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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

No Marching, Just Madness

So while it's true that I first caught the band bug in marching band, I spent four years--more time than I ever marched, actually--in pep band when I was in college. As such, March Madness--reaching back before the NCAA tournament to the conference tournaments--holds a special place in my heart. Especially this year.

This year, I had the opportunity to see my alma mater, UMBC, make it to our first ever NCAA men's basketball tournament in our 22 years in Division I. This was right on the heels of our women's basketball teams first appearance (last year) but of the 88 championships sponsored by the NCAA (and the 1 that's not--the BCS national championship), The Big Dance is the one that draws the most eyes all over the nation. This debut was truly our arrival. I got to make the trip out to Raleigh to see the Dawgs in the first round, including getting to catch up with fellow alumni and my former pep band at the pregame social.

My friend and fellow pep band alum Jock reminded me that back in our pep band days, we used to long for that moment, but just as much we wondered if, when the time came, our pep band could hold its own with the big guys in a larger arena. I was quite pleased to see that the Down and Dirty Dawg Band represented nicely amidst the likes of Georgetown (our opponent), Davidson, and Gonzaga (the other teams from our session).

Normally I get to take in a few collegiate pep bands throughout the hoops season. I catch UNCG, where I currently work, and I typically catch some ACC action during the women's tournament here in Greensboro. One thing I love about the pep band scene is that each pep band has its own personality. More so than in football, the pep band is right down front and center and can't help but take an interest in the game. A properly used pep band can truly be a sixth man--complete with technical fouls. And instrumentation can range anywhere from that of a marching band (for schools that have them) or a jazz/big band combo (for those that don't), all brass, or really any sorts of bells and whistles (literally!) you can think of.

Right now I'm watching two of my favorite SEC bands (LSU and Tennessee) square off in the women's semifinals. This ay be one of the final hurrahs, beyond tomorrow and Tuesday's championship games, until football season rolls back around, save for the occasional pep band at a lacrosse game. Get your pep band fill while you can!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Passionate Support

Inspired by this article from the Baltimore Sun:,0,4731434.column

For those of you who didnt' read, I'll summarize. Apparently, UMBC has put together a Code of Conduct of sorts for athletic support, some of the standard be loud and rowdy in support but refrain from profanity, personal attacks, etc. The author goes on to praise UMBC while spending equal (if not more) time lambasting the neanderthals down at College Park.

It's intriguing perhaps, but it shows you haven't been paying attention.

Admittedly, many only started paying attention since we've been winning lately. But take it from someone who was there in some of our darker days as well: We haven't always been the model citizens we apparently aspire to become. As a member of the pep band, we at times were as down and dirty as our name implies. There were giant posters of scantily clad men and women, streams of profanities hurled at refs and opposing players, the whole nine yards. We got technical fouls. We had to issue an apology to the athletic department at Sacred Heart University for some, um, less than sacred conduct during the conference tournament one year. And this, mind you, wasn't just students in the audience, this was the pep band, sanctioned and supported by UMBC Athletics. So before you go too far in the Dawg-praising, turtle-bashing, do a little research.

And I say all of this not to air the dirty laundry of my alma mater. On the contrary, while I may approach things a bit differently, I'm damn proud of those days. I think athletics in general and college athletics specifically toe a fine line between decency and passionate support. And given the choice of the two, I'm likely to air on the rowdier side. If, prior to this year, UMBC fans were a little more like Terps fans, I would have welcomed it, if it meant passionate support of our programs. And to be honest, I've never been one to shy away from an off-color fanbase. I remind you all that I do root for the Terps, and on top of that, I'm an Eagles fan. So yeah, a little fiery support of one's team is A-OK with me. Barring considerations of children within earshot, I say let 'er rip. They call it home court advantage for a reason.
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