Spirit, Rivalry, and Mass Bands

At some point late this workweek, I was hit by a surge of spirit for both of my alma maters. I remember it starting with the announcement of talented newcomers to the UMBC Retrievers lacrosse program for the 2009 season, including an honorable mention All-American transfer from Ohio State. And at my other alma mater, the University of South Florida, it's a big game week as we prepare to take on the UCF Knights in Orlando in the final game of a 4-game series.

So the eternal question: Is USF-UCF a rivalry? This answer varies depending on who you ask, and even with me, it honestly depends on when you ask me. i think my stock answer now is that it is (and after tonight, "was" for the foreseeable future) a rivalry, but by no means an arch rivalry. I'll admit that they get my blood boiling like no one else out of conference, and losing is clearly not an option. However, it's still an unbalanced game in that the Big East's USF, who has won the last 3 games, dominating in the last 64-12 really has little to gain and everything to lose by playing Conference USA's UCF. Still, it's a game full of emotion for the two schools of similar size and stature located just 90 miles apart.

A corollary of this contest is that for the past couple of years, USF's Herd Of Thunder and UCF's Marching Knights have done some sort of a combined performance. Many of the staff of the two bands have either worked at the other or have close friends working with the other school, and certainly many of the students in the two programs know one another. It's a great gesture of friendship at face value, but as both a USF fan and a band dork myself, i'd prefer it not happen. My reasoning is this: All friendships and relationships aside, for the time of that football game and the time immediately surrounding, USF and UCF--and by extension the HOT and MK--are enemies. True enough, an enemy band isn't the same as an enemy football team, and while I may vehemently boo the team across the sidelines, I'll at least clap politely for the band in the same position. but to me, a mass band is appropriate only for an exhibition or a special occasion (See: Auburn's Tiger Marching Band and Alabama's Million Dollar Band shortly after 9/11). Beyond that? It's just a little too lovey-dovey for my taste.