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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bowl Bound

At about this time tomorrow, I'll be down in Charlotte, partaking in the festivities of the Meineke Car Care Bowl. While I know I said not long ago that there are too many bowls, I will despite that count bowl season as one of the most wonderful times of the year. Not only do college bowls combine the two primary topics of this blog--sports and marching band--but they bring in a few other pieces I hold dear as well.

Tomorrow's festivities begin with a street festival and a pep rally. In my professional life, I work in student affairs, specifically with campus programming, and this speaks directly to that. In fact, one of the companies with which I do a good deal of business will be providing equipment for this event. And, of course, both bands will be present. I haven't seen USF's Herd of Thunder live since Homecoming 2007, and I'm looking forward to Clemson's Band that Shakes the Southland as well; while I'm all Bull, there's a soft spot in my heart for Tiger Rag, being a Tiger from my high school days. After that, the USF faithful will likely take over an Uptown bar for the evening.

Friday morning, I'll get up and head out to the tailgate lot. It looks like I'll actually be sharing space with quite a few folks I knew when I was at USF, so it'll be a nice little reunion of sorts. I'm attending the game with my friends Kristy (no affiliation to either team, just a football fan living in Charlotte), Jenn (fellow USF alum) and Laura (a Clemson fan). I'll be switching my swag up a bit as well; with a noon kickoff, this'll be a breakfast tailgate, and I'll be doing breakfast casseroles prepared by the good folks at New York Butcher Shoppe here in Greensboro, one of my favorite spots. My in-laws also got me a set of cornhole boards for Christmas, so that'll turn it up a notch. And my new car, a Chevy HHR, is certainly an upgrgade from my previous 1995 Civic.

After fun in the lot, it is my intent to make it into the stadium in plenty of time to catch both bands' pregames. While I expect to be fully outnumbered by Clemson faithful, I'm hopeful that the Bulls can pull off the upset. After all, last time I was in that stadium wearing green (Eagles-Panthers last year) I walked out both outnumbered and victorious; here's hoping for a repeat!

Witnessing History

One way or another, I will be witnessing history in less than 24 hours. I'll be courtside in the Greensboro Coliseum as the Duke Blue Devils visit the UNCG Spartans. The expected outcome is that Coach K will get win number 880, surpassing Carolina's Dean Smith to move into second place behind Bob Knight for all-time wins. The alternative, of course, is an unlikely UNCG win, meaning that the unanimous #1 team in the nation would fall to the winless Spartans. Either way, I'm witnessing history.

This puts me in a strange place. As you likely know if you've read this for any amount of time, I hate Dook with a fiery passion. The hatred began when rooting for the Terps, but interestingly enough, I continue to dislike the Blue Devils more strongly than I like the Terps. So while I'll be present for history, it'll be for the chief engineer of a program I'd love nothing more than to see fall flat on its face.

But here's where it gets interesting: Despite my feeling for Dook, I actually don't hate Coach K. That will take many by surprise, but I find him to be a great coach (which few can deny), an effective leader (ditto) and at least from what I've seen and read--and yes, I even read a book of his--he seems to be a stand up guy. In fact, I was pleased when coached Team USA because I could actually root for him. So while it pains me to see Dook achieve any sort of success, good on Coach K, if and when he does reach that milestone.

That said, Go Spartans. Go to hell Duke.

Friday, December 17, 2010

As the realignment turns...

I'm starting to hear additional murmuring about possibilities for realignment, and this time there is talk of moves between the subdivisions. I'll admit my source was first Twitter, but I'm seeing a few outlets talking about the possibility of a move to FBS for UMass, who currently competes in the Colonial Athletic Association at the FCS level. Such a move would put a second New England state school in FBS (there were none before UConn made the jump nearly a decade ago), lead to MAC East matchups between the Minuteman Marching Band and the Marching 110, and perhaps most significantly, leave a hole in the CAA.

While the story is intriguing enough itself, the hole in the CAA piques my interest because, well, it's all about me and those with whom I associate. As I know I've stated before, I'd love to see UMBC get consideration for the CAA. We are a southern outlier in America East, and while they've been mostly good to us, moves certainly haven't been made to find us a travel partner. And, of course, selfishly, CAA membership gives me a few conference games within reach, including UNCW, James Madison, and VCU.  Granted, the current 0-for UMBC men's basketball squad won't make us attractive, but our generally well-performing lacrosse team just may.

But that may not be the only movement afoot. There are also rumblings that a consortium of schools, among them Delaware, may be looking to form a new FBS conference, which could contain several teams making the transition. As a card-carrying 302 representer, I'm excited about the prospect of UD making the jump, and of all of the schools in FCS, I think they are one of the most well-equipped, both in terms of the product on the field and the fanbase and attendance. I'll admit my bias towards having I-A ball in the First State, but again, any conference shakeups that trickle into the FCS ranks stand to potentially bring UMBC closer to my home in NC.

Finally some news that may or may not have been spearheaded by recent realignment. Marquette announced today that they will be adding men's and women's lacrosse in the 2012-13 season. Their programs will obviously compete in the Big East. It may be that I'm conspiracy minded, but I wonder if, with the addition of TCU, the non-football schools feel the need to prove their worth in an unwieldy 17 team basketball conference. Bringing something to the table as far as lacrosse is concerned certainly couldn't hurt your position, especially if you're currently an outlier, as Marquette is. Regardless, it means an expansion in the sport of lacrosse. I'll take it.

Bowl Season Q & A

In the style of Brian from Big Blue Homer, I'm going to do a little Q & A: I ask the questions, I give the answers.

There are 35 bowls this year. Are there too many?

The short answer is yes. I recognize that I say this as an alum of a school who has been to such prestigious contests as the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Bowl, the MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl, and the International Bowl, but yes, there are too many bowls. To be a little most specific, though, there are too many bowls after January 1. Folks older than I will tell you about how New Year's Day was once sacred, with the big name bowls playing and a national champion being decided. While I don't think we need to be there, anything occurring post 1/1 needs to be a BCS bowl (or perhaps one of the old stalwarts like the Cotton Bowl). There's no reason we should be watching the Bowl after the new year.

So you're for a playoff, right?

Well... that's where it gets tricky for me. In theory, yes, I would like to see a true champion crowned on the field, and that means including more than just two teams. Where I fall short is putting it into practice, simply because I haven't heard a solution that I'm in love with. My problem is this: Moreso than perhaps any other major American sport, college football is contingent upon the presence of fans, bands, cheerleaders, and all sorts of other moving parts to make the full experience that which we know and love. Unlike the NCAA basketball tournament, where teams can play a Thursday/Saturday or a Friday/Sunday schedule, football players need a week to recover from a games brutal beatings. If the bowls were used as playoff sites, that would mean that a team, fanbase, band, cheerleaders, and staff may have to be in New Orleans one week and Pasadena the next. One alternative is utilizing the same site, but again, with a week layoff, that's either having to house folks for a week's time, or have them travel somewhere and then travel back again. Another alternative is for all but the championship game to be played on campus sites, but in addition to the travel issues, it means that teams and fans that may have otherwise had an opportunity at a neutral site bowl game and the festivities that go with may now see their seasons end on another team's field.

So what would I like to see? My favorite option is the plus-one model, but even with that i'm not entirely convinced. One thing is sure though: More teams need a shot, and smarter folks than I can hopefully figure out how to make that work.

One last thought: Many who are against a playoff claim that it would make the regular season less meaningful. To those I say: Are you friggin' kidding me?! College football is, in an opinion that I hold and is shared by many, the most exciting sport in the world. Fears of a diminished regular season may be real for anyone not putting a quality product on the field, but then the playoffs aren't in their picture either. In fact, the fact that MORE teams have a legitimate shot at winning it all adds value to the regular season.

What bowl season band matchups are you looking forward to?

This is a question that I ask each year in the NCAA football LiveJournal community. Let's start with the BCS. There aren't any matchups this year where I know I'm a big fan of both bands, but that's mostly for lack of having seen one. You know that my bias tends to tilt Big Ten, but in addition to that, the fact that two Sudler Trophy winners will meet in the Sugar Bowl (Ohio State vs. Arkansas) makes it tough to deny. The National Championship game intrigues me as well; while I'm not as familiar with the Nike-clad Oregon band, I've sort of fallen for the AUMB this season.

Outside of the BCS, there are a few that catch my eye. First and foremost I'm excited about The Meineke Car Care Bowl (Herd of Thunder vs. the Band that Shakes the Southland) which I will be attending. Beyond that, I look forward to the Cotton Bowl (Golden Band from Tiger Land. vs. Fightin' Texas Aggie Band), Ticketcity (Goin' Band from Raiderland vs. Northwestern's Wildcat Marching Band) and New Orleans Bowl (Sound of the South vs. Marching 110).

Now that ESPN's got the BCS, I wonder how much we'll be seeing of halftime shows in the BCS and other ESPN bowls.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Give a Kid a Drum (pa-rum-pa-pum-pum!)

