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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Bracket Bands - NCAA Tournament Edition

In my first (technically second, I suppose) post from my weekend at the NCAA Tournament, I had to at least give a nod to #bracketbands. While my fanhood and my hobby are closely linked, there come times where content has to take a back seat to being in the moment, and with my team playing, this was one of those times. I do have a few observations from the games I caught though.

Friday night's first game pitted Creighton against Kansas State. K-State was perhaps the team in my session I was most excited about seeing, as their marching contingent totes a Sudler Trophy. They're also the band besides my own that I got to see twice. They did not disappoint.

My seat for Friday night put me kind of above Creighton's band (UMBC's too, in the second game) so they were playing with their back to me. My biggest gripe with them was that it felt as though they rushed everything they played.

I had seen UVA just a couple of weeks prior in Greensboro for the Women's ACC Tournament. They're good at what they do, though they're a bit buttoned up. They play Party Like a Rock Star that has some choreo where the members literally look like they're just going through the motions. Still their sound is great, and they may have brought all brass with them to Charlotte.

And then, there was UMBC. I'll first acknowledge that I am thoroughly, completely, and unabashedly biased, having spent four years in the band and knowing them in and out, even when I don't know the individuals. My alumni giving tends to go straight to them, I know all of the traditions, and began what has since flourished into an excellent drumline at a school with no marching band. So with all caveats on the table, we (yes, WE) killed it. I got to see The Down and Dirty Dawg Band coming and going - from the pregame social through the postgame victory lap on Friday, and again on Sunday. DDDB plays point guard for Retriever Nation's spirit. Faces are painted, bandanas are donned, and hell is raised every time they step into the arena. The book is deep, and still contains some pieces from when I was in the band, though they've evolved quite a bit. The drumline is a welcome addition, and does its own features that give the band an element that's less common in a pep band setting. And like our basketball team, they held their own. Sunday's game had me in the upper level, right around midcourt, giving me a pretty even perspective of UMBC and K-State's bands, and the Dawgs matched up favorably. With the unexpected extended stay, they even got to participate in Charlotte's St. Patrick's Day Parade.

On Sunday, unfortunately traffic to Charlotte meant I missed the first game of the session - UNC vs. Texas A&M - entirely. I saw a pep-band-plus-sized contingent of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band in Charlotte less than three months ago at the Fan Fest before the Belk Bowl, and Carolina's practically kin round here. Still, while I caught some bracket bands action, this was one of the times it took a back seat.

Monday, March 19, 2018

I Got a Story To Tell

Those of you who follow on social media already know at least parts of this story. I'm fresh off of a glorious weekend embedded in Upset City, capital of Retriever Nation. With all due respect to my annual #BracketBands, which got some love, I went experience over content and enjoyed the thrill ride. I'll share the experience here in due time, but as a placeholder, my postgame ramblings, recorded live outside the Spectrum Center in Charlotte:

Proudly we hail to thee.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bracket Bands 2018

FSU's Seminole Sound.
Man, I love living in Tournament Town.

With the ACC Women's Basketball Tournament returning to Greensboro after a year away, I treated myself to a Fat Friday at the league quarterfinals. I maintain that eight bands, teams, and fanbases in about eight net hours is one of the best experiences in all of sports.

I won't rehash the entire tournament for you; you can get a pretty solid feel via Twitter or Instagram, or #bracketbands on either platform. But a few highlights:

-I went back through the ACC Hall of Champions for the first time in a while, and the first time with the current conference lineup.

-Speaking of the lineup, seeing Louisville fans here in Greensboro just fit. I'm not a fan of all that realignment hath wrought, but that one seems right from all sides.

-Miami's high flying lead trumpet seems to have graduated, or at least not made the trip for the women's tourney.

-While each band brought something to the table, FSU's Seminole Sound in the nightcap was the champ.

Thanks to a local deal, I got back in for the Saturday semifinals with the family, so I got to reprise a few of the bands I got to see.

Lucky for me (and you!) the live Bracket Bands fun doesn't stop! With UMBC headed to Charlotte for the NCAA Tournament, I'll be live from Session 2 on Friday night. I'll catch UMBC, UVA, Creighton, and Kansas State. UMBC, of course, I know intimately; UVA I just saw here in Greensboro. Creighton made the trip to Greensboro a few years back when we hosted, but I didn't get to see their pep band. And I'm looking forward to K-State as the pep band peeloff of a Sudler Trophy winner.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dancin', Dancin,' DANCIN'!

My #bracketbands stance has long been that March Madness begins with the conference tournaments, but all of us - especially those of us in one bid leagues - yearn for the Big Dance.

