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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Before the Clock Starts: ACC

Before the Clock Starts is back for a third year, and this time, we're doing full conferences.

 As with last year, we'll take a look at what college bands do before the clock starts: The pregame show. Designed to set the tone for the football game to follow, pregame shows are, by design, high-energy, crowd-focused, and school-centric. At five weeks until the start of the new year, we start with the ACC.


With all conferences, I look for the most recent representation I could find, and in many cases, those came from this past season. With a few schools, I had to look further back, and with just a handful, there was no true video at all. I'd love to see these schools step up and give us something to appreciate!

Getting antsy and want to see all schools? Here's the master playlist.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stripped Ohio

It's levels to this... -Meek Mill

Earlier today, The Ohio State University fired the director of its esteemed marching band following a hazing investigation.

Yes, hazing.

For reasons I don't understand (but will attempt to), the first article I read, linked above, refused to refer to the situations at hand, largely perpetrated upon the rookies by older members, as hazing, instead referring to the "sexualized culture" present within the band. But the investigation report details a longstanding tradition that created a hostile sexual environment for band members, and included a Title IX investigation. The insular nature of the program kept this "culture" largely unquestioned until only recently.

Sound familiar?

I know you don't have a leg to stand on when you kill a man, but FAMU "hazing" vs. Ohio State "sexualized culture" is worth noting. While the racial difference is noted, this could very well deal with a misunderstanding of hazing. It is easy to conceptualize hazing simply as physical brutality taken against another, usually younger, member, dismissing any instances that don't fit that mold. All organizations must realize that these are cut from the same cloth. In the report, recently fired band director Jon Waters was said to have told the band, in the wake of the tragedy at FAMU, that such would not happen at Ohio State. That he somehow has not seen that such was happening under his nose as he spoke those words is troubling. The actions that killed Robert Champion and those that have plagued the Ohio State program exist along the same continuum.

Similarly, given the sexual nature of the band's hijinks, it's easy to dismiss it as college students being college students, or, as Deadspin put it, band members being "horny and depraved". Indeed, we all remember the culminating "this one time at band camp..." story from American Pie. But the Ohio State band wasn't just trading dirty jokes on the back of the bus or hiding rolled up Playboys in trombone cases. Their pervasive culture included underwear-clad rehearsals, sexually explicit nicknames, and simulated sex acts. With the added power dynamic and the prestige of perhaps the nation's most visible and celebrated marching band, the environment is a petri dish for the hazing the took place.

Following the incident at FAMU, I was quick to call for a suspension of the Marching 100. While my insistence is a little quieter - due largely to the scale of severity - a suspension would certainly be appropriate here as well. As it stands, the president of Ohio State has promised a "comprehensive, independent task force of nationally recognized experts to conduct an assessment of band culture," but it would seem to me that an interim suspension would be warranted pending said investigation - I'd imagine such would be done if this were a fraternity or perhaps another group less high-profile than the marching band. Rather, the band will continue as planned during the search for a new director; the only change I've seen thus far to the band's operations is that they will no longer take a planned trip to College Park as Ohio State faces the Terps. While firing the director was an appropriate move, even the investigation thus far has shown that the issue at hand goes deeper than one man, who at least by his own account was trying to change the culture.

Finally, I'll be interested to see what follows, not just at Ohio State, but in the greater marching band community. In less than three years, two of the activity's most visible programs have succumbed to hazing incidents. Ohio State in particular had transcended the band world with a string of viral halftime shows and an appearance in an iPad commercial this past year. While the situation is unfortunate, it could perhaps occur on no grander of a stage to hopefully affect change in bands across their country with their eyes on Columbus.

Postscript (7/29/2014): While I stand by every word I chose to use in this piece, I will note that because hazing has a definition that varies from state to state and institution to institution, it is debatable as to whether or not this meets the legal threshold. Here in North Carolina, it is not, as the law mandates "physical injury" as a condition. In Ohio, where the incident took place, lawyers would charge billable hours arguing whether or not there was "substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person". The laws in each of the 44 states that outlaw hazing can be found here. I continue to contend that using the "I know it when I see it" threshold, hazing did indeed occur.

Before the Clock Starts 2014

With all due respect to Georgia Southern and Abilene Christian, who start this coming football season with a Wednesday night tilt, college football starts for most five weeks from tonight, with Texas A&M and South Carolina kicking off the first game between two power conference teams. Two days later, the fall Saturday routine returns. Each Saturday until then, I'll be reprising Before the Clock Starts.

