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Monday, March 2, 2015

Hindsight

They say a dog is always happy to see you when you come home.

It's fitting, then, that my wife and I, both UMBC alumni, were welcomed with open arms when we headed back to campus last weekend for the 2015 Spirit Groups Alumni Day. I made the trip alone two years ago (the destination of my 2013 Basketbinge) but this time we made a family trip out of it, spending the weekend with my in-laws.

While I wasn't there in the very beginning, I joined the Down and Dirty Dawg Band in just its second year of existence, meaning that the folks gathered there, especially when I come through as the designated old guy, span nearly the entire history of the organization. There were members I had met on the last trip, others I had connected with on social media, still others who shared the stands with me during my time in the band. And among us all, and even those to whom I never spoke a word, there was as shared experience, a pride in the teams we support (even the one that would move from three to four wins on the season that day) but just as importantly, in ourselves, a band that is routinely mentioned by television announcers and regarded at the top of our conference. Head men's basketball coach Aki Thomas and assistant coach and former player Jay Greene even came and spoke at our bruncheon, a mere hour an a half before tipoff. The fact that they would take such a break from a gameday routine to address us all - and while my experience was with the pep band, the day included the dance team, cheerleaders/tumblers, and Fever Retrievers as well - shows that they support us right back.

Musically, I spend a few tunes on drumset, including my once-signature Sing Sing Sing, and while I ain't as good as I once was, I can still get by. I also got to jam out some with the rest of the rhythm section, some of which made it to the ESPN3 broadcast. And while my son stayed with his grandparents, my daughter got to enjoy campus with us and even hang out with "the doggie".




If I had known that the snow that arrived while we were on campus would make a 25 mile trek around the beltway take three hours, we might not have gone. If I had known we'd return to Greensboro to the gushing water of burst pipes, we might not have gone. But while both of those were unfortunate, I'm glad I was able to return home.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

#marchbandness

March is once again upon us. If you're in the northeast - or hell, most of the rest of the country - you're awaiting the coming of spring and some respite from what's been quite a winter. But for college hoops fans, it means the coming of another season - the postseason. Regular seasons are wrapping up, conference tournaments are on deck, and one thing is clear: It's time for March Madness.

For me, conference tournament season began in the Northeast Conference, during my undergraduate days at UMBC. As a resident of Tournament Town, we're typically talking ACC - both men's and women's - here. I've made the trip up the mountain to the SoCon tournament in Asheville, and at least been in the neighborhood of CIAA and MEAC festivities. Greensboro's also no stranger to actual NCAA action, having served as a first and second round site for the men and this year hosting a regional for the women.

For years ago, relatively deep in to the 2011 tournament, I started using the not particularly clever but concise hashtag #marchbandness. I realized quickly that there's also a radio station that uses that tag for a bracket style band showdown they run. So for the last couple of years, I've pondered switching to something that's not in use. Trouble is, I've got nothing. Nothing else so succinctly and perfectly relates to the pep bands of the postseason. So I'm done hemming and hawing. #marchbandness is here to stay. So while you're taking in your conference tournaments or NCAA action live in the arena or at home on TV, drop a #marchbandness to let them know you're paying attention!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Here's to Wake Forest

I've actually been holding this one close to the vest since it came to my attention. This makes me, I suppose, a horrible journalist, but a formidable confidante. I'll take that.

NightBEAT, the annual Tour of Champions event put on by Carolina Crown, has been relocated from Charlotte to Winston-Salem at BB&T Field, home stadium of Wake Forest football. As a previous ticket purchaser, I was invited about a month ago to take a brief survey gauging interest and likelihood of attendance in the event that NightBEAT were to make that move. I knew then it was a strong possibility, and sure enough, word came out on Friday that Winston would be the event's 2015 home.

I couldn't be more thrilled.

NightBEAT is typically a nearly two hour trek for me from my home in Greensboro. Not bad, to be sure, but the 45 minutes to Winston is far better. And while it's virtually home for me, it is home for friends of mine - and my usual NightBEAT crew - who work for a high school band there. In fact, there's a good chance they'll be a host site. I've longed for a drum corps show to make it here to the Triad, and now, even if it's a one year engagement, one is coming.

As for Wake Forest, I'm no stranger. Having good friends who are Florida State alumni, I've been there about every other year when the Noles come to town. I've already got my tailgate spot and everything. In fact, with a shorter trip, local friends, and my daughter being four and more up to a longer day, we may indeed return to the lot after a few years' hiatus before this one.

What's more, there's an undercard to the news that could otherwise go overlooked. While NightBEAT will feature the Tour of Champions' usual suspects, this year's event will also include the Madison Scouts. My only - albeit minor - qualm with my closest show being a TOC event has been that it doesn't give me the opportunity to see anyone outside of that group of corps. I'm glad the men of Madison will be making the trek this time around.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Talladega Nights

Perhaps it was expressed in their opening salvo from this year's Bacchus: They live for the applause.



