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Thursday, February 21, 2008

In case you missed it...

This past weekend the NBA played their All-Star game. One thing that stood out to me was the uniforms:


(courtesy of nba.com)

As you can see both on Lebron and his defender from the Western conference, each of the all-star uniforms were constructed such that they had a completely different appearance from the front than they did from the back. Blue/white for the East, and white/gold for the West.



Since my mind tends to run relatively few tracks, my first thought was: Was their uni designer the same one who did The Cadets c. 2005's "The Zone"?

(courtesy of bluedevils.org)

For those who can't see it well and/or can't remember that show, The Cadets had a uniform that from the front appeared like their standard uniform used over the past 70-some-odd years, and from the back appeared as the front side of a similar but slightly different uniform. It would seem the NBA sought to go the same route. I hope the players practiced in game jerseys, because it might have confused me--especially with both teams having white as one of their sides!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Courtside

Yesterday, due in part to my job and in part to having a friend in Athletics, I was courtside for the UNCG women's basketball game. I haven't been that close to the court in a seat that cushy since... well, since I was sitting on the drum throne in my pep band days.

A significant portion of my educational/musical career was spent at basketball games, specifically as a member of the Down and Dirty Dawg Pep Band at UMBC, my undergraduate alma mater. We had what, in my albeit biased opinion, was the best pep band in the Northeastern Conference and following my graduation went on to become the best damn pep band in America East, and I was and still am proud to have served as a drummer and student director.

Fast forward nearly five years, and here I ws in a similar location. As a drummer, I was always seated right on floor level as opposed to in the stands like my wind-playing brethren, and here I was again, all too close to being beaned with a basketball or run over by a referee. This time I was but a mere spectator, enjoying the game and, of course, the pep band.

UNCG's got a hot little ensemble which I think is perfect for the arena. At about 20 members, they are well suited to rock Fleming Gym, an intimate arena of better than 1,800 seats, and rock it they did. Not that I'd ever been one to hide my band-dorktitude, but if I were inclined to, me conducting along to everything they played would have been a dead giveaway.

I credit my involvement in band with my current sports fan status. A note to band folk, pep, marching, and otherwise: It's true the music brought you there, but take some time to appreciate the sport as well. It's good times. And while you're at it, learn a little something about the sport. Not only is it worthwhile, but it helps with cheering on your team or deriding the opponent. You can certainly stick with the staples such as "DEFENSE! *clap clap*" and "Let's go [team name] *clap clap clap-clap clap*". But, my fellow band dorks, I implore you, stick to the basics or learn something functional; do not yell "GET THE BALL!!" incessantly at the defense, as an example.

And now, in related news: Many know Tony Kornheiser as one of the dueling duo on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption. Tony's an alumnus of Harpur College, now known as SUNY Binghamton, an America East conferencemate of UMBC. This past weekend, when the Bearcats visited the Dawg House, TK, who currently works in Washington DC, made the trip up, and in the process visited with the Down and Dirty Dawg Band. Photo courtesy of Greg Johnson a friend of mine and fellow DDDB alum:


Allow me also to point out my contribution to the picture: That custom bass drum head on the drumset is an alumni gift from yours truly.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Reason to Watch the Pro Bowl

While football is my favorite sport, I readily admit that the Pro Bowl is the lamest of hte major league all-star games. Instead of the tried-and-true midseason format, the NFL opts for the end of the season, after fans have already watched the biggest game a week prior and accepted the reality that there will be no more football for over half a year. The skills competitions can't hold a candle to MLB's homerun derby or even a recently dimished NBA slam dunk contest. Add to that the fact that instead of rotating sites like the other all-star games, the Pro Bowl is always in
Aloha Stadium in Hawaii--making it pretty much out of reach to the average football fan--and the NFL All-Star Game is less like the last glimmering hope of football and more like watching talented millionaires get paid to take vacation.