Now in its third season, Before the Clock Starts references both the time before the season and the time before the game clock starts: Namely, the pregame show. Designed to set the tone for the football game to follow, pregame shows are, by design, high-energy, crowd-focused, and school-centric.

This year, I'm doing things a bit different. Instead of just highlighting the conference champions, playlists will let the entire conference get in on the action. Regrettably, as the college football landscape has changed, I've slimmed down to just the five power conferences - a theme repeated with this year's Band on the Road - meaning that I, like major college football, am leaving my own USF Bulls out in the cold. Still, with just five football-less Saturdays remaining, I hope this serves to whet your appetite, as a new conference will post each Saturday morning, around the time you'd be flipping on the Worldwide Leader's college football pregame show. See you on Saturday!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself

Halftimemag.com If you made your way over here from Halftime Magazine, welcome! If you're one of my regular readers or you found your way here otherwise - and if you are or did, thank you! - I was recently quoted in an article in Halftime about amplification in marching/athletic music. If you made your way over here from there, I'm glad to have you, and hope you stick around.

80 Minutes of Regulation derives its name from the 60 minutes of a college football game and the 20 minutes of halftime - both parts hold equal importance. This blog discusses sports, marching/athletic music, and the pairing of the two. If you enjoy one or both, feel free to keep coming back or add this to your favorite feed aggregator.

The tabs and tags should give you eveything you need to know. Enjoy!

Eight-to-5K

My wife is a runner. She (re)started a few months ago, after our son was born, and she recently she's been running 5Ks and other races. I've been asked, by her and others, when I'm going to start running. Short of responding "when pigs fly" I've often said, only half jokingly, that I'm far more likely to march 5K than I am to run it. And it gave me an idea.

I am, admittedly, a has-been, a decade and a half removed from my last formal marching experience. While I'm no where near in playing shape, I think it would be fun to strap on a drum or a pair of cymbals and step off once again. I may even train for it. So imagine this: A marching band puts on a "parade" of sorts, keeping squad leaders and minimal instrumentation intact, while ceding other instruments to 5K registrants. A registration packet gets you the music to a few simple tunes, and cadences if applicable. The band could hold a few open practices for those who felt the need to get some practice in. And then come "race" day? You march. Marching 8-to-5 at a brisk 120 bpm, 5K will take you about an hour and 13 minutes, not too much more of a time commitment on a Saturday morning than an actual race would have for many.

The sound may be middling to horrendous. You'd have folks at all different skill levels, in all sorts of different marching styles, marching side by side. And frankly, that's part of the beauty of it. Like a race, it would bring together all sorts of people around a common interest. Maybe I'm an outlier as someone who runs a band blog, but I'd jump at the chance, and I'd like to think that other former marchers - either those who do run or those who, like me, want something at a pace we're more used to - would as well. If a band near me picks this up as a fundraiser, count me in.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Beer Review - Flying Dog Dead Rise

While I tend to stick pretty closely to sports and marching/athletic music, I sometimes delve into adjacent topics, and because it pairs so well with either, I consider beer an adjacent topic. P.P.S. it is summer, you know.

While I'll always call Delaware home, I'm a Marylander by association, education, and relation. For as long as I can remember, family trips involved visiting family in Baltimore or PG County, or headed to the Aquarium and Inner Harbor in Baltimore. My college years would take me to UMBC, and I met and married a woman from Maryland. So while it's not my home state, I'd like to think my cred runs sufficiently deep. As such, when I learned of Dead Rise - from Maryland's Flying Dog Brewery and brewed with Old Bay - I couldn't wait to try it. But I had to - It's not available anywhere near my North Carolina home, so it wasn't until heading to Ocean City for 4th of July that I actually got the chance. Upon cracking my first beer and taking my first sip, my reaction was "Interesting..."

I subscribe to the OBOE philsophoy (Old Bay On Everything), but I didn't know what to expect in beer. A friend of mine had described the taste as Yuengling with Old Bay, but while that was an admonishment on her part, it only further piqued my curiosity. I had my first Dead Rise the night of July 5th, after the Arthur-postponed fireworks. Even after finishing it, the jury was still out as to exactly how I felt. Had I tried it in a bar, I may have chalked it up to an experience and moved on, but I had bought a six pack, so I was committed.

