Victors.

Odd though it may seem, the individual pieces, if not the combination, are consistent. Rutgers' band knows The Victors because they've fallen in step with a tradition in their new conference: Playing their opponent's fight song as part of the pregame. And while this use seems unorthodox, I'm told that the home band playing for opposing fans isn't unheard of. Still, in the seventh and eighth scoreless quarters against division rivals, I'm sure it was salt in the wound of the home fans, and a plume in the shako of Michigan fans who witnessed the thorough demoralization of the Scarlet Knights, who earned their first first down in the fourth quarter. Still, given the lyrics to the Michigan Fight song, there may have been no more fitting of a tribute:

Hail! to the victors valiant 
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes 
Hail! Hail! to Michigan the leaders and best

Conqu'ring heroes, indeed.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

BOTR Game of the Week, 2016 Week 5

I could wave to the traveling band in Week 5's Game of the Week as the pass me on the highway. Today, in Tobacco Road's longest stretch, Wake Forest's Spirit of the Old Gold and Black travels east to Raleigh to take on NC State's Power Sound of the South.

Wake Forest
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NC State
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There are no confirmed full band on the road games on the SEC Network today, so for What to Watch For, I'll point you to Baton Rouge where the Golden Band from Tigerland will perform right around the time the sun finds its home in the western sky. After the dismissal of Les Miles, interim head coach Ed Orgeron will start his tenure in a famed LSU night game against Mizzou.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

High Notes, 2016 Week 4

After about two years of doing weekly High Notes, I decided to open up the playbook, for noteworthy weekend happenings that were beyond just marching, but were in other adjacents like tailgating, food, travel, beer, and the like.

The funny thing is, I don't think I've every explicitly noted football, except when it was paired with the band performance.

One of this week's high notes changes that. in the late-but-not-too-late hours of Saturday night, I got to witness a bit of Pac-12 After Dark, as the Stanford-UCLA game was at a reasonable 8pm local time for us east coasters (though I'm not gonna lie, I still stayed up for the far less reasonable Arizona State-Cal game). The ending was great by all accounts, unless you're a gambler and lost out on Stanford's front door cover. Still, that the Cardinal found a way to win on a late game drive down the field was the sort of thing those of us with an east coast bias tend to miss out on.

Call me basic, but I've long loved a good fall festival, and North Carolina is not in short supply this time of the year. My kids and I went to two here in the Triad, though from their standpoint, I took them to a couple of fields they delighted in running around.

Finally, this weekend marked the opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, and in a clip I sadly only saw in Instagram's story (so it's gone now), Howard University's Showtime Marching Band was there, fittingly, to help celebrate.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Taking a Knee

This football season, many have been using the ubiquitous playing of the National Anthem at sporting events as a platform for protest. Most notably spearheaded by the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, players and others have remained seated, taken a knee, or raised a clinched fist to protest injustice, most notably police brutality and the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement.

The protests have now hit the band world.

In a week where both Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and KeithnScott in Charlotte lost their lives to police, members of at least two college bands joined in the spirit of protest. In Chapel Hill, members of the Marching Tar Heels protested. As a formidable mass in the student section remained seated, fists raised, at least two Marching Tar Heels took a knee and did not play.

The night before in Dallas, five members of SMU's Mustang Band took a knee but continued to play during the anthem. Of particular note in this instance, SMU was using the game to honor five Dallas police officers, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patricio Zamarripa, who were killed in an ambush during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest following police related killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in a tragically bloody stretch this summer.

Much as NFL and other franchises have each handled protesting players differently, it remains to be seen how bands will address protests from within their ranks.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

BOTR Game of the Week, 2016 Week 4

Unlike most USF alumni, I didn't grow up in Florida, so I was never in the position of having to shake off old allegiances and bad habits before becoming a Bull. That said, if I have anything that resembles fanhood of any of Florida's Big Three, it's the Florida State Seminoles, who I've seen and rooted for plenty, as a good friend of mine is an alum. But while I may say Go Noles more often than not, no one's surprised I'm not in their corner today. I'm sure it's equally unsurprising that the Marching Chiefs' trip to Raymond James to take on the Herd of Thunder - now already in progress - is this week's Band on the Road Game of the Week.



For the What to Watch on SEC Network+, there are no confirmed Band on the Road games from that slate, so I'll default to the early catch: Kent State at Alabama. The Marching Golden Flashes aren't coming to Alabama, but getting to catch the Million Dollar Band is certainly no consolation.
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