Each year, I spend a bit of time volunteering in Salvation Army's toy warehouse, where they separate and distribute donated gifts to kids who otherwise wouldn't have much of a Christmas. My wife used to work for the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Clubs, which is how we got started; she usually puts in quite a bit of time, but I usually get in a time or two each holiday season.

Megan shared with me recently that one of the toughest groups to buy for is early teenage boys. They overwhelmingly want video games, which are in short supply among gifts donated; often the bulk of the gifts for that age group are basketballs and footballs. It gave me a thought: Why not get a kid a pair of drumsticks?

My next thought turned to adding a drum pad to the deal so as to save the poor parents' sanity and house, but think about it: For relatively cheap, you can get a kid a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad and potentially start a kid down the path to a lifelong love of music. Some of my fellow drummers may scoff at the idea of a drum being a "toy", but in the same vein that a football or a basketball is simply enjoyment for a novice or a potential means to success in the hands of a skilled master, so can a drum be. In the best case, the kid could learn to play the drums and become proficient. In the worst, they've at least got something they can beat on.

If you so much as read the premise of this blog, you know I love sports and I love music. But for my money, I'd much rather put drumsticks into a kids hands, even if only to diversify the offerings.

But it goes a bit deeper. Given the socioeconomic climate in this country, it isn't a stretch by any means to assume that a critical mass of the underprivileged children receiving toys through this and similar programs are black. So often, young black men are told, implicitly or explicitly, that the only way to improve their situation is to become a ball player (or a rapper). Why not send a different message with a pair of sticks?

I'm not trying to start a movement here, nor do I even think that my thought is particularly revolutionary. But I know what I'll be giving this season. If you're doing Toys for Tots, Stuff the Bus, or any other charity, and you like the idea, give a kid a drum.

Monday, December 6, 2010

High Notes, Week 13

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

Well, folks, it's the final High Notes of the 2010 regular season. With a few weeks' exception, I'd say I did a decent job of keeping up with the only series of any sort this blog has ever done. I expect I will also do some sort of end-of-year wrap-up or bowl game post--stay tuned.

In Week 13, it gives me pride, as a USF alum, to recognize the Herd of Thunder for this week's performance on Senior Night vs. the University of Connecticut. This may seem a homer pick, but you may recall that I've snubbed them before. But this Saturday night, HOT prevailed, although sadly the football team did not. What was most impressive is that most of what I heard from them was the basics--blocking and tackling, it you will--through the usual downs cheers and spirit songs, but it came across loud, clear, and extremely well done on the ESPN2 broadcast.

As we head into the bowl season, I'm glad that I will get to see the HOT live for the first time in over three years. USF is headed to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, and being just up the road in Greensboro, I wouldn't miss it. Since we're playing Clemson, I'm also excited to see the Band that Shakes the Southland. And I'm not going to lie, as a Tiger (my high school mascot), Tiger Rag does has a bit of a special place in my heart.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Making Spring Plans

UMBC 2011 men's lacrosse schedule is out. Just weeks ago, I was engaged in an annual tradition: There are usually other schools who release their lacrosse schedules before UMBC, and I spend a bit of time trolling all of them to attempt to piece together UMBC's schedule. It's always great when I get the real thing.

There are a couple of games I find notable, some of which I already knew about. One I hadn't previously discovered is that we'll be playing at Presbyterian down in South Carolina. It would be a doable trip for me, but I'll be in STL at a conference. I believe I mentioned previously that we've got a game at Carolina that I'll certainly head to. And I know I've mentioned the Face-Off Classic vs. Johns Hopkins, but with the full schedule out, I know that what I was hoping for is indeed the case: A full week to gameplan for Hopkins. Other notable out of conference matchups include the annual tilt with the Turtles and a game with former NEC foe Quinnipiac.

While the trip to Baltimore for the Face-Off Classic is entirely doable, I'll miss out. The date for that is March 12, which even falls during Spring Break here at UNCG. But to share a bit of news with the readers: My wife and I are expecting. The due date is March 24, which makes me uncomfortable being a couple states away at a lacrosse game that close. For a blessing such as this, I'll gladly stay home and catch the Dawgs on TV!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And so it begins...

Last spring, we learned of a proposal by seven DCI corps--subsequently referred to as the G7 (or by by this blog as The Undersigned)--to change the face of DCI, including "Tour of Champions" events that would feature these perennial crowd- and judge-favorites. When the coming season's schedule game out not too long ago, I took a look and immediately noticed two things: One, FirstBEAT, Carolina Crown's early season show, was no more, and two, NightBEAT is now a Tour of Champions event, and will feature eight heavy hitters.

My friend, coworker, and fellow drum corps fan Joseph stumbled upon something that at worst is fun to speculate on and at best will make for a helluva show. At the very least, I can lay claim to the "toldyaso" should it come to pass.

We both recall that when the schedule first came out, the location of NightBEAT was listed as Rock Hill Stadium. For the past two years, that show has been held in Rock Hill District 3 Stadium, and an announcement made at least year's show led me to believe that they intended to be longtime tenants there. But upon looking today, we noticed the location was mentioned as Charlotte, NC. True enough, Rock Hill is in the Charlotte metro area, but there's no need to make that change unless something is afoot. And with eight premiere corps coming to town, my sneaking suspicion is that they are trying to make Bank of America Stadium--home of the Carolina Panthers--happen.

True enough, it could be that NightBEAT is moving back to its original home, American Legion Memorial Stadium, also in Charlotte. But all indications are that there is a strong desire to make these Tour of Champions events a huge deal; what better way than to hold them in major stadiums?

In addition to the change on the DCI schedule, I have one more reason to believe that NightBEAT is at least moving across the border: The following day, there is a "TBA, SC" event. If I were a betting man, I'd say that that show remains so that the promise of an event in Rock Hill can be fulfilled. But if my inklings are correct, that show will not be NightBEAT.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You Complete Me

Earlier today TCU accepted a bid to join the Big East conference in all sports starting in 2012. As you know if you read this blog, know me from elsewhere on the internet, or know me in real life, this garnered a resounding cheer from me; I've been backing this move since any talk of conference shakeup began.

In an article written earlier today, Ivan Maisel, one of my favorite sportswriters and columnists, referred to this recent union as a shotgun wedding. With all due respect, I think there are other analogies I'd draw up before that one. Perhaps it's the case of a hot young woman marrying an old codger for money. Perhaps it's marrying the Russian tycoon in exchange for a green card. But make no mistake, it wasn't an outside force like a daddy wielding a shotgun or a state legislature forcing a game or a school's vote for expansion. Both sides knew exactly what they were getting from the deal and entered into it knowingly. As uttered in Jerry Maguire, the Big East said to TCU: You complete me.

I'm sure the fact that TCU is likely to be on the outside looking in at the national championship game helped make the decision, though it's worth noting that in this exact same situation, a Big East TCU squad would likely be in a similar situation. The fact that the Big East is sweating bullets as the latest assessment of BCS auto-bids didn't hurt either. But each has something the other wants. For TCU, it means that they can lose a game, maybe even a couple, and make it into the BCS as a conference champion. It means membership in a club they've had to work their asses off just to caddy for. And, of course, it means lots and lots of cash, and I'm sure that stadium renovation isn't cheap. For the Big East, it means balanced football scheduling. It means adding a proven winner. It means a huge media market and Texas recruiting. And it could very well save the Big East, as TCU's stats will come with them, making a poor conference look a good deal better, and most importantly, head and shoulders above the Mountain West--the conference that TCU is leaving--who will gain Boise State but will also lose Utah and BYU.

While there is no deep shared history, TCU will reunite with some if its old bandmates: The Horned Frogs used to share the stage with Cincinnati, Louisville, and USF when they were all members of Conference USA together. So as a USF alum, I certainly welcome them and look forward to competing with them again.

No one's saying the marriage will be all bliss. TCU has to deal with bringing their subpar basketball program into one of the strongest conferences. The Big East has to deal with scheduling an unwieldy 17 team conference. But in terms of being mutually beneficial, this union is that, in spades.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This and That

This is one of those posts where I touch briefly on a few things I meant to write about but haven't found the time, or that I started but didn't complete.

First of all, those of you who faithfully follow the High Notes series realize I'm a couple of weeks off. Sadly, while I'd love for it to be the case, I can't devote every Saturday to sitting on my ass in front of a screen. Last weekend, it was the Carolina Renaissance Festival with my wife, and due to an event yesterday, the only game I caught was USF-Pitt, and I'm sorry, Herd of Thunder, but from what I heard, you weren't worthy of High Notes recognition this week.

Speaking of the Herd of Thunder, I'd like to go on record as saying that I do NOT like the replacement of the bridge of March Victorious with the First Down cheer.