This year, at least we know someone will hop on a plane to bring the noise. The Niner Noise, that is. The San Francisco 49ers drumline--one of a handful of drumlines and other musical organizations in the NFL--will be on hand to perform at the Pro Bowl and its related festivities. Niner Noise is a production of BDEntertainment, the production arm of the DCI World champion Blue Devils of Concord, CA. Niner Noise has been doing their thing for a few seasons now, and BDE, like its associated Blue Devils, is no stranger to the spotlight either; this'll be stop #3 on their all-star rounds, having already performed at the MLB and NBA All-Star Games, not to mention NASCAR's Monte Carlo 400. I'm pleased to see that the NFL, and many others, see the value of bringing the group in to the Pro Bowl festivities. Maybe I'll sit a spell on the Pro Bowl before moving on to hoops this weekend.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation: The DCI Hall of Fame

Summer, 1998: prior to the start of the 1998-99 school year, my then band director, our drum major, vice president of bands, another executive board member, and myself, as incoming president of bands, piled into my director's car to head up the road apiece to Paoli, PA to J.W. Pepper to select the music for the coming year's field show. On the way, we listened to samples from various promotional CDs our director had received. A hot little track with latin appeal caught our ear as a possible opener, and when we got to Pepper, we took a look at the chart and decided that Touched by Fire by Larry Kerchner would be our opener for that year.

When we got back and started running the piece, my friend Brian, who was well connected in Delaware's music (particularly music theatre) community said "dude! He's from here! You know the Kerchners?"

And I did. Not Larry himself, but I had done a few productions at OperaDelaware with his two daughters. None of us had put two and two together, but unknowingly our Delaware band had picked a piece by a Delaware composer. It wasn't until years later when I became a big drum corps fan and began researching Delaware's drum corps history that his name came up again. I was familiar with Crossmen's stay in the First State, but I then learned of the corps Blue Rock, once based out of Wilmington, DE with whom Kerchner had marched. So from one Delawarean to another, here's to you, Mr. Kerchner, enshrined forever as a representative of the State of Delaware in the DCI Hall of Fame!

Monday, February 4, 2008

No Sir, I don't like it.

Editor's note: This is the last of the posts migrated from Halftime and ESPN; each post above this point began in this very blog.

(Originally posted at the Halftime Magazine community, 1/30/2008)

This weekend, the Powers That Be at Drum Corps International were charged with the monumental task of considering some rule changes that could potentially change the fabric of the activity we know and love. When the dust settled, the caucuses had put forth four rules to be voted on, and each of the four was passed and will be put into effect in the 2008 or 2009 season.

And I don't agree.

I suppose let's start with the not-so-bad: I like the addition of an additional GE judge for World Championships; I think it's a timely move and should increase the clarity of the scores given in perhaps the most subjective caption. The water amendment is not offensive at face value. It could be misused, but then, so could just about everything in drum corps as we currently know it, so this one doesn't faze me too much.

The two rules changes regarding electronics, however--allowing brass amplification and electronic instruments--just feel fundamentally wrong to me. The two main arguments I've heard for them (particularly electronic instruments) are thus:

"Other forms of the marching arts have already 'evolved' to include electronics; DCI is just taking the next logical step"

"These additions will add to the creative palate available to directors and show designers"

Allow me to address these. It is true that electronics have made their way into other marching genres, most notably high school marching band. And to be frank, I don't like it there either. I am a fan of many types of music, but I am also a believer that each has its place. I love screaming guitars, a good keyboard riff, even synthesized sounds. But not on a football field, being produced by the world's top junior corps. Some would claim my position is anti-progress, ludditical even. They'd likely point out if it weren't for progress, we'd still all be blowing G horns and have no front ensemble (for the record, this doesn't sound nearly as unappealing to me as people assume it should). To that I say this: change doesn't always equal progress. Regarding the second point, I cannot see the logic in this. The new addition of electronic instruments will allow drum corps musicians to recreate the beating of helicopter blades, the roar of a lion, or the cry of a baby with the press of a button, so long as one hit on the part of the musician produces exactly one response from the electronic instruments. This does not increase creativity to me; in fact, it hinders it. The true creativity lies in the ability to create these effects WITHOUT the use of electronic instrumentation.

Regarding brass amplification, I will say only this, a phrase oft uttered by my high school band director: BLOW THE DAMN HORN!