The next came with dinner the next day, and it was then, with food (fish, in this case) that I started to get it. What was an interesting taste had met its calling, and what was just a strange spicy finish now had a purpose to enhance both the meal and itself. I bumped it up a bit in my mental (and soon Untappd) rating, and realized that this beer's a roleplayer, not necessarily a soloist.

Dead Rise has a light summery taste with Old Bay as a notable star player. While I have not yet experienced it at self actualization - with crabs - I'm five into my six pack and have gone from skeptic to believer. This would certainly make an appearance at my next cookout, if it were available here. I'll warn it's an acquired taste, but if you're a Maryland apologist and Old Bay enthusiast like I am, pick this up, sit down to a nice meal - ideally one with mallets among the silverware - and enjoy!

You Can Go Home Again

First: If you haven't already, before you read my words, read LeBron James'.

If you've so much as turned on a broadcast or communication device today - and I have it on good authority that you have - you know by now that LeBron James, two-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat, is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, with whom he started his professional career, and Northeast Ohio, where he calls nearby Akron home. In doing so, he returns to a city that ceremoniously burned his jersey in effigy and an owner who wrote a venomous letter four years ago upon his departure. In the essay linked above, James' own words as told to Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins, James talks through his departure and the reason for his return in a manner that I think is entirely admirable.

I've really never had any dog in the fight as it relates to LeBron James. His dominance on the court is undeniable, but my rooting interest in the NBA lies with the Sixers. Philly has never been in the running for either of his decisions, and despite always sharing the Eastern Conference with him, the team hasn't been a factor in any of his playoffs runs. But as I played armchair psychologist with the news surrounding his latest decision, I thought that he did return to Cleveland - and for the record, I didn't think he would - the overwhelming reason would be that it is home.

It's one thing to not live in the place you consider "home". While Greensboro is home now, and I haven't lived full time in Wilmington in a decade and a half, it will always be home. And while I'm fine living away, I don't know if I could live with home actively hating my being. To know that I could not walk my own streets would be maddening, and I would probably take whatever steps were available to me to change that fact. So while I don't know that the hate side played a huge role in LeBron's ultimate decision, I would imagine that quelling it played at least a part. Had LeBron chosen to return to Miami, no one could have faulted him for it - except those in Northeast Ohio. With the move he made, not even Miami, a team for whom his WORST result was the NBA finals, can rationally be mad.

I've got a thing for homecomings, and a soft spot for long-suffering sports cities. Best of luck to LeBron and the Cavaliers.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I Still Believe

Is the future bright for US Soccer?
I'm probably in the same boat as a lot of American sports fans. I tune in to soccer once every four years, when the World Cup rolls around. So this summer, like clockwork, I tuned in, expecting to pay a bit of attention until the US made their exit, only to tuck it back into the recesses of my fandom, to be called up again four years later.

When I turned on the first match this summer - I don't remember which one it was, but it wasn't one of ours - a funny thing happened. I found that I I got was what going on a lot more. I was finding interest in what was going on over the entire field, not just at the goal. I can even find enjoyment in a game that ends 0-0 - except for that whole pesky tie thing. Perhaps it's four more years of sophistication as a sports fan, and with it four more years following analogous sports like hockey, basketball, and lacrosse that I follow more frequently. Perhaps it's even the soccer I do catch - I currently work at a school where soccer is the primary fall sport, and I graduated from another who I got to see in the postseason this past year. But while I used to view the sport of 89 minutes of putzing around in the middle of the field punctuated by a few scores, I can now find appreciation, even excitement, in all facets of the game. And one thing that has never changed is that I enjoy watching with people who enjoy watching. I've had three such occasions with this World Cup - one was being at a conference where lunch happened to largely coincide with USA-Germany, another was with friends in Virginia, and the third was catching some in a bar in Ocean City. I watched the second semifinal here at home and I'm looking forward to the consolation game and the final this weekend, even though the US now long since eliminated.

And it's not just me. Viewership for the US games is up all over the country; social media tell a similar tale. And despite exiting in the round of 16 (can I call it the Sweet 16? Sorry, American.) for the second consecutive World Cup, this one felt like a bit more. Like our guys could play with anyone and maybe, just maybe, with some healthy support on site and on the homefront, we could will them to just one more goal, one more victory. And it seems, at least for now, instead of retreating back into the every-four-years shell many American sports fans do with soccer, there may be some lingering interest, an interest which should be easier to quell with high quality international soccer becoming more readily available on American television.