I was prepared to start this week talking about how I had 3 teams in the NCAA men's soccer tournament. Each of them played Wednesday, however, and only UMBC remains. USF fell to UCF (boo) and UNCG fell at Georgetown. UMBC advanced past Princeton and faces William and Mary in a match to start in about 20 minutes. Let's get 'em, Dawgs!

And finally, basketball season is upon is. I am once again a season ticket holder here at UNCG, so I've seen the Spartans play the Seminoles and the Hokies thus far, both losses.That said, big ups to the Vu lounge at the Coliseum; with two Sunday games in a row, it has allowed me to watch football while I watch the home team in hoops.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monkeys Off Our Back

I'm sure each USF blogger worth their salt has already hit upon this, but as an alum, I feel the need to hit upon it myself. This year, despite a rocky start that included a homecoming loss to Syracuse, USF managed to get three major monkeys off our back this football season. We first beat Cincinnati; although they are having a down year, they are the defending conference champions and had previously bested four years in a row and five of the last six. The next dragon to slay was, ironically, the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers was a similar thorn in our side, beating us four consecutive times--all but our first matchup--and with a history including such nonsense as "illegal forward propulsion", knocking us from #2, and this mess. And finally, we beat Louisville at their place. Along with Cincy, Louisville is one of our oldest opponents, and in an interesting history, neither of us had gotten an away win in our series until this year, where we got an overtime win in the Pizza Palace. 

The future is bright for the Bulls. The conference championship is still within reach, and barring that, we're bowl-eligible, which could mean Orlando, Birmingham, St. Pete, or my personal selfish hope, Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


itty bitty living space

Yes, that was an Aladdin reference, and I made it for a reason. All too often, when discussing the power schools from non-auto-qualifying conferences like Boise State or TCU, one uses the flawed argument, " If they played in the SEC, they've have multiple losses by now!" Yeah, and if my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle. It's the reverse of Jafar wishing to be a genie  and having to take the shackles that go along with it: Those who make this claim instead want to attribute the shackles of the power conference's tougher schedule without affording the school the great cosmic power that comes from being in such a conference. The statement may be accurate if you were to drop the 2010 Boise State Broncos into the 2010 SEC (and quite frankly, I'm not even thoroughly convinced of that) but if Boise State were in the SEC, they'd also have access to the resources, budgets, etc. that current members of the SEC enjoy. If you consider that they are doing what they're doing now with WAC resources (double entendre noted) imagine what they'd do with SEC loot!

In related double standards, some folks are choosing to get on their high horse about definitions as they relate to athletic conferences. With recent talk of TCU potentially joining the Big East (for the record, my oft-stated opinion of this is YES YES THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN YESTERDAY) Some scoff at the liberal interpretation of "East" Oh yeah? Consider:
-The Big Ten has 11 and soon 12 teams
-The Big XII will soon have ten teams
-The SEC and Pac-10 reportedly both considered Texas schools. Texas is neither in the Southeast nor does it touch the Pacific
-The Pac-12 will contain Colorado and Utah, and already contains Arizona schools, all landlocked states
-Outside the BCS: Some of the Atlantic 10's 14 schools are quite a ways from the Atlantic; one even lies across the Mississippi!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Where's Brooklyn At?

--or-- My opinion on matters that are none of my damn business

With the New Jersey Nets preparing to make the move to Brooklyn, the prevailing sentiment is that there will be a name change and a rebranding. The internet is abuzz with ideas, and I have a few of my own, despite having no connection whatsoever to the franchise or its current or future home.

If Sacramento didn't already have the nickname, I'd say the obvious name change would be the Brooklyn Kings. This works on multiple levels. The borough of Brooklyn is coterminous with Kings County, and the team could easily use a BK logo--BK being the common abbreviation for Brooklyn--with a crown. Barring that, Brooklyn Knights, which is already used for a minor league soccer team, would work.

But my personal favorite is the Brooklyn Bridgemen. The Brooklyn Bridge is a major landmark of the borough, and the drum corps fan in me appreciates the nod to the Bayonne Bridgemen who, like the team currently known as the Nets, hail from New Jersey.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Broncos--Buster, or busted?

I'm writing this in direct response to my boy B. Joyce of Big Blue Homer. In this post, he claims that an undefeated Boise State is still less deserving of a berth in the national championship game than a one loss team--Alabama--who plays in the Strongest Ever Conference. I respectfully disagree. And here's why.

First off, let me lay out the methodology here: I'm doing just what Brian did and laying this out at Boise State vs. Alabama. In other words, if one national championship spot is sewn up--let's say, for the sake of argument, by Oregon--who deserves the second, an undefeated Boise State, or a Bama squad with one loss? If I had a vote to cast, it would be with Boise State.

Yes, the SEC is better than the WAC. Yes, Bama plays a far superior schedule. But X-0  > X-1. And once you've lost a game, you have no unalienable right to play for a national championship, not when there are undefeated teams still around. Proponents of the BCS will without fail parrot the following platitudes: Every game matters! The entire season is exciting! Who needs a playoff? The whole season is a playoff! It is for that very rationale, the tenet upon which a flawed system is based, that an undefeated Boise State MUST go to the MNC game over a one-loss Bama. You can't tout the all-season playoff nature of the system without then accepting that same reality when it could stand to harm one of your blue bloods.

While I know all teams are supposed to be judged on the merit of the year at hand, that simply isn't the case in college football. A team's performance in previous years factors into their rankings and thus their potential aptitude in any given year. The Boise State Broncos are in the middle of their third consecutive undefeated regular season. This has warranted a preseason top 3/top 5 ranking, the latter of which is in the Coaches Poll, a factor in the BCS. What's more, each of the teams ahead of them in each poll has lost. This inertia should mean something, as it has for every other team in that position. That it should not happen for Boise State--after not just one but multiple successful seasons--is indicative of the glass ceiling that non-AQs face. If this continued excellence can't earn them a spot in the title game, what can?

Finally--and I hate that the system we have forces me to do this--but if Boise State were in certain other conferences, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I am an alumnus of a Big East program, and I love the conference for as long as they are my conference (or are a conference...). But the fact of the matter is, if this were an undefeated Big East school, there'd be some scuttlebutt, but not nearly as much, and quite frankly, you'd have to work pretty hard to convince me that this year's iteration of the Big East is qualitatively better than the WAC. And while we're focusing on Boise State, I'd remind folks that fellow non-AQ (and hopefully future Big East member *ahem*) TCU is sitting pretty high in the polls as well, and quite frankly would be even more deserving of the spot should they remain undefeated.

Boise State has defeated all comers for years,  scheduled as tough as is within their power (I'd love to see the power schools that have ducked them) and done everything possible to earn a spot in the MNC game, should they be the only or one of only two undefeated schools. What more do you want?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

High Notes, Week 9

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

This weekend of football didn't excite me a whole bunch. USF had a bye, and on the pro side of things, both the Eagles and Ravens did as well. That said, what this meant was that I didn't have one game to which I was tied, so I got to get at least a sample of quite a few bands. 

One game kept my attention, not for the football, but for the band, and it is that band that gets my recognition in Week 9. Auburn University's Marching Band was putting in work at an equal or greater rate to their undefeated football. With little exception, SEC bands don't do it much for me, but Auburn just became one of my exceptions. That begs the question: With a high-performing band and an undefeated team, might Auburn put the best combo out on Saturdays?

Programming note: I may miss a Week 10 update as well. My wife and I are traveling up to Slower Lower Delaware for Punkin Chunkin!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

High Notes, Week 8

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

So here we are in Week 9 and I'm just writing up Week 8's High Notes; it's been a busy week. That said, I already gave a pretty solid sneak preview into who I'm recognizing this week. Both Tennessee's Pride of the Southland and Alabama's Million Dollar Band brought it, but ultimately Bama won the game and the recognition. Their control of the game led to more opportunities for the MDB to shine, and the fact that they were able to wrap things up with a Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer didn't hurt. 

There's also an honorable mention that I came across quite on accident. Last weekend was race weekend at Martinsville, which is about an hour up the road from me. Though my interest in NASCAR is limited, I always pause at least a bit if one of the "local" tracks (Martinsville, Charlotte, or Dover) is featured, and since the race came on right after a game, I caught the opening ceremonies. Imagine my surprise when my "neighbors", the Triad's own Red Sea of Sound from Winston Salem State University, were playing the anthem! Props to them for landing the gig (likely related to WSSU's significant connections in the NASCAR community) and making 65,000 race fans wonder, "where'd all these black folks come from?"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

High Notes Demystified

I've been doing a pretty good job of actually keeping up with the High Notes series, the first series of any sort I've done in this blog. Regular readers will notice that there was no Week 7 post; that's because I was at Kings Dominion all day Saturday and didn't watch a lick of football. Now that I'm back in front of the screen, I'll weigh in on week 8's bands. But in the absence of last week's column, I thought I'd take the opportunity to shed some light on how bands go about getting picked each week.