*****

All that said, however, I have taken the past few days--more than that actually, as I feared, after last year's deadlock on the electronics amendment, that this change was inevitable--to come to relative peace with these changes. I can't say I'm thrilled, and I can't promise I ever will be, but this will not tear the activity of drum corps asunder as some may believe. In fact, I believe (ha!) that 90% of corps out there will use the newfound abilities in a manner that I deem to be responsible, and they will become another usual--maybe, in time, even integral--part of the activity. That said, I believe that that same 90% would be responsible stewards of whatever shape the activity should take. I for one, would prefer the shape its currently in.


Elsewhere on the Gridiron...

(originally posted at MyESPN, mid-January 2008)

I've made no secret that at times, my band-dorkness will creep into this blog. This is one of those times.

So back in September, ESPN2, for the third consecutive year, showed a ESPN-produced broadcast of the Drum Corps International World Championships, most recently taking place in the Granddaddy of 'em All, the Rose Bowl. As I had the previous year, I recorded this broadcast on my DVR, and there it remains, so if the desire presents itself, I can watch it all over again.

A few weeks ago, DCI announced that the broadcast won't return this year, citing the cost of producing it. This doesn't pose a problem for me in terms of viewing (I'll be at World Championships this year) and DCI's wording alludes to the possibility of it returning, but I still think it's a daggone shame.

Perhaps it's because I'm a fan of both drum corps and ESPN, but I thought it was a well-done production that got better each year. While the full shows were never shown, ESPN's production and analysis were enjoyable and satisfied both the band dork and the sports fan in me. More important were the intangibles--the opportunity to expose many to an activity that otherwise would likely have only been viewed on PBS by those of us who were already fans. It also makes me wonder: Do the major sports have to put money into the production of their broadcasts? Does poker? Does cheerleading? Does competitive jump rope?

Regardless, I'd love to see the broadcast return to the Worldwide Leader, if not this year, sometime soon.


My apologies to the upholstery...

(originally posted at MyESPN, early January, 2008)

Full disclosure: It's no secret that I am an alumnus and fan of the University of South Florida. As such, I am adamantly against the WVU Mountaineers at LEAST once every football season.

That said, after last night's display in the Fiesta Bowl, I am proud to call you my conference mates and our conference champions.

It wasn't that you won the game. Heaven know that with the exception of the game vs. Pitt a few weeks ago and, of course, your game against us, you've walked into this season, and for that matter, all but 3 of your last 18 (that other loss? It was to us too. Just thought I'd remind you.) You can win games. It wasn't even that you won this game that you weren't supposed to win. There have been plenty of those as well--Lord knows we were on the wrong end of one this bowl season.

But what you did was something more. After first a heartbreaking loss that snatched national championship hopes from your hands and then the loss of your coach for the last seven years, you went out there and did what the greats do. You played as a TEAM. You supported one another, you believed in yourselves, and you had fun.

It was no secret that no one thought you could do it. It was mentioned that in the ESPN poll, all of the states had OU selected as the winner of that game except your very own West-By-God-Virginia . I was one of the naysayers (although oddly enough, I selected you in my Bowl Pick'ems, though I was sure I had picked Oklahoma) and thought that OU could beat you outright, let alone with your current challenges. Not only will I admit I was wrong, I'm glad that I was.

Feel-good stories are typically for movies, but danged if I didn't find myself rooting for your (at the time) interim head coach, who was just pleased as punch to be there doing everything right, and for the team who rallied around him and carried him in victory. I rooted for Steve Slaton and Pat White (in spite of myself), Noel Devine, D ingle&Berry, and a team full of other folks to whom I hadn't paid too much attention. And I almost got choked up myself as your big hoss Owen Schmitt gave his swan song interview after the game. Your performance the entire game was something to behold. Plus, you made the conference look good, and, well, we sure didn't in our game.

So you did the right thing, at least at face value right now, dancing with the one you came with and hiring Stew to the head coaching position. Hopefully that karma, combined with your skill, will carry you far next season. Best of luck.

Except, of course, against us.


Sorry, my dance card is full...

(originally posted at MyESPN, Early January, 2008)

So, begrudgingly, it's that time of year when focus shifts from college football to college hoops. It's only begrudging because of my love of football mind you--make no mistake, I love college hoops as well.

My focus during basketball season is much different than it is during football season. During football season, I've got nearly exclusive focus on my USF Bulls. It's a no-brainer; it's my dear alma mater, and of the schools I've attended or worked at, it's the only one with a football team. That one's easy.