The fun began a week ago, as UNCG punched its ticket to the tournament, avenging last year's conference championship game loss to East Tennessee State to become the SoCon champions. The better part of the next week was hope and holding pattern as we waited to see where the Spartans, who hadn't seen the tournament since 2001, would be headed. Luckily, I had something to occupy my time.

The next night, I tuned in live from the brand new UMBC Event Center to see the Retrievers take on Hartford for a berth in the America East title game. The Dawgs won themselves a Vermont to take on the #1 seed - and perennially problematic for the good guys - Catamounts this past Saturday. Saturday was admittedly a bit of a bonus for me - I was not without hope, but history hadn't been kind to the Retrievers at UVM. The game was competitive throughout, and I had reason to believe victory was within grasp. And then:

I had about 28 hours to wait until the selection show. I took an educated guess that UNCG wouldn't end up in Charlotte, but UMBC very well could. Sure enough, they called our name - the 16 matched up against overall #1 Virginia. Historically, the odds are impossible, but I'll take it. Moreover, I'll take it in live on Friday night.

*                    *                    *
I can't ignore my other alma mater, though I won't know their fate for another hour. USF took the best-available slot in the American Athletic Conference women's basketball tournament - you only play for second place when you share a conference with UConn, and is headed to the dance as well. ESPN's bracketology currently has the Bulls as a 5 seed, coming to Raleigh in NC State's pod (which'll make for a packed weekend), though a 4 seed isn't out of reach.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Is This Real Life? Part 3

Hold up wait a minute... y'all thought I was finished? -Meek Mill, Dreams and Nightmares

As I prepared myself for the Eagles to compete in an ultimately win the Super Bowl I knew I needed to send all of the appropriate vibes to Minneapolis for the team. What did that mean? Curating a Philly experience for myself here in North Carolina.

First, what I did not do, though I considered it for longer than was logical: Before there was a Rita's Water Ice here in Greensboro (it since has left), my wife and I used to plan our trips to Charlotte or the Triangle such that a trip to Rita's was involved. I remembered that during one such trip, we passed what seemed to be an exclave of Philly in Mooresville: a Rita's right next to a pretzel jawn (which I now know to be Philly Pretzel Company). It's about an hour and 20 minutes from home, but I thought about making the trip. In another direction, I had heard the team on 919 Beer speak of Patrick Jane's in Cary, which "imports" Amoroso rolls for its cheesesteaks.

Still, I stayed local. After crowdsourcing recommendations for cheesesteaks, I landed on an option right around the corner from which I had often ordered pizza, and Burke Street Pizza (pictured) is legit. I grabbed some Tastykake products (and introduced my kids to Butterscotch Krimpets) locally as well.

Then there was the beer selection. In a normal year, I'd typically do a make-your-own-six pack with representation from the cooties/regions of both teams, or perhaps the host city, but for obvious reasons I was going all Delaware Valley. I knew my first call was going to be Victory - from Downingtown, and appropriately named. I got a six of Home Grown lager. Turns out my choose your own ended up all Victory as well - Festbier, Mighty Things, Dirtwolf, 4 Front, Golden Monkey, and HopDevil.

 What I left out? Dogfish Head. I came to be an Eagles fan through Delaware, but Dogfish Head is downstate. I can't promise the folks in Slower Lower are thorough - too many Skins fans down there. Plus, Sam named Dogfish Head after a place in Maine. No New England here.

The Philly love continued into the broadcast: God Bless America by Leslie Odom, Jr. The National Anthem by Pink. And of course the team taking the field to Meek Mill. And after the victory, Philly's own Kevin Hart getting bounced from the dais. Back in Philly, the parade feature Jason Kelce dressed as Mummer and reprising a Philadelphia Union chant, and Chris Long in an Iverson jersey. The city and environs responded in kind, turning out in an estimated 700,000 for the victory parade.

Postscript: I offer no apologies and seek no absolution for backsliding and watching the Super Bowl. Still, if there were any team I was proud to root for in the midst of Kaepernick remaining unemployed, the Eagles were the best choice available. I don't yet know what the future holds for me and the League, but now and always, Fly Eagles Fly.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Is This Real Life? Part 2

"If you from the hood, I know you feel me..." -Freeway, What We Do

Sunday, February 4, 2018 was an emotional day, and I found myself teary-eyed quite a bit. I have no intention of presenting myself like Stoick the Vast of Billy Bad-Ass, but I don't find myself moved to tears quite as often as Jimmy V recommends, even after fatherhood. That day, however, an incomplete list, from the normally insignificant to the sublime, of things that brought tears:

-The climax of "Going the Distance" from the Rocky soundtrack
-SNL's Super Bowl sketch
-Posting about my Eagles flag on Instagram
-When fans of other teams reached out to tell me they were rooting for the Eagles
-When the Eagles took the field to Meek Mill's Dreams and Nightmares
-Pretty much the entire 4th quarter through the failed Hail Mary, confirming in disbelief that the clock had hit 0.0, and the Eagles were World Champions
-Getting texts from people I hadn't spoken to in a while because I am "their" Eagles fan
-The trophy ceremony

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Is This Real Life? Part 1

I used to pray for times like this... -Meek Mill, Dreams and Nightmares

The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions.