I'll first point out that my selections are completely subjective, but then, the sport with which this is related is college football, so that's nothing new. Secondly, and this goes without saying, but I've got to see them. This means that big conference bands get a clear bias for a couple reasons: One is that they are more likely to be televised, and the other is that since they are more likely to travel, they have more performances each season. Again, this bias is nothing foreign in major college football.

There are plenty of inherent biases I've got--favorite bands, preferred styles, and personal opinions about what I think a band's role is. I'll attempt to unpack those here. Just for fun, et's start them all with V:

Volume and Volume: For a band to be picked, they've first got to be heard, which is where the first volume comes in. With that volume, of course, comes good intonation, togetherness, and altogether not-sounding-bad. The second is how much of the game the band plays spending. One thing that will never earn you any recognition is if we hear the stadium's loudspeaker more than we do the band. Ideally, a band will have an answer--even if it's a short tag--for each down played.

Variety: Now this one is tricky, because the downs tags that I just mentioned are usually played many times throughout the game. And I'll be honest, there are some repeaters I enjoy and others that make me cringe. As a shameless homer, USF's Herd of Thunder can play The Bull for 24 hours straight. FSU's Marching Chiefs bother me probably less than they should with the War Chant. But if I never hear Tribute to Troy from USC's Spirit of Troy again, it'll be too soon. But regardless of what your repeater is, ideally you've got something else up your sleeve.

Visual: This is always a tough one because it depends on the network to actually show the band. The ideal situation is always that we get to see at least a little of the field show, but those opportunities are few and far between, so we've got to live with stands presence. No I'll put it out there: I like big bands and I cannot lie. In the college ranks, that's usually not too had to come by. Beyond that, I love together horns-ups, exciting drumline and cymbal visuals, and well-choreographed horn swings.

As I continue to watch the Bama-Tennessee game, the final V may very well be Victory--the band is happier and likely has far more opportunities to play when they are backing a winning team.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Welcome, Retriever Believers...

I'm going to be potentially presumptuous and re-introduce myself; it's possible that the article in UMBC Magazine about this blog may have fellow UMBC alumni and supporters stopping by. If so, welcome!

I think the article and this blogs intro sum it up pretty well, but to restate, I consider this a sports and band blog. I'm a self-professed band nerd, and as such, I came to follow sports--especially UMBC's squads, particularly the men's and women's basketball programs--as a member of the Down and Dirty Dawg Band.

To be clear, this isn't a UMBC blog. A quick look at my tags, however, will show you that it seems I mention UMBC more than everything but the more general "college" and the sport I talk the most about, football. So yes, I love my Retrievers. My graduate institution, University of South Florida, gets some attention from me as well, as does my current employer, UNCG.  Beyond that, it's sports and band, divided mostly into four seasons: Football (marching band), basketball (pep band), lacrosse, and drum corps.

So if the article brought you by, again, welcome! If you like what you read, I invite you to stick around. Go Dawgs!

High Notes, Week 6

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

I knew coming into this week that I wouldn't see a ton of college football, since I was at a conference, but I was able to sneak in a few peeks and at least come up with a High Note for Week 6.

I suppose I should apologize to the Golden Band from Tigerland (and perhaps the Pride of the Southland as well) for panning them last week. I got to watch a good deal of of the Florida-LSU game and the Tigers were bringing it, even in the home of the Gators. Which makes me wonder: Does ESPN just cover their bands better than CBS does? At any rate, LSU gets this week's recognition.

In mostly unrelated news, one of the games I missed this weekend was USF's homecoming. In which we lost. To Syracuse. Damn. I think we should stop playing teams from NY for homecoming (see also: Army, 2004.) With the West Virginia game looming this Thursday, this is about the time I'd be talking smack to my WVU friends. Fresh off of a loss to Cuse, I'm not sure I feel up to it.

In happier news, I've gotten a few pre-release glimpses in to UMBC's lacrosse schedule for this coming spring. First of all, as I expected, the series with UNC was indeed a home-and-home, which means the Dawgs'll be coming down to Carolina on March 5. But the bigger news is the next week: UMBC will be taking on Johns Hopkins in the Konica-Minolta Face-Off Classic. This is exciting for a couple of reasons. First of all, the stage is none other than the Baltimore Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium, which is exciting in and of itself. But it's also great because we'll be playing Hopkins on a Saturday. While there's no telling if there'll be a midweek game in there beforehand, this at least opens up the possibility that UMBC will play Hopkins on a full week's rest and gameplanning. It's been commonplace for UMBC to play Hopkins--and other local rivals, like Towson--midweek, probably for ease of travel. Herein lies the rub: I don't think I'm being at all disloyal to my alma mater if I admit that historically, Hopkins is better than UMBC. That said, Zimmerman's a helluva coach, and I feel he can overcome talent differentials with the proper prep time. So knowing we'll be playing the Jays on a Saturday makes me feel a good deal better.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Donovan's Return

October 3, 2010. This date had been circled on the calendars or myriad Philadelphia sports fans since the Eagles' schedule was released. It marked the date that Donovan McNabb, Eagles quarterback for 11 seasons, would return to Lincoln Financial Field not in green, but wearing the hated burgundy and gold of the division rival Washington Redskins. Philly couldn't wait to see him again, and judging by the buzz from the media in the week leading up to their meeting, people couldn't wait to see how Philly would treat him upon his return. After all Philly sports fans are notorious. These are the people who booed Santa Claus, many would remind you. Batteries have been thrown at opponents. They've cheered injuries to opposing players. In short, the Philadelphia fanbase is a bunch of assholes.

I was pleased, then, that the reception McNabb got was both what I expected and what I would have done as a fan, had I been present. Upon team intros, he was cheered vigorously, even given a standing ovation. This didn't come as a surprise to me, I remember both feeling the same and seeing the same when other former Philly standouts returned to town. See also: Dawkins, Brian and Iverson, Allen. Upon the first offensive series, however, McNabb was booed with equal fervor. As well he should have been.

That said, I do take exception to one of the sentiments I heard mentioned a few times. There were some who stated that the cheers were Philly fans on their best behavior because everyone was watching. Make no mistake--Philly fans do not give a damn about what you think. In fact, I'll let you in on a little secret. We actually, to varying degrees, like the asshole brush with which you paint us. After all, why be famous when you can be infamous? That said, there is some truth to the City of Brotherly Love moniker: When we hate, we hate with the best of 'em, but once you earn the love it's hard to shake.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's no Ackbar, but...

I made a post earlier this year about Ole Miss' search for a new costumed mascot, with the ousting of Col. Reb. Word is out on the three finalists. I will say that I'm not too humble to point out that Hotty Toddy is not too unlike my suggestion for "Grover", and the fact that each mock-up has Grove attire further hammers home the fact that I wasn't too far off the mark with my suggestion.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

High Notes, Week 5

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

This week's theme is "that's why they play the games!"

I'll admit, I do a bit of telegraphing as I start to watch action on any given Saturday. There are bands that I know to be strong and I often expect for them to prove me right and earn that week's recognition. So this week, knowing Tennessee was at LSU and the Pride of the Southland was traveling, I figured one, or both of them, would get the nod for this week. Maybe my expectations are too high of both squads, but neither wowed me. 

I noted before a disappointment with the Wake Forest Band, but from what I could hear they brought it in the stands on Saturday, earning this week's recognition. 

I want to also give a shout-out to quite a few other bands in action this weekend: 20 bands took the field in Allentown, PA this weekend for the Collegiate Marching Band Festival. Obviously I wasn't there and had no way to see the action, but I already know it was a show to behold.

Quick programming note: I may or may not have a High Notes update for Week 6; I am out of town at a conference and it is quite possible that I'll miss an entire Saturday of college football action. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

High Notes, Week 4

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

Once again, my schedule limited my football watching this weekend. It was Homecoming at UNCG, where I work, and my job is heavily involved putting it on, so my Saturday was pretty well spoken for. But while I didn't get to watch much football, I did get to spend time with two marching bands.

Spartan Force is a marching band that has been a student organization at UNCG for quite a few years now. They participated in this year's Homecoming parade, as they have for several years.

But this week's High Notes recognition goes to the new kid on the block: The Bands of Sparta. While Spartan Force is an independent student organization, the Bands of Sparta is the official pep band of UNCG Athletics. And as of this semester, thanks to the purchase of field drums, they are newly mobile! They sounded great, and looked great on the move.

If I may be self-centered for a moment, this reminds me of a very similar situation eight years ago. After the purchase of some field drums in the summer of 2002, we put UMBC's Down and Dirty Dawg Band in motion for the Homecoming parade that year. We also put those field drums to use during basketball season as well, beefing up pep band performances.

This was the first time most of campus got to see the Bands of Sparta on the move, and I think they made a great first impression. I look forward to what they will continue to have to offer.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

High Notes, Week 3

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

In the spirit of High Notes as it was born two short weeks ago, I'd like to recognize Penn State's Blue Band for this week's high note. I last heard them bringin' it in the stands as the Nittany Lions played the Kent State Golden Flashes in Happy Valley. That said, in information I will go on to clarify, there will be all sorts of plot twists, turns, and honorable mentions this week.