Come basketball season, however, my eyes are forced to dart back and forth. I've got no fewer than four teams I follow, so keeping up with them keeps me busy.

My college basketball love began in the great state of Maryland. I spent four years playing with the pep band at UMBC, so of course I'm ride or die for my Retrievers, who got off to a strong start this year and will hopefully beast in America East.

As a corollary, I fell into favor with the Turtles down the road, the University of Maryland Terrapins, during my time spent in Maryland through some friends who attended UMCP. I was there in 2001 when College Park burned after the loss to Dook in the Final Four, and I was proud to see them go back and take it all in 2002. The Terps are an interesting allegiance for me; i'm not sure i'd root for them over any of my other teams (and it's not a choice I often have to make) but I follow them all the same.

My other alma mater, USF, is hopefully giving me something to be excited about this year. During my two years at USF and the two seasons that followed, admittedly, the Bulls have given me little to be excited about, but that won't stop me from being true to my school. My time was spent as a mid-carder in Conference USA; we've since transitioned to a cellar dweller in the Big East. So far, however, I'm optimistic about the Heath era of USF basketball.

And finally, I currently work at UNCG. As both a sports fan and as someone who works closely with Athletics several times a year in my position in campus activities, I've grown attached to UNCG's athletics programs. This year's been promising so far, beating Georgia Tech and of course having Kyle Hines in his senior season.

Fortunately/unfor tunately, by and large I don't get to see any of my teams all that often. UNCG, of course, I can catch live, and I was fortunate to be able to catch them on SportsSouth today. You'd think being in ACC country the Terps wouldn't be hard to come by, which is somewhat true, but heaven forbid any of the Big 4 (UNC, State, Wake, Dook) be playing in the area. Despite the Big East's lucrative contract, USF's still hard to catch, being the small fish in a big pond, although they were on The Deuce the other day and have a few more scheduled appearances before the season's out. And the more TV that UMBC gets is locally in Baltimore and on MASN, which of course I don't get (and that's another post for another time).

So while college hoops season doesn't carry quite the same fanaticism from me as college football does, I'm still ready to receive it with open arms once there's no more football. Go Dawgs/Bulls/Spartans /Terps!


The Rivalry that Never Was

(originally posted at MyESPN, late November 2007)


So, the Battle for the First State: Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
No really. There's a t-shirt. I'll post a picture once I'm back home.
So today, as a native Delawarean and bona fide First State Representer, I traveled to Newark to watch Delaware history: The University of Delaware and Delaware State University facing one another in college football. I was firmly planted on the fence as to who to root for during this game. Here is the thought process that went into my (non)decision:
-I grew up in Wilmington, DE, and spent significant time on campus at UD, as my dad works there. Advantage: UD
-UD is clearly the aggressor in their previous 84 years of non-play. Advantage: DSU
-I've got friends at both schools. Advantage: none.
-I'm a Northern Delawarean. Advantage: UD
-I'm black. Advantage: DelState.
-Approaching Storm vs. UDMB: Advantage: none. (while very different, they are similarly good at what they do).
-UD likely has the best chance of bringing home another national championship. Advantage: UD.
-DelState success would be good, as they've never so much as been to the playoffs before. Advantage: DelState.

So with a wardrobe that was pretty much equal parts blue and gold and blue and red, topped with a Wilmington Blue Rocks (DE's minor league baseball team) cap, I was on my way.
The verdict on the field notwithstanding (44-7 in favor of the Blue Hens), I think most who attended would agree that this is a series that needs to continue as a regular season matchup. Anecdotally, I overheard several conversations between fans of both schools talking about how great it was, saw fraternity brothers from their UD and DSU chapters getting together, and what was more than just an amicable but actually an enjoyable relationship between the two sets of fans. And the elephant in the room, race, did not seem to be an issue at the game. There were many black UD fans and, admittedly surprising to me, a good amount of white Del State fans as well.
So while I snuck out a little early (the scoreboard, combined with the fact that the majority of my football attendance in the past few years has been in Tampa, not the mid-Atlantic in November, made it seem the right decision) I truly believe that a good time was had by all. My only regret is that there's not a bigger stadium in the state for them to play in.