The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions.

The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions.

Nope, it doesn't get old.

If you follow on any social media - and if you do, I appreciate it - you may have been surprised that while I talked some noise prior to the game, i was relatively quiet during it. I've mentioned in the past that the lines are blurred between 80 Minutes of Regulation and friendly, mild-mannered Curtis, and frankly, Curtis was far to engrossed in this game to give "content". Simply put, this was the game - and subsequently the outcome - that has meant the most of me in all of sport.

There have been scant few times when I've gotten to see "my" team win a championship. There have been some misses - Super Bowl XXXIX and the 2001 NBA Finals come to mind - but rarely have I seen a team I claim hoist the ultimate prize, and never has it been a team I care about as much as the Eagles. To name a few, in no particular order:

-2004 Boston Red Sox. To the degree that I care about baseball - not much - I'm a Red Sox fan. 2004 was about a point in time in history and the shattering of an 86 year curse that it made me feel in a way that I can't claim with the 2007 or 2013 titles. Still, baseball's not my thing, so happy as I was, I deflected the joy to my Boston area friends who were living this in a way I could not yet fathom.

-2008 Philadelphia Phillies. As noted above, I'm not a Phillies fan, but this one wasn't for the team, it was for the city, finally tunneling out of a 25 year, 100 season drought in the four major sports.

-2013 Carolina Crown. Crown finally made it to the mountaintop after some near misses in the previous seasons. I actually experienced the 2013 awards ceremony from a hotel in Virginia while traveling.

-2002 Maryland Terrapins men's basketball. Though admittedly, the Final Four loss the year prior, which I experienced from College Park, probably had more of an impact on me.

-1999/2011 Baltimore Ravens. I experienced the 2000 Super Bowl from the game room at UMBC. The Ravens weren't my team, I was only a semester into my Baltimore identity formation, and I wasn't nearly the sports fan then that I am now, but there was something about that city literally and figuratively lighting up purple. By the 2012 Super Bowl, I was all in, having done an entire undergraduate career and marrying into a Ravens family by that point.

-2003 Delaware Blue Hens football. I didn't go to UD, but the jerseys said Delaware.

Honorable mention: 2008 Phantom Regiment (I'm not typically a phan, but I was that year), 2017 North Carolina A&T Aggies football (Aggie Adjacent Pride!)

While I had some ownership of each of those, Sunday night was truly mine.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Grand Opening, Grand Closing

This past Saturday, the Honda Battle of the Bands, which had called Atlanta's Georgia Dome home since its inception in 2003, took place for the first time in Mercedes Benz Stadium, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons and most events that previously called the Georgia Dome home.

It won't return next year.

Band Room Nation broke the news just minutes before Honda stepped off: Because Atlanta will host the Super Bowl in 2019, they will not host the Honda because of the "scheduling conflict":

To be clear, there is no "scheduling conflict," at least not with the Super Bowl itself. Honda has always taken place during the weekend between conference championships and the Super Bowl, a weekend that has also been occupied by the Pro Bowl since 2010. Frankly, the NFL would do well to incorporate the Honda the "championship halftime" and to kick off Super Bowl week. But if The Shield, the city of Atlanta, or whoever else has determined it's a conflict, I suppose there's nothing to debate there. So where to next?

There are two logical choices, and I'll snowball a third longshot. Honda's late January timing makes an indoor stadium the ideal choice in pretty much the entire continental US except for Florida. Both the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans and NRG Stadium in Houston fit that bill, are used to hosting HBCU events, and fall within the HBCU footprint. That footprint distinction is an interesting one: Should it land in either of those spots, it would make the move from MEAC (and SIAC) country onto the SWAC's turf. Certainly the SWAC bands that always have to take the hike would be pleased. Could a successful Honda in New Orleans or Houston - and with relatively little effort, a sellout is likely - have Honda questioning its allegiance to ATL, and lead to a rotation of HBCU marching's largest stage?