I actually didn't watch a ton of college football this weekend. I caught Thursday night's game with Cincy at NC State, but the Power Sound of the South has never impressed me much. I caught the start of the noon contests (hence Penn State) before heading over to Clemmons, NC. West Forsyth High School Marching Band was having their friends and family day; two friends of mine are on staff over there. I really liked the format; Jim (the director) actually had qualified adjudicators there, who provided feedback on their performance for the band and the friends/family (mostly parents) assembled to hear. The band starts their competitive season next weekend, so this gave them something to work with before it counts. It also served to demystify the judging process for the audience. They sounded and looked pretty good, too, so in that instance, West Forsyth, while not a collegiate band, gets an honorable mention from me.

I stayed around Forsyth County for the rest of the day on into the night, attending Rock the Block in Winston-Salem, so I missed all but the latest games. I did catch the end of Texas at Texas Tech (The Goin' Band from Raiderland, Week 1's winner, continues to impress) and stayed up until Iowa-Arizona was over, quite late here on the east coast.

In the spirit of ESPN, I've decided to name yesterday in college football "Battle Saturday"; that's battle as in Battle of the Bands. There seemed to be quite a few visiting bands in various stadiums, particularly in the Big Ten's out-of-conference matchups. In an in-state dust-up with two excellent programs, Ohio University's Marching 110 visited Ohio State's TBDBITL. Kent State's band made the trip to State College as the Golden Flashes took on the Nittany Lions. And in what begame on of the more meaningful trips of the weekend, the UMass Minuteman Marching Band paid a visit to the Michigan Marching Band in Ann Arbor, a showdown between two Sudler Trophy winning bands.
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It is a shame that I've had to speak on quite a few losses in the band world in the past couple of weeks. But on that very trip to Ann Arbor, the Minuteman Marching Band lost their director of 33 years, George N. Parks, to a heart attack. Parks is a name I've come to be familiar with just through his involvement in the world of marching music; I am most familiar with the drum major academy that bears his name. What I did not know, until reading about him following his passing, was his ties to the mid-Atlantic and specifically Delaware. Parks was drum major at Christiana High School in Newark, and went on to march at West Chester University in PA.

Additional honorable mentions go to both the Michigan Marching Band and the Minuteman Marching Band. Michigan held a moment of silence on Parks' behalf before their show in the Big House this Saturday.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pictorial Evidence

If you follow me on Twitter (if you don't, @80mins) you noticed me mentioning a couple times that the Eagles in their kelly green throwbacks reminded me quite a bit of the Cavaliers' anniversary corps that performed at the 2008 DCI World Championships. Behold:

(Courtesy of and, respectively)

High Notes, Week 2

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

For this week's High Notes, I will first note that I saw a good deal less college football this week than  I did in Week 1 or in most weeks. First of all, I made the trip to Raleigh to watch the USF-UF game with a couple of friends of mine and the Raleigh-Durham USF alumni chapter, so while I watched that game in its entirety, I didn't bounce around as much as I usually do when I'm not locked in on one game. And while I fully expected to be mailing in a High Note for the Herd of Thunder this week, the TVs were actually not at a volume that made much hearing possible. And because I continued hanging out with folks for the rest of the day, I didn't catch a critical mass of the day's later games either.

All that said, in week 2 of the NCAA season, I'd like to recognize Southern University's Human Jukebox, though it's not entirely for this week, nor is it entirely for performances at college games. The 'Box easily would have garnered an honorable mention from me last week; while I couldn't tell if they were stellar from the field last week during the MEAC/SWAC Challenge (the camera work certainly wasn't stellar--thanks, ESPN) the absolutely cranked it from the stands. But it was Southern's second performance in less than a week that put them back on my radar. As the NFL season kicked off this past Thursday from the Louisiana Superdome, Southern helped the Saints go marching back in to their home stadium with an NFL championship.

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I'm saddened that I have to do this, but at the same time this is absolutely the appropriate venue. I'd like to bid an all-too-premature farewell to Ricky English, a fellow alum of the Alexis I. duPont High School Tiger Marching Band. Ricky was the year behind me at AI, played the trumpet,  and after AI took his talents to Dover, where he marched with DelState's Approaching Storm. Ricky was killed in the early morning hours of September 11, 2010 in Wilmington. Rest in peace, Rick. The Lord's herald trumpet section just got stronger.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What's Your Fantasy?

The NFL regular season starts tonight, and many are watching the Saints play the Vikings. But while some are watching simply because football is back, and others are watching to see those two specific teams. Still others are watching not for the Saints or the Vikings, but for Drew Brees, or Adrian Peterson, or the Saints Defense.

Why? Fantasy football.

Each of the past several years, I've been asked to join at least one fantasy league. And each year, I've respectfully declined. Those who know my love of football are a little surprised that I don't get down with fantasy football. But I don't, and I have a couple of reasons why.

The first is admittedly lazy. At least from the outside looking in, fantasy football seems to be a lot of work. I've had people tell me it's not, but I've seen those same people slaving over crafting their team or agonizing over who to play and who to sit, so I'm not sure I buy that. I like my leisure to be exactly that.

The second, and perhaps more important reason why I don't play fantasy football is that I'm a bit of an absolutist when it comes to my fandom. I root for teams, not individuals, and as such I'm reluctant to put myself in a situation that could cause me to abandon some of my key football values and, say, root against the Eagles or for the Cowboys. Some things just won't happen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Feature: High Notes

I've watched a lot of college football this weekend, as well I should have, and have the Twitter feed right now to prove it. Naturally, I've been paying a lot of attention to the bands I've been seeing/hearing during this time. A thought I just had for a feature for the blog (assuming I keep it up) is to identify a band of note for each week. An early disclaimer is that this won't necessarily be the best band of the week, and it will be limited to bands that I somehow hear each week, which of course limits it to televised games I watch and/or games I attend.

The High Note for college football's opening week goes to the Goin' Band from Raiderland of Texas Tech.  Tech's band caught my attention during the game against SMU when I noticed one of their featured pieces, unapologetically, was C-Murder's Down 4 My Hittas, to use the edited title. It was unexpected, a bit gully, and certainly the sort of crowd-pleasing I like to hear in bands.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big Ten: No Half-Stepping

The Big Ten conference announced today their divisions for when they become a 12-team conference in 2011. Having the one-track mind I do, my very next thought after looking at the competitive balance was the marching competitive balance. Which division is the stronger marching division?

(Because of the amount of attention paid to preserving the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry when crafting the divisions, I will refer to the impersonally named X and O divisions as Ohio State and Michigan, respectively.)

Admittedly, I'm not intimately familiar with each of the marching bands in the Big Ten, but I'd like to think I've got at least some idea of each of them. At first glance, I gave the nod to the Ohio State division as the marching frontrunner; I know Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin to all be heavy hitters at halftime. I acknowledge Michigan as a big boy in the other division, but I'm considerably less impressed or less familiar with the others.

I then figured there was a somewhat objective way to figure this out: Sudler Trophy recipients. For those who aren't aware, the Sudler Trophy is awarded annually (now biannually) to an outstanding marching band. The trick is this: No band can receive the award twice. As such, it is logical (and yes, I recognize the fallacy that exists and choose to ignore it for this purpose) to state that the first marching band awarded the Sudler Trophy is the best collegiate marching band, and each year it is awarded to the best of the rest. The Trophy, awarded by the John Philip Sousa Foundation, seems to have a pretty solid Big Ten bias, but since we are talking about the Big Ten here, that isn't a problem.

Ten of the soon-to-be-twelve Big Ten teams are already Sudler Trophy winners; Wisconsin and Minnesota are the two outliers. This puts five winners in each division, an even split. So to break the tie, I decided to go to the numbers. Using the belief that the best won first and so on, I was able to assign a number to each champion based on their ranking, or distance from the first champion. Big Ten member Michigan, awarded the first trophy in 1982, gets a 0 for their distance from the number one spot; Illinois, the second champion, gets a 1, and so on. It follows, then, that the division with the lowest aggregate score  is the "better" marching division. Here's what the numbers told me:

Michigan Division
Michigan 0
Michigan State 6
Iowa 8
Northwestern 10
Nebraska 14

Ohio State Division
Illinois 1
Ohio State 2
Purdue 13
Penn State 23
Indiana 25

With a score of 38 to 64, it looks as though the Michigan Division is our marching tradition champion.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Legends Never Die

I write this post first of all to mourn the passing and commemorate the life of Dr. William P. Foster, founder and director emeritus of Florida A&M University's Marching 100. I never met the man, never marched in the 100, never even attended FAMU (though I briefly considered it), but I do know the world has lost a great man and one of the innovators of the activity we know and love as marching band, particularly as it relates to HBCUs. Given my relative lack of connection to FAMU or the 100, I was actually a bit surprised at how affected by the news I was. I honestly think a part of it has to do with the fact that there aren't many legends left, and sadly, our time with them is short.