Of DCI and Stadiums

(Originally posted in both the Halftime Magazine community and MyESPN, 12/9/2007)


Drum Corps International's Summer Music Games will be BACK in Orlando, FL this coming year. This is the DCI show I used to attend when living in Tampa; however, over my three years in Tampa, Orlando hosted the World Championships, then a major, 2-day event, adn then a lackluster also-ran in the SMG before dropping out of the tour completely for the next two seasons. DCI released their major events for 2008 just recently, and Orlando was on it, meaning presumably not only that it's back, but it's back with a vengeance, given its inclusion on the major event calendar. This is awesome for drum corps fans in Central FL, as there hasn't been a show at all in FL in the two years the Orlando show has been absent.
However, the kicker? DCI lists the stadium as TBA. It's been held in the Citrus Bowl in years past, so that says to me that UCF may be a thought with their brand new stadium. Interesting...

Cool Hand Luke

(originally posted in both the Halftime Magazine community and MyESPN, 11/11/2007)

Outside of the Indianapolis metro area and of course Colts fans, I may be among those most excited about the progress on Lucas Oil Stadium. i've been checking regularly, reading updates, and keeping general tabs on what's been going on in Indy. Of course, all of this excitement is because of the 2008 DCI World Championships, for which I have already purchased my "Fantastic 5" tickets, insuring that I will be in the place both for the occurence of history in the opening of Lucas Oil Stadium, and, of course, the World Championships. It's about 9 months away, but I can't wait!

The caveat? I really dislike the Indianapolis Colts, as a former Baltimore dweller. What would cap the entire experience is if I can somehow get my hands on a Baltimore Colts Marching Band shirt.


Editor's note: Since first writing this post, I did indeed get a Baltimore Colts Marching Band T-shirt (via photoshop and cafepress) and I will be wearing it proudly at opening day in Indy!

The only Blue Devils I don't mind rooting for

(originally posted in the Halftime Magazine community, 8/12/2007)

(since I hate Dook and Central Connecticut State)

Congratulations to all of the corps who competed this past weekend, especially your 2007 World Champion Blue Devils. Personally, I'm particularly proud of Carolina Crown. I predicted a top 5 finish, and I wasn't too far off--one placement and .025 points--but I can't be too mad because they finished higher than they ever have before and they were edged out by .025 by Santa Clara Vanguard, my other favorite corps. Of course, there's the usual withdrawal that takes place at the end of a season of any of the sports/activities I follow... good thing college football/marching season starts in just a few weeks!

Crash Course

(Originally posted in the Halftime Magazine community, 7/18/2007)

As much as I love the marching arts, I must say there are few things that excite me more than a talented cymbal line. I suppose it has something to do with my marching roots.
Back when I first started marching, like many percussionists who were either "green" or lacked seniority in their lines, I played cymbals. Often thought to be easy enough to be an entry level position, the cymbal lines I was often a part of were largely populated by first year marchers, who were later glad to "graduate" onto other positions on the line. In fact, my high school cymbal line even included musicians who played instruments with which they could not march (mostly oboists), so it was a position easy to take for granted.
And yet, despite having passed on to other positions in our drum section, I still--and will always--consider myself a cymbalist. As strange as it may sound, I'll always have cymbal bronze in my blood. Maybe it was remembering where I began, maybe it's the year I spent as a cymbal squad leader, transforming a line from the bottom of the drum totem pole to quality showmen and women, or maybe I just like shiny things and love their appeal both as an instrument and a part of the visual ensemble. Whatever it is, I'm hooked.
At this past weekend's NightBEAT, a DCI show sponsored by Carolina Crown in Charlotte, NC, I was fortunate enough to be treated to several talented cymbal lines. As you may know, cymbal lines in DCI are currently few and far between, as many corps opt to march that number on another instrument and play cymbal parts with in the front ensemble, but that night I was treated to Division II's Teal Sound, The Colts, Southwind, and my personal favorite, Santa Clara Vanguard.
The DCI Field Pass podcast for July 17, 2007 chronicles the "vanishing plates"and speaks to folks in various corps, including some cymbal-playing musicians, and it's easy to see that cymbalists take pride in our craft.
One thing that a few had postulated is that with the raising of corps limits from 135 to 150 members in the 2008 season, we may see a resurgence of plates squads. It's a change I'd love to see made--there's nothing like a solid cymbal squad. Still, there's something said for DCI lines who are currently the few, the proud, the cymbals.