I can sheepishly admit that when Talladega College was invited to this year's Honda Battle of the Bands, I needed a refresher on exactly who they were. Perhaps more accurately, I needed a fresher; the Marching Tornadoes were, after all, in just their third season at the time of the invitation. While I'm well-versed in the bands of the MEAC, SWAC, CIAA, and SIAC, Talladega hails from the NAIA's Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. But despite that, the college of just 1,500 students located a dozen miles south of the eponymous superspeedway fields a band that has been turning heads since they stepped on the scene.

I've made the metaphor before in other venues, but is the Marching Tornadoes Boise State of black college marching? Fans would tell you they took it to Southern at last year's Bacchus during Mardi Gras (Human Jukebox members would quickly point out it wasn't their full band) and in the video above, they seemed to serve up all the 'Box could handle this year as well. While both bands pull from a diverse repertoire, opening an HBCU battle of the bands with Lady Gaga is certainly a bit of a Statue of Liberty play. And like Boise State, Dega has been consistently punching above its weight. The only thing that remains to be seen is if they have the longevity to continue playing with the big boys.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Long Haul

I'm nothing if not consistent, it seems.

As a denizen of Tournament Town, I've been fixated on the ACC basketball tournaments - moreso the men's - since I made the mental switch to basketball when football ended. With a recently expanded conference tournament, I found myself wondering if schools that in the opening day - especially those who have to travel some distance - would send their pep bands. Turns out I've wondered that sort of thing before.

This year adds an additional wrinkle. To move the championship game off of Selection Sunday, the tournament will now tip off on a Tuesday, adding another weekday into the mix for bands that begin in the opening round and continue to advance. Again, I wonder: If you're in last place in the conference and making the trip from Chestnut Hill - Boston College's lot in life if the season ended today - do you send the pep band? Here's hoping.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Assist

Some may think it curious that I didn't write anything a week ago following the passing of legendary UNC coach Dean Smith. I am, after all, a college basketball fan, and I live in North Carolina. Therein lies the rub: There's so much more expertise and personal experience around me as it relates to Coach Smith and Carolina basketball. So I will instead accept an assist from a friend, colleague, and fellow blogger of mine whose piece says far more than I could hope to: Sarah of Make Your Freaking Foul Shots:

Remembering Dean Smith

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

They may not have even finished etching The Ohio State's name into the championship trophy, and there's already talk of changing the college football playoff.

I'm not talking about the clamoring for more than four teams - that began long ago. But soon after the glory of meaningful college football was restored to New Year's Day, it could leave just as quickly.

ESPN spoke first, aiming to move the games from New Year's Eve to January 2. While the games occurring during the New Year's Eve-Day holiday was cemented prior to the playoff commencing, ESPN now doesn't want to compete with countdown programming on other (read: ABC/ESPN family) networks. Meanwhile, the Monday night championship game, also codified before the playoff began, could be threatened if the NFL adds playoff teams and seeks to encroach upon the day currently reserved for the championship. But the real enemy to a New Year's Day besot with playoff games doesn't come from outside college football's power structure. It comes from within.

Like many, I hold the Rose Bowl - and, of course, the Rose Parade - in high regard. But its adherence to tradition has stymied progress in major college football, and currently, it's doing more of the same. Before a playoff agreement was reached, the Big Ten and Pac-12 were often the holdouts, citing the sanctity of the Rose Bowl as cause for not wanting to disrupt the system what was already in place. Now, the Rose Bowl's 2pm-Pacific-or-when-no-other-games-are-currently-in-progress kickoff stands in the way, the four of six years when the Rose Bowl isn't involved, of the playoff games occupying their rightful spot during prime time on New Year's Day.

That the Rose Bowl cannot shift in years that it does not host a semifinal is nonsensical. No single game is larger than the sport in which it resides, and yet that's the exact stance that is being projected by the Rose Bowl and approved by the sport's power brokers. It's so entrenched, in fact, that the article speaking of the two other possible time shifts didn't so much as consider playing the games on New Year's Day an option. The Rose Bowl will kick at 5pm eastern, and the subject is closed for discussion. A hefty contract, of course, sits at the core of this. Even giving in to Granddaddy's stubbornness, though, the playoff could conceivably host one playoff at 1pm ET and the other at 8:30ish, following the Rose Bowl. It would force a few concessions: One playoff abandoning a primetime spot, a bit more time difference between the two games, and renegotiating with the Sugar Bowl, who currently occupies the post-Rose Bowl spot on New Year's Day. Still, the displacement could add an interesting wrinkle. If, for example, the 1 seed gets to select which slot they'd prefer, they can opt for the prime time glory or the competitive advantage of extra (albeit a few hours) time. And while primetime still carries weight, the early slot on New Year's Day is guaranteed holiday time for many, while the later game seeks to infringe upon a worknight. Each slot has its pluses and minuses, and if one concedes the staying power of the Rose Bowl, New Year's Day remains what it should be: full of meaningful football.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Testing the Waters

Meet the new boss... same as the old boss?

Jon Waters, the former Ohio State band director removed from his position back in July amid a report of hazing in the band, has applied for the same position. To this point, Jon Waters and those who stand in his corner has asked, protested, and even sued for the reinstatement of his position, and to this point, nothing has returned him to his post. He could very well give in, or await his day in court, but applying for his old position may be the best option.