The third option - and full disclosure, I live in North Carolina - would be Charlotte. Bank of America Stadium is open air and farther north than Atlanta, making it a bit of a tougher sell. But the Queen City seems positioned as the next city up on the south Atlantic coast, and takes many of its cues from Atlanta: Hosting QC Battle of the Bands to Atlanta's Honda; the Belk Kickoff to Atlanta's Chick-Fil-A Kickoff. Both host college football conference championships. This past summer, when DCI's Southeastern Classic was moved and downsized in the Atlanta stadium interregnum, it was North Carolina (Winston-Salem, granted) who saw the biggest boon in the supersized NightBEAT show. Charlotte is just about as accessible by air and road as Atlanta. So while an outdoor venue is unlikely to be considered, Charlotte would be a strong choice.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Flesh is Weak

I'm not sure I know what my end game is. The end of the season? Until the league has made whatever I determine to be progress? Until Kap is employed? Until the Eagles make the Super Bowl and I ultimately backslide? Or am I done for good? At this point, I don't yet know. -Taking a Knee, September 2017


The Eagles are in the Super Bowl, and my NFL boycott is over, or at the very least taking a one game hiatus. I haven't watched my team play a snap all year, and the first will be in the Super Bowl. 

I could start reconsidering and rationalizing why I've decided to go back.  The truth is I've given it some thought over the course of the season, but the answer here is far more simple. My team's in the Super Bowl. I told you that from jump. I even briefly considered not watching, convinced that I was the curse and that they'd do better if I didn't, but I'm certain I've not been granted that level of cosmic sway.

And now? While there's no question to my Eagles bona fides, I'll feel almost bandwagon having not watched this team all season. Looks like I gotta brush up on my own team.

Fly Eagles Fly.

Monday, January 8, 2018

You Can't Always Get What You Want

But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.

Running a site that is so intertwined with my personal interests and passions, it's sometimes hard to tell where 80 Minutes of Regulation ends and Curtis begins. Still, when I conceptualized the trip to Atlanta for the College Football Playoff National Championship festivities, it was an 80 Minutes trip. I'd document it. I'd gather "content". I even paid for it with some of the tens of dollars I've made running this place. With that idea in mind, I was on my way.

I'll note that when I updated the tagline to "The Cadence of Gameday," it was to more accurately reflect the site's offerings. Still, I know and embrace the fact that marching bands both began as and remain my wheelhouse. The trouble? There were no bands to be had.

It was a combination of the plans I made and the assumptions I made with them. When I booked the trip nearly a year ago, I intended to be there through the night of the championship itself (though attending was never an option). I'd embed myself in the championship weekend experience, checking out all that it had to offer, but most of all the bands. A four night stay was trimmed to two, but surely they'd make a weekend of it, and there would be plenty of chance, right? Nah.

My closest analog was getting to sneak a peek at SEC's fan central a month prior, also in Atlanta. That event featured pep rallies for both teams on Saturday. However, Saturday for that event was also gameday. The big pep rallies for tonight's national championship were this afternoon, not over the weekend. So while there were plenty of activities planned for the weekend, the marching bands were not among them.

It's a huge oversight, in my opinion. If I may quote myself from an earlier piece where I suggested that any championship bid worth its salt would include a parade in the plans:
The national championship festivities should be a culmination and celebration of all that is college football, and that includes marching bands. Without them, all you have is a minor league Super Bowl.
With  all that exposition, you may think I had a less-than-great trip. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The highlight was was getting to catch a live show of the Solid Verbal. While I've spoken about them before, they're one of my favorite pieces of college football media. The live show didn't disappoint, and in addition to everything both hosts bring, their guests included ESPN's Adam Amin, Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, and SB Nation's Spencer Hall and Jason Kirk, all of whom I've come to appreciate individually and in association with the show. Ty recognized me by name as a long time listener (and occasional writer-inner); my only regret is that at the postshow at the bar, I ended up down on the far end (and perhaps more engrossed in the Falcons game than I have been in the NFL all season) and managed to completely miss hanging out. Next time, I suppose. That said, I did manage to experience and enjoy perhaps the most on-brand beer for me: Cadence, a Belgian dubbel by Georgia's own Reformation Brewery.

Elsewhere in the Cadence of Gameday, I got to check out the Tailgate Plaza outside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, featuring various brand activations, not the least of which being the Nissan Heisman House. Media Day gave the opportunity at a fly-on-the-wall peek in at some of the media interviews of Alabama and Georgia players and staff, and Fan Central featured more activities in an inside venue. I even got to hoof and Über my way around Atlanta some, including revisiting the Flying Biscuit Cafe that I had enjoyed years ago, and catching Waffle House on my way out of town.

It'll likely be quite some time before I make it down for a championship weekend again - though I wouldn't rule out a Peach Bowl trip, with or without a playoff -  but I had a great time this year, and hope to do it again.
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