Yes I'm Going to Carolina in my Mind...

(originally posted in the Halftime Magazine community, 7/8/2007)

I don't know why it was I became a Carolina Crown fan, but I'm pretty sure I remember when. At the DCI show in Orlando in 2005, me and three friends were in attendance. What I remember is that by the back end of the lineup, my friend Ryan and I were both noting that we hadn't had a horn line really "melt our face off" yet. Neither of us were too familiar with Crown, but I know that they did the deed. At the time, I already knew that I was weeks away from moving to North Carolina following grad school, so I couldn't tell you if it was Crown's skill or the fact that they were becoming the "home team" (I'm a shameless homer) that drew my attention. I'd see Crown again later that summer at their very own NightBEAT show, and by that point, I was a fan.

I knew there was something special about them--I can recall exclaiming at some point that their hornline was clean as [expletive deleted]. I kept following them from then on, catching then when I could (at this point it's been two NightBEATs [with another next weekend] and a CrownBEAT) and keeping tabs on them online.

I'm going to make a bold prediction. I think this is Crown's year. I'm not necessarily talking about a World Championship, at least not yet. But I see them definitely besting their current highest place at 7th; and I predict they'll break the top five with an outside shot at a medal. I know there are alot of corps fielding amazing shows this year, but I think Crown can hang.

I was certainly pleased to see them at CrownBEAT this year. Their hornline was clean as always, but now they had an additional feather in their cap: The drumline has traditionally been Crown's achilles heel, but acquiring Lee Beddis as caption head in the offseason was just what the doctor ordered. The drumline impressed us all at this show, and I'd say that having won the percussion (and each of the others) caption in the "Hot Chops" competition voted on by fans, We're not the only ones who were impressed.

So I've been saying it quietly, but now I'm putting it in writing for all to see: Expect a big year for Carolina Crown.


Genesis

(originally posted at the Halftime Magazine Community, 7/6/2007)

Story of a Band Dork

Yes, I said it--band dork. It's a badge I now wear proudly. But that wasn't always the case.

Let's start back from the first time I picked up an instrument, save for the "flutophone" recorder in elementary school. When the option became available in 3rd grade, my mom rented me a violin , and from there it was off to learn to play via the Suzuki method. That lasted all of a few weeks until I decided to quit.

My next opportunity came in 5th grade, when opportunities arose to join the band. My choices were limited; my family owned a trumpet, so that's what I decided to play. I played trumpet my entire 5th grade year in the band program, but that wasn't for me either.

In the 6th grade, I switched again (came to my senses, I'd say now) and decided to become a drummer. I attended a performing arts middle school and spend my first year as an instrumental music minor, learning to play the drums via the Yamaha books that I'm sure many of us used. By the 7th grade, I dropped my instrumental music minor (and vocal music major) for one reason only--with the drama major and dance minor I picked up, I could participate in those two activities and remain in the school's band and choir, giving myself the best of all worlds.

Fast forward to high school--I skipped freshman band; it didn't fit into my schedule that year and besides, as a freshman drummer, it was highly doubtful I'd ever march anyway. I watched the band from afar, and could often be heard rapping our parade cadence (or what I had gathered of it just based on hearing it) on desktops in class. I was a band wannabe, but more importantly, I was a band gonnabe.

In the summer of 1996, prior to my sophomore year in high school, I first embarked on a journey unlike any other, one that would change my life and ultimately help shape the person I am. I showed up on the first day of band camp for the Alexis I. duPont High School Tiger Marching Band.

I honestly don't remember what was said that day, but I could probably guess--the same things are told to us (and yes, over a decade has passed since my first day of band camp, but I will always be a member of the Tiger Marching Band) during each band camp. i'm sure we marked or sight-read our way through some piece of music, Mr. Parets--a band director, mentor, coach, and friend in the mold of Knute Rockne, Joe Paterno, Bear Bryant, and al of the greats--told us that we sounded like ???, and told us that it would take a lot of work to achieve excellence. I'll bet he pointed to the trophies that are shoved into virtually ever nook and cranny of the band room and reminded us that those were bands past--this year would be a new band, and entity that would exist for this one year and never again, and trophies be damned, we had our own legacy to create and could not rest on our laurels. And I know he referenced the sign that is hung above the band room door, and has been for Lord only knows how long. It reads: "We have one and only one ambition--to be the best. What else is there?"