The most recent installment of the college football podcast focused on another legend: Bobby Bowden, former football coach at Florida State. Bowden is known to have said that there's only one more major event following retirement, and while he doesn't harp on it, it's clear that his own mortality is something about which he has thought. It is worth noting that Dr. Foster, a decade Bowden's senior, retired back in 1998, 12 years before his passing.

I got to wondering whether Dr. Foster and Coach Bowden knew one another. FAMU and Florida State, both in Tallahassee, are separated by less than two miles, and yet are worlds apart. Still the two men are virtual contemporaries in closely related areas, and both obtained their legendary status on football fields in Tallahassee. However, when their respective careers began as the head men in Tally--Foster in 1946 and Bowden in 1976 (though he had been there over a decade earlier as a wide receivers coach) it is hard to imagine that a black band director from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (as it was known when Foster began) and a white football coach from FSU would have connected in the deep South of the Florida panhandle. On the other hand, it's almost difficult to imagine that these two legends would not have somehow found one another. Oh, the stories they could have shared...

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Curious Case of Notre Dame

If you've been reading this blog lately, especially through the tumult of conference realignment, you may have surmised that I hate Notre Dame. My desire for a Big East ultimatum and liberal use of my favorite gif ever when referencing them probably seem to be evidence of that. So you may be surprised to learn that no, I don't hate the Fighting Irish.

True enough, I recognize that they are fully hatable. They fit the mold of such hatable teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Duke Blue Devils. But while I make the trendy pick and hate all of those teams, it is not just because it's the in thing, I have a reason for each: I'm an Eagles fan, a Red Sox fan, a Sixers fan who still isn't over 2001, and a part-time Terps fan. When it comes to Notre Dame, though, I really don't have much reason to hate. Except one.

The fact that allegiance to Notre Dame holds the Big East hostage while other conferences are expanding gets under my skin just a little. And I know that the prestige and following they bring makes it hard for the conference to sever that relationship. So I'm not going to lie, I'd love to see them fall on their face just a little for that fact alone. Still, something about a successful Notre Dame--even though it hasn't taken place to its once storied levels since I've really been a football fan--makes the college football world seem right.

This and more puts me in a strange place when looking at Notre Dame's 2010 iteration. Brian Kelly, formerly of Cincinnati, has taken the helm. Despite the fact that he handed USF our asses a couple of years running, I actually do want to see him succeed at his current post. This does, however, run at odds to my desire to see the Irish fall on their face. There's no way to have it both ways. Still, I wish Coach Kelly the best, especially since his best won't involve USF taking an L.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"He Loved Big Brother"

But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.
-George Orwell, 1984

I hope that's not a spoiler, but if it is, you may have slept through high school.

So this is no revisionist history. I've been a pretty vocal about my feelings towards UMBC's new logo. But some time recently, I started to look at it a little differently. Maybe it's brainwashing. Maybe it's near-unconditional love of my alma mater. Maybe it's making my peace with the inevitable before our teams begin competing again. But during some time in the past few weeks, that logo stopped being something they did and something WE are. Don't get me wrong, I still don't think it's perfect, and it may still benefit from some of the changes I mentioned (most notably less white space in favor of gold), but now, seeing that dawg looking austerely has stopped annoying me and started filling me with pride.

It has been a Blue Devil kind of year...

Another all-too-short DCI season has come and gone. This year, as last year, the Blue Devils spent the season undefeated and emerged the champions, with the Cavies taking 2nd and Bluecoats taking the bronze, medaling for the first time.

While I'm a Crowniac through and through, once the season began winding down and it seemed the die was cast in terms of who may compete for a championship, I threw support to The Cavaliers. It doesn't hurt that my friend and coworker Joseph is a former marching member, but beyond that, I really connected with their show upon seeing it early in the season at FirstBEAT and knew that if it cleaned up nicely--which it did--it could be a contender. Unfortunately, BD's show was too strong in the eyes of the judges.

I've got nothing against the Blue Devils--in fact, they are the only squad with that name about which I can say that, given my hatred of Duke and Central Connecticut State. In fact, I didn't even see their show until watching semis a few nights ago. Maybe it's my east coast bias, but I just haven't connected with a show of theirs too strongly since the Godfather Part Blue. Even as I enjoyed their Constantly Risking Absurdity, they were up against far too many giants that year.

I was actually more connected with Finals this year than I have been since two years ago when I was actually there. During Thursday's quarterfinals, I was able to follow the action on Twitter via some loyal corps fans I follow; on Friday, I went west to Winston-Salem (Clemmons, technically) where my friend Jim, who has Fan Network plugged in on the big screen in his school's auditorium. And Saturday, DCI was kind to us and broadcast the scores announcements, including some snippets of corps performances.

Truth be told, while shorter, the latter was comparable to what the old ESPN2 broadcast used to show, and it was great that that was available to the masses free of charge. I'm probably beating a dead horse with this opinion, but I believe, and continue to believe that with DCI becoming more accustomed to providing high-quality, live footage, some sort of television deal really needs to come into existence.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Missing an Opportunity

When I started using Twitter (@80mins, if you didn't already know) the plan was that it would simply be an extension of this blog; that is, it would be all about sports and marching as well. While it's expanded beyond that, it's really only slightly. If you expand marching to music in general and add food and travel, you probably capture about 95% of my posts. And while I don't intend to expand the scope of this blog, I have been known to talk about food and travel, mostly in the context of sports and marching.

On the travel side of things: As evidenced by my honeymoon, when I travel, I like to see sports sites, especially stadiums and places with significant history. Travel Channel tends to be one of my go-tos when channel surfing, and while I joke that they are often Food Network: Destination, I enjoy their programming. I just noticed something I found strange, however: They don't have any sports-related travel show. Moreover, they don't even have any content of the sort on their website, unless they stumble across a stadium or something on another trip. You know something's wrong when a search on their site for "Fenway" yields no results.

Another spot that yields no results: Dodgertown. While the hallowed Vero Beach grounds are a ghost town now with respect to the Dodgers themselves, the facilities are still in use; in fact, this summer the USF Bulls are adding a little green and gold to the Dodger blue, holding training camp at the complex. But if you wanted to see what you could see down that way, don't go asking the Travel Channel.

So what should they do? While I'm not suggesting they become a sports network, these things within the grander scope of travel would make sense. Want a blueprint? I think that ESPN does their travel portal right.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pre-Fall Withdrawal

It's not often I use this blog to talk about myself; usually I touch base on a piece of news or information in the sports or marching realms, and then add my own two cents about it. This one's a bit different. This one's about me.

About a week ago, I got a strong twinge of withdrawal from having been involved in marching or playing in any way. It came out of nowhere; it was the end of a workday and I came across the Carolina Panthers PurrCussion Drumline on Facebook. Let me start by saying it's long been a dream, a goal, and quite frankly, an obsession of mine to make marching bands, or at least drumlines, commonplace in professional sports. Admittedly, it's a goal towards which I've done essentially nothing, but I've been enjoying seeing it unfold, primarily in the NBA and NFL. But the line in Charlotte hit a little close to home--or perhaps more accurately, not close enough to home.

A bit of digging showed me that following auditions and call backs in May, the drumline gets together about once a week for a little better than half a year. Immediately I began thinking: Should I keep my eye on them until next year, and audition for next year's line? If I were to make it, it would mean driving three hours round trip between here and Charlotte once a week, not to mention the rehearsal time itself. How well would this jibe with my responsibilities at work and, more importantly, at home?

But, to be perfectly honest, at this point I'm a has been--I haven't played in any sort of athletic band since pep band in undergrad seven years ago, and except for the few opportunities to mobilize that pep band, I really haven't marched in over a decade. So I'm certainly chomping at the bit for another opportunity. Could this be it?

There is yet another complication in the mix. Obviously, if I were to audition, be selected, and become a member, I would be a primary part of the support for the Carolina Panthers. While I've got nothing against the the Panthers, it's no secret that I'm a card-carrying, green-bleeding Eagles fan. So would I be a whore? A drummer for hire? Can I truly give my all for the Cats when my heart belongs to the Birds? Am I more a drummer, or an Eagles fan? Who knows. But I do know I'd love to get on the field again.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown

Drum corps is the only competitive activity that comes to mind where the competitors regularly de-emphasize the fact that winning is the object of the game. Ask any DCI director, and they'll tell you they know the season is a success if the kids have learned something, had a great time, and they felt this show really connected with the audience. It's both refreshing and a little annoying; on the one hand, it is great that they've got education at the forefront and that there's no undue pressure on the participants, especially since there are quite a few corps which, realistically speaking, have slim to no shot at even medaling, let alone winning it all. On the other hand, it almost gives the impression that there's little drive to strive for the top, to win it all, and defeat any corps standing in their way.