Why? He may actually get it.

Consider this: All previous attempts at getting Waters his job back would involve the admission that he was fired unjustly. For a school with a pretentiously stated leading "The" and a new university president setting the tone for his tenure in a climate of increased Title IX accountability, admitting wrongdoing is a pretty tall order. So how would re-hiring him be any different? it makes two statements instead of one.

To rehire Dr. Waters would allow one chapter to close and another to begin. It keeps the original message clear: The culture of the band as originally reported was untenable, and it was cause for the person in charge to be removed from his job. But it also makes a new one: We believe that the totality of what you bring to the position - experience as a marching member, graduate assistant, and director of the band, and a tradition of innovation that put even the self-proclaimed Best Damn Band in the Land on a plane all its own - makes you the best candidate to lead this band. If this is indeed the belief, and Ohio State also believes that having lost the position previously doesn't necessarily disqualify him from consideration, this may be the best option for all involved.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Already in Progress

I did - and am currently doing - something this week I haven't done in a bit: watch basketball.

Football has always taken precedence in the two or so months that the two sports overlap. But this year has been basketball all but iced out until football ceded time. Usually, by this point in the season, I've at least kept one eye on the court as a season ticket holder for UNCG. But this year, for the first season since the Spartans started calling the Coliseum home in 2009, I decided not to renew. My attendance had already become more sparse, both with job responsibility changes and spending family time at home, but since my son was born just over a year ago, I had dropped off completely, so instead of renewing something I would rarely use, I decided this year I would do without. As a result, and perhaps helped by prolonged interest in football season with the playoff, I've been very light on the roundball.

Which isn't to say I don't love basketball. Indeed, I'm relatively certain that college hoops is sport and level I've seen the most of live, adding at the very least four years of pep band to five years as a season ticketholder and many more individual games and tournaments attended. I love college basketball, even though I tend to limit myself to two months and change giving it my full attention. And as much as 80 Minutes draws its name and most of its content from marching band, I actually spent more time as a pep band member than I ever did marching.

My transition includes the media I imbibe. While college football and marching remain a common thread all year, football podcasts give way to basketball ones. And as I'm not the only one who yields for football until it's over, I watched the first basketball College Gameday of the season this morning

While my time with the sport is fleeting, I try to hit it hard when I hit it. A few years ago I did my first Basketbinge two seasons ago and hope to repeat that at some point soon. I'll be heading north in February for pep band alumni day at my alma mater. And my March will truly be mad as Greensboro hosts the ACC women's tournament, men's tournament (for the last time in five years) and a regional in the women's NCAA tournament. So what I lack in volume, I hope to make up for in quality.

So while I'm the one who's just getting here, welcome back, basketball.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Staccato Notes: Championship Eve Edition

I've been collecting a bunch of small things that have come to mind lately, none of which necessarily warrant their own post. If only I had a format for that? Oh yeah.

-"Clash of Styles" has been a common theme for the national championship game. I agree - and yet most don't mention the one at halftime.
-Worth noting: If one wants to do a side-by-side of TBDBITL and OMB, each did a West Side Story show in the past two seasons. Ohio State Oregon which is to say... good job, good effort, Oregon.
-Speaking of Ohio State, members of TBDBITL were involved in various alcohol related incidents in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. The cynic in me is inclined to quip about an ursine inclination for sylvan defecation when you put a band trip and New Orleans together, but it's worth noting such actions are verboten and, well, rules are rules.
-The College Football Playoff got a lot of things right, and one of them was preserving a marching band halftime show. I stated my preference early and often, and to their credit, I've seen no evidence that the alternative was ever considered.
-Lest we forget, the half of the division that has always had a playoff crowned a champion on Saturday - North Dakota State, for the fourth year in a row. An interesting setup put their band side-by-side with Illinois State's in one of the end zones.
-There are rumblings once again of a postseason bowl pitting the MEAC champion against the SWAC champion for a de facto Division I HBCU national champion. It seems ESPN's behind it, and some folks can't keep their mouth shut, but that's about all we know at the time. Certainly questions abound, like where, when, and what happens to the MEAC's relationship with the NCAA football playoffs. Selfishly, I want this within reach, though Nashville may be the most logical candidate, ironically under the nose of the only other Division I HBCU, Tennessee State.
-While I always think it needs far more fanfare, the latest Sudler Trophy has been awarded, this time to Kansas State's Pride of Wildcat Land. The Big 12 now boasts six. The worst part about the awarding of the Sudler? The two year layoff until the next one.
-The "ringleader" in the hazing incident that claimed the life of FAMU drum major Robert Champion has been sentenced to 77 months.
-While I haven't yet shifted gears to basketball and pep band (though that's likely coming about 24 hours from now) it's worth noting the NCAA put together a pep band top five. The Atlantic 10 claims the top two spots with VCU's Peppas and George Mason's Green Machine.
-And finally: Slate put together a national championship matchup between the two bands, and while I'll admit I spent a minute or two in my "that's my turf!" feelings, it's really damn good. 
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