What that sign meant, and continues to mean today, is that we would never strive for second best. We would be reminded throughout the year that "they" were gunning for us because we were on top. They wanted nothing more than to bring us down. And if we slacked for a moment, they would succeed.

I would learn that we were unlike any other band in our county. Where other bands would roll their feet, we would lift our legs high. While other bands were at TOB competitions, we were supporting our football team (who, with all due respect, needed it). While they were playing Shostakovich, we were playing Kool and the Gang. And while they were pleasing judges, we were pleasing crowds. It was explained to us that football games are watched by people who drink beer and eat pretzels; our entertainment should be planned accordingly.

During that summer's band camp and throughout the next three years in the band, I'd be inculcated into a tradition unlike any other. I'd become a member, and later a leader, drum captain, and president of a truly student-run organization. I'd select music, choreograph movements, and march in the Orange Bowl, the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland, and the Granddaddy of 'em All, the Tournament of Roses Parade.

But like all members, I would start at the bottom. As a drummer, I began my sophomore year playing cymbals. At the end of the year, I auditioned for drum major (the selected candidate serves as assistant drum major as a junior and risen to drum major as a senior) after having spent a year practically idolizing the drum major at the time. I didn't make it, but I was determined to become a major drummer.

I auditioned in the next year's band camp for a position on snare drum. I affectionately refer to the class ahead of mine as the "God Squad", so with so many talented seniors, I didn't get a snare drum. I was offered a bass but opted instead to remain on cymbals as a squad leader. In that year, I'd transform the cymbal line from merely the bottom of the percussion totem pole into a combo musical and visual ensemble who'd get our groove on front and center during that year's production piece, Cantina Band a la Sing Sing Sing.

That spring, I was nominated and ran for President of Bands. As a candidate, I'm not privy to the discussion that got me elected, but I'd imagine it had something to do with the leadership I was able to exhibit leading the cymbal line. I marched multiples (tris and quads) my senior year and ultimately won the John Philip Sousa award that year.

And yes, despite being strongly dedicated to the band, i didn't realize how much it was a part of me. For starters, I had no concept of the term "band nerd." at AI, where the band comprised nearly a quarter of the student body, boasted more trophies and travel in any one year than most of our sports teams could boast altogether, and 75% of our marching band were varsity athletes, the term didn't really exist. So when my name was on the ballot for Senior Superlatives as Biggest Band Nerd, I begged people not to vote for me. After all, I was no nerd!

I graduated in 1999, and as what was one of my final marching hurrahs, I participated in Blue-Gold All-Star Band, an organization put together to perform at the Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game, a fundraiser that benefited children with mental disabilities. Members of the band were from all over the state of Delaware, and I shared a drumline with drummers from several corps style bands. It was at one of the drum line gatherings that I really encountered DCI for the first time. My friend EC and I were astonished when the tapes came out--these guys knew corps, and shows, and years, like someone would classic tapes of their favorite sports team's heyday. And yet, it wasn't until much later that it would resurface.

If i had known how big of a band dork I was when selecting a college, probably would have never attended my alma mater. I loved my time at UMBC, but it had no football team, and thus no marching band. I did perform with the pep band, whose primary venue was basketball games. I did share that experience with lots of folks, including several other drummers, one of whom had marched Jersey Surf back in the day. I was proud, and still am, to be what was at the time the baddest pep band(and probably the top fan section) in all of the Northeast Conference, our athletic conference at the time. We had a helluva lot of fun and got to travel each year to conference tournaments. But eventually, I realized the marching bug was still in me, and i was pleased that in the summer before my senior year, I was given the go-ahead by the athletic department to purchase a battery of field drums; at the time, three snares, a bass drum, a set of quads and a pair of cymbals. It was with these instruments that the pep band became mobile for the first time, marching in the 2002 homecoming parade. The field drums would become a mainstay in the pep band still used as auxiliary instruments to this day. The end of that school year would also bring on the inception of the Dog Pound Drumline, put together of members of the pep band, who would play at FunkFest, an end-of-year celebration put on by several of the black student organizations and leaders. That was the sole performance of that line in that configuration.