And yet, in this atmosphere, Carolina Crown came out subliminally swinging. As last year's second-place corps, Crown made it clear they were coming from the #1 spot, naming their show "A Second Chance". Furthering their cerebral smack talk, they switched their horns from silver to gold. So while the platitudes were likely the same from Crown staff when asked about winning, their actions spoke quite loudly.

Crown came out of the gates this year smoking, sweeping the eastern shows for a good amount of the season. I was pleased to see it; Crown is one of my two favorite corps (Santa Clara Vanguard being the other, who are unlikely to be supplanted until someone fields a cymbal line half as exciting) and I'd love to see them win gold. But now that the season wears on, they seem to be slipping a bit, managing only 4th place at the Masters of the Summer Music Games and repeating that tonight in Atlanta. So while the seasons not yet over, it seems that they may be headed down the route so many corps have taken: Start strong with not enough room to grow so that other corps surpass you.

So, then, are they foolish for the statements they made (or didn't make) about going for the gold? Hardly. I'm happy they dared, regardless of the outcome. It livens things up a bit. I'd love to see some more corps throw some 'bows, explicit or implicit. Last year's champion Blue Devils quite possibly did (1930 won them their 13th championship; 1+9+3+0=13) and this will be far from the last, I'm sure. So let Crown talk...

...besides, regardless of how they end up, they will have done exactly as planned, so long as the kids all learn something and have a good time, and they connect with the audience.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Carrying More than Pads

So I am, admittedly, a few days late, but I wanted to weigh in regardless. Recently, in sports news, a bit of a big deal was made that Dez Bryant, a rookie for the Dallas Cowboys, refused to carry veteran Roy Williams' pads following practice. Rookies carrying veterans' pads is a bit of a tradition, you see, and Bryant refusing to perform the service struck a nerve with some.

While mostly benign, making a rookie carry your pads is, by definition hazing. Cowboys' coach Wade Phillips told the team that they were there to play football, and that the new guys didn't have to engage in any of the ritual "initiation" if they didn't want to. Bryant took him up on that.

Now I have a graduate degree in student affairs, and it is currently my career, so I have to give credit to the coach for being proactive in renouncing (refudiating?) any sort of rookie hazing up front. And while it's easy to point out that carrying pads is relatively harmless in the grand scheme of things, it's admirable that a stand has been taken.

Flashback to my high school days in marching band. When we were coming off the field, rookies carried my pads. The difference, of course, is that my pads had drums attached. They did it because they wanted to (I know, that's what all hazers claim); carrying my tris or quads back to the band room was mutually beneficial. It gave my back a rest and it gave a freshman or sophomore who was probably playing cymbals a chance to play around for a bit on tenors. This was how they got a glimpse into their future with the organization.

So yes, Dez Bryant was perfectly within his rights to refuse to carry Roy Williams' pads. But in doing so, he may have missed a chance to connect, relate, and perhaps peek into his future with the Dallas Cowboys.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Going Multimedia

For years now, I've wanted to create a USF football highlights video, but I just haven't had the talent, the software, or the patience to recognize what I did have. Now that I've done such, behold! I chose to use Brian Setzer's MalagueƱa for two reasons: One is that MalagueƱa is forever a USF song to me, perhaps because HOT played it my first year at USF. The other is that in this particular version, there are parts that approximate The Bull, which I'm sure all USF faithful can appreciate. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sports in the Courts

The conversations and debates have taken place for who knows how long: Is cheerleading a sport? Recently, one Connecticut court answered the question with a "no".

Now to be clear, the purpose the court was even defining a sport in this instance was so as to come to a decision as to whether Quinnipiac (an old NEC foe) was violating Title IX or not. This determination hinged on whether or not the scholarships for the all women's varsity competitive cheer team counted towards the total number scholarships. Several factors, including lack of recognition as an NCAA sport, lack of off-campus recruiting, differences in campus resources, and lack of a singular governing body went into the ruling that varsity cheerleading, at least in this instance, was not a sport.

The debate over what is a sport enters into many arenas; cheerleading is among those often questioned, as are commonly accepted sports such as NASCAR and golf. And, of course, marching band/drum corps often get thrown into the mix as well.

I'm sure I've said it here before, but despite being the band nerd I am, I do not believe marching band or drum corps to be sports. True enough, they are physically demanding, athletic endeavors (if you're doing it right), but that doesn't make either a sport. I feel similarly about cheerleading.

But what of it? I'm a sports fan. I enjoy sports. But I also believe there's no golden star foisted upon anything that is considered a sport. There are things I don't consider sports (drum corps) which I'd be a whole lot more apt to watch than things I do (baseball). So if you seek the "sport" moniker for legitimacy, search elsewhere.

All that said, I still want regular marching coverage on ESPN. Just sayin'.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sports. Nation.

I mentioned absence-due-to-marriage in the last post; this most recent hiatus is due to the honeymoon. If this is your primary source of sports and marching news, well, I'm simultaneously flattered and concerned, but rest assured I'm back.

I won't bore you with all of the details of my honeymoon--that's for another time and place--but there are quite a few bits of it that were sports- or marching-related, and thus are appropriate for this blog. The honeymoon was an Alaskan cruise and a cross-country drive. Here's the parts that were appropriate for consumption here:

  • We visited several corps hometowns: We left from Seattle (Cascades [roughly]), spent a night in Casper (Troopers), drove through LaCrosse (Blue Stars), visited Madison (Scouts), spent the night in Rockford (Phantom), drove through Rosemont (Cavaliers) and visited Canton (Bluecoats).
  • I spend a good deal of the trip in my new Crown hat, which has quickly become one of my favorites. Sadly, I didn't catch any comments in any of the corps cities about it.
  • The World Cup was in full swing during the trip; they showed some matches on the big screen on the ship.
  • I actually got some leisure reading in, and what do I read about? College football, of course. I finished It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium, and started in on Dixieland Delight. The latter inspires me to take a trip like that of my own. 
  • Our rental car has XM satellite radio, which gave us, among others, ESPN Radio. I actually, somewhat accidentally, caught the Lebron decision broadcast live.
  • I poked around Camp Randall Stadium while in Madison. One of the highlights was a rock decorated for the 1999 Rose Bowl, which Wisconsin won. Yours truly marched in the parade.
  • In Chicago, we took the tour of Wrigley Field. With my tour of Fenway back in February, I've visited the two oldest parks this year.
  • We did the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend. There is a portion of a field in the back; I marched on it a bit and was pleased that I still retain a decent 8-to-5 all these years later. We also rolled through Notre Dame and saw the stadium and Touchdown Jesus.
  • On to Canton for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marched on the field at Fawcett Stadium as well (such a dork). 
So there you have it--after a whirlwind tour of a good deal of the US, I'm back. The trip both satiated and stimulated the travel bug, so who knows where I'll be next. Back to your regularly scheduled blog.

Monday, June 14, 2010


First of all, if anyone took notice that it's been a little while since my last post, the reasoning is simple: I just got married this past weekend! Clearly the preparations thereof consumed a good deal of my time. The irony of this adjustment in time is that my wife has probably had to hear more about the things I'd likely be blogging about--largely college football realignment--than she otherwise would.

I started talking a little here about the fact that the G7 proposal in DCI and the current expansion/realignment issues in the NCAA are running concurrently, but it seems the more either goes forth, the more they look the same. From where I sit, there are five large parallels between the two. Interestingly enough, they all end in y:

Money: Come on, this one is a given. In each case, those who have it want more of it. In DCI, the G7 claim that everyone will see more money, though they don't hide the fact that a higher proportion will go to them. In the NCAA, it's pretty clear that it's every conference--and nearly every school--for itself. In each case, it's a smaller subset that gets the bulk of the loot. Which leads me to...

Hegemony: Perhaps the biggest example of this is the presumably Texas-driven agreement to keep the ten remaining BigXII schools intact, While it gives them all security, it gives Texas nearly unbridled power to do as they please, including the All-Horns-All-The-Time Network, if they so choose. Of course, in DCI the G7 would be your power brokers, keeping the 16 other World Class corps at bay and calling into question the very existence of the Open Class corps.

Uncertainty: In each association, the landscape remains unstable, with schools/corps wondering what's going to happen next: Who may be the next one out the door, what may happen to your conference, and what the future may hold. And speaking of the future...

Animosity: While decisions are changing very rapidly, the realignment itself won't be taking place for over another year. The G7 proposal and Nebraska moving to the Big Ten are slated for the summer of 2011. Colorado to the Pac-10 is effective in 2012. That gives 1-2 seasons sharing a conference/schedule with teams that may see each other as the enemy. Expect a lot of stank-eye from sideline to sideline.