This is where I punch well above my weight class and make a comparison that I'm not sure I have the knowledge base to, but hear me out. As the brass (leadership, not horns) of Carolina Crown discuss the rise to their recent championship, they talk about how they started out with no true first trumpets. As they continued to build the program, they were able to bring in better students, then capitalize on that success, and so on. Might we be headed that direction with US soccer? The trajectory certainly seems right. And while I don't think we will ever host the world's best professional league, we're putting more American players into those leagues to play with and against the best in the world. Perhaps the youth soccer era is starting to pay dividends, and next World Cup, or several down the line, the US will edge ever closer to the top of the mountain.

I'm not saying I've become a huge soccer convert. Hell, I'm still calling it soccer while the rest of the world scowls. But I don't think it'll take me another four years to tune back in.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Free Agency

In a few minutes, when the calendar turns to July 1 and the latest round of realignment becomes reality, I become a major college football free agent. While this was functionally the case when football ended in January (or earlier, when the 2013 iteration of USF football's die was cast), shortly the future - the one with little hope for teams in the "other" five conferences - becomes the present.

True enough, I have a few rooting interests I could call in if I were truly shopping. Of late, I've followed FSU more than any other team, and I've been to as many Seminoles games since graduating from USF as Bulls games. Of course, there's always the Terps, having been educated in the University System of Maryland, though my feelings towards their conference move are well-documented. Having lived in NC for nearly a decade, I could even pick a local team here. But I've never been the type to just pick a fandom. I will, of course, remain a Bulls fan, but this leaves my cupboard bare as far as major conference teams are concerned.

And frankly, I welcome it. While I'll have my likes and dislikes, my weekly college football landscape, nationally speaking, will be uncolored by how my team fares in it. I certainly won't love the sport any less, and I may be a well-rounded view. And, of course, the imminent realignment lets me share turf with a new(/old) conference foe here in NC - the ECU Pirates. It's a new day.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Emphasis on the Uni


I hinted when highlighting Carolina Crown's recent uniform changes that I liked the uniforms as much as I can like the current iteration of Crown uniforms, and that that was another post for another time. This is that time; this is that post.

To be frank, I don't like the new breed of uniforms, and I'm rather averse to some of the drastic changes taking place, particularly this season. My reason is this: Just as uniforms - one form - are designed to give a cohesive look to the corps in the field, I believe that they ought to also tie the present version of the corps to its past. The recent Carolina Crown reboot - and I realize this isn't their first - is a complete departure from the cream-clad corps they had been in the recent past. The last few years in cream bore minor changes, including a difference in accent colors, that didn't bother me at all. These at least kept the overall look, while last year's change, and this year's hue adjustment, completely threw previous styles out of the window. If I may damn with faint praise, I am at least glad that this year's uniform is cohesive with last year's. If they would have switched back to cream last year, my perception would have been that they switched to dark pants for one year - a championship year - to mask sloppiness in the legs. At least they're doubling down on their decision.

While Crown hits closest to home, they are not the only offender. Santa Clara Vanguard, my other favorite corps, has largely departed from their traditional look, donning white tops for this year's Scheherezade program. Madison Scouts too went with all white for the summer. Still in both of those cases, the uniform style is a relative constant. and the color change is to a neutral one that is already or has previously been part of the corps' palate. This year - or more accurately, last year - only Crown provided that level of whiplash in uniform design.

Perhaps my issue comes from following marching/athletic music like a sports fan. While certainly there have been major changes in uniform and even color scheme for pro and college teams, they happen far less frequently. Continuity makes for ease of support - even if I'm not in team/corps merchandise, I can throw on green in support of the Cavaliers or light blue to represent Spirit of Atlanta. While uniform changes don't change this manner of support, color changes certainly do. I could cynically point out that the switch from #purplepantsband to the #spacepantsband in blue leads to more merchandise sales, but I don't know that that's a driving force. I think the design team just thinks it makes sense creatively, and while it may, I think it dilutes a potential branding opportunity.

But what do I know? Maybe I'm quickly becoming a corps curmudgeon (because you know, I'm "pro acoustic instrumentation" too). Now get off my lawn.

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