Following undergrad, it was down to the University of South Florida for grad school. This time it was so close I could taste it--USF was home to the Herd of Thunder Marching Band, but unfortunately with my busy grad school schedule and assistantship, there was no way I could march. I became both a fan and a critic of the band--the group was relatively young and small (4 years in existence when I began at USF, and less than 200 members as compared to my high school band, which at its height was 285) and represented the corps style world, one of which I was not a fan, having been "raised" in the traditional style. Still, the HOT was good at what they did, and I attended many of their performances, even attempting, to no avail, to get a practicum working with the group.

While in Tampa, I also made a trip east to Orlando on what was essentially a whim (likely fueled by my band absence, which at that point was approaching 5 years) to attend a DCI show. I was hooked. I began learning more about DCI, and my enthusiasm was shared by a student of mine who marched in high school and had marched with the HOT as well. The summer following my grad school graduation, I attended a show in Orlando with friends and another in Charlotte after having moved to North Carolina. I since have been to Carolina Crown's NightBEAT for the past two years, volunteering last year, and will attend again next weekend. I've also attended CrownBEAT, another Carolina Crown event.

Which brings us to the present day--I remain a band dork without a band. I still attend battles of the bands whenever possible, as well as DCI shows, parades, and other performances. I keep up on various marching organizations online. i read DCI Today and updates on DCI.com. I'm a member of the5thquarter.com, various marching-related LiveJournal communities, facebook groups, and of course am a subscriber and now member of Halftime magazine. I'm the creator of Wikipedia's Marching Band project and a frequent contributor. And I continue to make plans that somehow, someway, I'll be back in the world of marching. But in the meantime, it just remains obsession. After all, old band dorks don't die; they just leave after halftime.


80 Minutes of Regulation Vision/Mission

(posted 7/14/2011; backdated appropriately)

While I have known it intrinsically for as long as the 80 Minutes blog and podcast have existed, I saw fit recently to verbalize the vision and mission of these media. Find them below.

Vision: 80 Minutes of Regulation strives to be the leading and most sought-after source in opinion and reaction related to sports and marching/athletic music.

Mission:
80 Minutes of Regulation seeks to provide opinion and reaction to news in sports and marching/athletic music. Through the 80 Minutes of Regulation blog, 80 Minutes (Give or Take) podcast, and the related Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Google+ page, 80 Minutes of Regulation will provide insight that other outlets covering these topics may not, including amplifying information related to the lesser-covered topic of marching/athletic music. 80 Minutes of Regulation will be at its best when drawing parallels between occurencces in sports and marching/athletic music that outlets specifying in one area or the other would likely miss.

Usage note: The use of the compound term "marching/athletic music" is by design; because drum corps, marching band, and pep band are all covered, this term best encompasses each of these similar but distinct ensembles. The term athletic music--the precedent for which is in titles like athletic bands at colleges and universities--serves a two-fold goal. The first is that it denotes marching and pep bands, which are typically paired with athletics programs. The second speaks directly to the performers in marching band and drum corps; while I have never claimed that marching band/drum corps is a sport, it is undeniable that in the highest performing of these ensembles, the members are athletes.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Intro and Housekeeping

I think the description of this blog sums up its reason quite nicely. I am a sports fan. I am a band dork. I don't think in any way that it's unique to be both; I do however think it's not often that you find the two spoken of in the same breath. I intend to be at least a portion of that voice. In many ways, I believe being a band member is what made me a sports fan, so I expect the band portion may dominate, but to me, the beauty is in the pairing of the two.

The housekeeping. I currently maintain a blog on MyESPN (ctarver81, if you're interested) that is both marching and sports, and one on the Halftime Magazine community (LittleDrummrBoy) that is primarily marching. As such, my first few posts here will be migrating relevant posts from these two, hopefully in some semblance of chronological order. I intend to continue to maintain both of those, but this blog here will be the clearinghouse.

At any rate, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy!
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