And finally, Opportunity: I'd be lying if I said the news in each arena didn't keep me on the edge of my seat, just because of the potential that exists for something really awesome. Now I'm willing to admit things could also go horrible wrong, but I can't wait to see how it shakes out!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Final Foray

Just wanted to put down some quick thoughts before the Final Four begins. Who I'd like to see win, in descending order.

Notre Dame. Despite the fact that they are a thorn in my side vis-a-vis the whole expansion mess, I'll concede that their national profile, in conjunction with their location outside of the hotbeds, makes them an attractive choice for the growth of the sport.

Cornell. A hotbed team, but they haven't won in a while, breaking the stronghold of the Big Four of the past nearly two decades.

Virginia-Duke. Virginia's part of the old guard, and Duke is Duke. I'd rather not see any of them hoist the trophy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sports Canadians Love

I'm posting on lacrosse and hockey, so I figured that title was apropos.

First of all, as a lacrosse fan and an alum of an America East school, I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't know that Stony Brook's head coach is black. I had wondered to myself early yesterday if there were any black head coaches in D1 men's lacrosse, and answered my own questions with an "of course not"... or so I thought. Watching yesterday's Stony Brook-UVA matchup, I saw Sowell on the sideline and thought surely, he must be an assistant? But I looked it up and was delightfully proven wrong.

Also during yesterday's lacrosse action, Notre Dame defeated the Terps, denying them yet another Final Four. Shortly thereafter, head coach Dave Cottle resigned, leaving the head job in College Park open. I postulated earlier that hopefully UMBC's weak season this year would keep the Terps from sniffing around Catonsville, but Neil informed me that Coach Zimmerman can't stand AD Yow. Probably because they used to sit next to each other in homeroom.

Finally, I'm watching NHL hockey, where the Flyers could conceivably clinch an Eastern conference championship tonight.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Killer Mashup

On the college football front, I've been keyed in to conference alignment talk. Recent developments in DCI have me wondering about their touring and event structure. What happens when you put the two together?

Interestingly enough, I was thinking about the concept of conferences in DCI a few days ago, before the latest news came out. While nothing is operationalized, the 23 World Class corps actually fit rather neatly into three conferences. Consider:

Boston Crusaders
The Cadets
Carolina Crown
Jersey Surf
Teal Sound

Blue Stars
The Cavaliers
Madison Scouts
Phantom Regiment

The Academy
Blue Devils
Blue Knights
Pacific Crest
Santa Clara Vanguard

While what separates World Class corps from Open Class corps is their ability to sustain a nationwide tour, the use of these conferences could allow even the World Class corps to tour primarily regionally (while still staying on the road, leaving Open Class to weekenders), as an opportunity to preserve fiscal resources in tough times, while still traveling extraregionally for major competitions and big regionals.

What does this do to the proposal from The Undersigned (what will be my new denotation of the seven corps who put forth said proposal)? The could actually be worked into this structure. Their elite designation--essentially, attempting to create a BCS in DCI--would give them additional opportunity but also additional burden. These corps would be obligated to appear at the majority of competitions in their region, making their tour schedule more demanding. In addition, They would also be required to participate in x number of out of conference matchups in each of the other two regions. The Undersigned split out quite nicely between the regions--two each in the Central and the West, and three in the East--allowing for each show to potentially have 3-4 "BCS" corps at each show.

Is this punishing The Undersigned for their stance? Yes and no. It is giving them both additional opportunity and additional responsibility. Their choice to enter into this agreement is based upon those seven corps' recent and historical success. Their argument, though they may not voice this explicitly, is that they are the corps who put butts into seats; an argument with which  I can't say I disagree. This is an opportunity for additional service to the Association as a whole--something they claimed in the press release--as well as the opportunity to serve themselves, potentially commanding higher cuts of shows at which they appear. 

This does, unfortunately, create a BCS-like dichotomy among the World Class corps, where The Undersigned are the members of the auto-qualifying conferences and the other 16 World Class corps play the role of the other five conferences who are essentially shut out from championship competition. For the fun of continuing the analogy, Open Class = FCS. Occasionally a Boise State may emerge (Blue Stars?) or a BYU, with past championships before the current structure (Madison?) but by and large the rich will get richer and the rest will get left out. 

While at face value, I'd never advocate to create a new system to emulate the BCS, might it actually make sense in this case? For all of its flaws, never can it be said that the BCS doesn't make a ton of money--it's the primary reason university presidents and ADs hesitate to ditch it outright. And money is something that DCI and its member corps could use. And with representation from The Undersigned at each show, coupled with the fan-friendly experience the press release suggests, the real winner in all of this could be the fans. Finally, a potential good use for the BCS!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Suggestion or Secession?

I was thinking not too long ago about how it's about that time of year when my sports/activity calendar starts to segue from college lacrosse to drum corps. And as if the ousting of UMBC from any tournament hopes a couple weeks back didn't already do it for me, recent developments launched DCI into the forefront.

Apparently an "ad hoc committee" (or "rogue element," depending on whom you ask) made up of representation from Blue Devils, Santa Clara Vanguard, Phantom Regiment, The Cavaliers, Bluecoats, Carolina Crown, and The Cadets have been meeting--possibly in back rooms--to craft their vision for the future of the activity. What followed is a 60-page manifesto, and while I don't know if that will ever see the light of day, a peek into their thoughts can be found here. Basically, the proposal calls for new "super events," designed to be fan-friendly and feature the seven corps mentioned, who clearly, via this process, are denoting themselves as the premier corps. It also calls for two of these top corps to be guaranteed to make a west coast appearance with BD and Vanguard. In turn, DCI's executive director has responded here.

What remains unclear is if this is merely a suggestion, or seeds for secession. Are these corps saying "we have an idea..." or "adopt this model or else..."? While the press release describes this as something that will be good for all of the corps, it's hard to see at face value how this isn't primarily self-serving.

The language of the release is both troubling and exciting to me. On the one hand, the fact that The Cadets are among the undersigned and the proposal "...suggest[s] a plan to better marry drum corps to scholastic music..." makes me fear that it is an insidious plot to turn drum corps in to high school band, complete with electronics and woodwinds. On the flip side, the events that they propose, including pre-and post-event activities and fan involvement in voting, sound like they could be amazing for the fans and for the activity. But at what point does "the activity" become merely those seven corps?

The potential of realignment in major college football has kept them in the forefront during the offseason. Such a development in DCI may very well do the same for drum corps.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Power Play

--or-- Why the Big East May Be Doomed

I'm a Sixers fan. This past off-season, I watched in near-disbelief as the entire East made moves to improve their fortune. The Cavaliers added Shaq. The Celtics added Rasheed Wallace. The Magic added Vince Carter. With that, three of the strongest teams in the division made power plays to get even stronger. And the Sixers sat by and did nothing.

Now, as a Big East fan, I'm sitting by and watching my conference do the same thing.

Unless Marinatto is just playing his cards extremely close to the vest, I've got no reason to believe that the Big East is doing anything more than letting things play out as they may with respect to conference expansion and realignment. Trouble is, the could play out to playing the Big East out of existence. Meanwhile, other conferences are attempting to make power plays. The Big Ten's power play is setting this whole thing in motion. The SEC is a power play unto itself, and even with that is keeping a watchful eye on the landscape. The Big XII and Pac-10 are exploring the concept of a joint television network. The ACC is inking a major deal with ESPN that seeks to double revenues for conference schools. And the Big East? Sitting still, from where I sit.

Better minds than mine may have ideas on what they should be doing, but my priority points would be issuing an ultimatum (go all in or get out) to Notre Dame, extending a bid to TCU and/or others, and discussing a plan to amicably cleave BE basketball and football so expansion were possible without creating an unwieldy basketball conference.

Other than inaction, another reason the Big East is possibly doomed is geography. Despite the Big Ten's potential desire to change this fact by reaching east (or south with early Texas talks), the Big Six conferences as we currently know them are all regional conferences.

The Pac-10 is a Western conference.
The Big XII is a Heartland conference.
The Big Ten is a Midwestern conference.
The SEC is a Southern conference.
The ACC is an Eastern conference.

And the Big East? an Eastern conference. What this means is that when it comes right down to it, the Big East has to battle the ACC for regional supremacy, and it already seems the ACC is set up for victory. In fact, it was the ACC's expansion in 2005 that truly made the ACC an Eastern conference and not simply a low-res clone of the SEC. Adding Boston College (and, interestingly enough, Miami) is what stopped the ACC from being a Southern conference with Maryland as an outlier and made them moreso an entity of the East Coast. So yes, the ACC and Big East have gone toe-to-toe once before, and things didn't turn out so well for the BE.

That said, it's actually not the ACC, but the Big Ten who threatens the Big East this time. With no desire to stay in their lane, the Big Ten may look to snatch Eastern schools as it goes. As the Big East is already the smallest football conference, even the nabbing of one or two teams could prove fatal. At best, the Big East could hope for an Eastern merger. But one thing's for sure: If that happens, the new conference will likely look a whole lot more like the ACC than it does the Big East.
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