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Saturday, January 30, 2010

That'll teach me

Not long after I posted that the only thing looking up about UMBC's basketball season was the coming of lacrosse season, both teams decided to teach me a lesson. UMBC basketball went to league-leading Maine and came out with a victory, while UMBC lacrosse lost (unofficially) 9-3 in a preseason scrimmage at Navy.

Where the Balls are Rounder

With only one meaningful game remaining in the football season, it's been time to turn my attention to basketball. I've actually been to more live basketball this year than I have since my days in pep band, now that I'm a season ticket holder at UNCG. And yet it's only just now that I'm really starting to pay good attention to the grander scheme of college hoops.

I follow three and a half teams: UMBC, USF, UNCG, with a passing interest in Maryland. Things are actually starting to look up for them. USF  improved to 3-5 in the Big East and first the first time since joining the conference won two consecutive conference games vs. Providence and Seton Hall. If that doesn't sound like improvement to you, well, you're not familiar with USF and Big East basketball. UNCG now has a couple of home wins after a non-conference playing whipping boy to the ACC, and notched two consecutive wins at the Coliseum (interrupted by a home loss back on campus in Fleming). Maryland currently sits atop the ACC. And UMBC? Well, despite a 1-20 record, saved only by two winless teams from being the worst in all of D-I basketball, there's reason to be optimistic at UMBC. Why, you may ask? Because starting with a preseason scrimmage at Navy, it's lacrosse season.

In watching, I'm reminded that I love Big East basketball. It's an interesting realization: While I'm a USF alum, Big East basketball was, and for the most part, still is, a "them" and not an "us" to me. For starters, my entire time at USF was spent in Conference USA. And clearly, USF has never been a force in conference hoops, so it's easy to feel disconnected. On the other hand, I feel more closely connect to ACC hoops, being a part time Terps fan and living in NC, specifically in Greensboro, home of the conference headquarters and often the conference tournament. Clearly I've got a good solid east coast bias, but watching Syracuse-Georgetown last weekend, Louisville-West Virginia today, and Georgetown over Duke this afternoon, I was reminded of my conference love. 

Just how big is the big game?

I heard on last night's PTI that the city of New Orleans is planning to cancel schools and postpone activities of the courts on the Monday following the Super Bowl. Fair or foul?

I actually surprise even myself that I went back and forth on this. I've been saying for years that the Monday after Super Bowl (and a couple other sports distinctions, including the BCS national championship game and the NCAA basketball championships) should be a national holiday. And yet, when a locality--one whose team is playing in the Super Bowl--chooses to do so, my knee-jerk reaction is "Education! Important! Don't cancel school for a sporting event!" even though I've often advocated that they do exactly that. So after checking myself, I decided that yes, it was a good thing that they chose to make a holiday of the date, particularly since in the case of school, it gets "snow day" treatment, so students will still get a full complement of instruction.

Similarly, I found myself of two minds on the fact that the University of Alabama saw fit to cancel classes for days surrounding the BCS National Championship Game. I can see the rationale for it: Unlike in the case of the Super Bowl, a significant amount of the residents of the community (in this case, students, faculty, staff, and alumni) can realistically attend the game itself. My thought is this: If the rationale behind canceling classes was that logistically, they wanted for the sizable contingent traveling to the game to do so unfettered, then their logic is sound. If it was merely a day to honor the team for making it to the national championship game, I wonder if they did the same when other teams made their respective national championships, most recently the women's gymnastics team, 2002 national champions. And yes, I fully realize that football is king in Alabama, but if the rationale was simply honor, why not the gymnastics team?

Let's go back to the Super Bowl for a moment. The only reason it even needs to impede upon the work week at all is because it takes place on a Sunday night. The PTI guys postulated on something I had never even considered: Why not hold the Super Bowl on a Saturday night? While the Powers that Be have us conditioned to think that NFL football = Sunday (or Monday night), they use Saturdays for late season and playoff games, once college football is out of the way. For that matter, college football, which owns fall Saturdays, plays its national championship game on a Thursday night, so clearly it's been done. Beyond the tradition, I honestly can't think of a reason not to reschedule it. Not that I don't have respect for that tradition, but I wouldn't be against "Super Bowl Saturday" entering the lexicon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sports Watching 2.0

There's nothing like being at a live sporting event. But we're getting to the point where big screen high-def TVs are almost as good, especially when you can enjoy the action with friends. But in the Internet age, there's even quite a time to be had watching games alone.

Behold: Sports Watching 2.0. Recently, especially towards the end of this football season, I've watched games alone but not by myself. Inevitably, when watching games on TV, I'm also on Facebook. And as I update with general thoughts on the game, so do several of my friends and family members. Dialogue ensues through comments and statuses, and it's like you're watching the game with friends all over the country.

To that end, a question for those who read this. I've been toying with the idea of doing a blog-specific Twitter (in other words, a blog for 80 Minutes of Regulation, not for Curtis) where the random sports and marching thoughts that I currently post on Facebook could go, possibly to be cross-posted as well. What do you think? I've steered clear of Twitter thus far, but this seems to me to be a use I could get behind.

Monday, January 25, 2010

All Good Things Must Come to an End

In two short weeks, each major kind of football played in America will be over. The Colts and the Saints are headed to south Florida to compete in the Super Bowl which, as a New Orleans descendant and former Baltimore resident, puts me in black and gold. Speaking of South Florida, USF's own (and we'll ignore who he currently plays for) Mike Jenkins is Pro Bowl bound, becoming USF's first alum to be honored in that way.

Regarding the Pro Bowl, I believe it to be the most worthless all-star game in all of pro sports, but I honestly don't know how to change that. Because of football's immense physicality, players are right not to want to risk life and limb for an exhibition. I'll admit I thought it was foolish to move the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl, and for the most part  I still do. But this move does have one thing going for it: With its previous placement after the Super Bowl, most football fans had already dejectedly accepted our lot in life: Football was gone and would not return until late August. Watching a bunch of millionaires have fun in Hawaii offered little solace. So perhaps the timing, paired with the move to the mainland (though it's still Miami) may make a few more folks tune in.

That said, I can think of one more negative to it taking place the weekend before the Super Bowl: It now steps on the toes of Honda Battle of the Bands Weekend which always provided an appropriate "halftime" in the break between the conference championships and the Super Bowl. I won't be making the trip this year, but if ever I were traveling (and I actually will be this year; just in the opposite direction, to Delaware, for a buddy's 30th birthday) the Pro Bowl would easily lose out.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I've talked surprisingly little about the NFL playoffs thus far. This is due in part to the Eagles' plight (I don't want to talk about it) but probably more to the fact that the games as a whole have been dreadfully boring. But now, we're down to the final four of the 2009 NFL season. Tomorrow, the Jets will play the Colts and the Vikings will play the Saints for the right to go to Super Bowl XLIV. There are a few interesting story lines with the four teams remaining.

For starters, there's Brett Favre, the token old guy and off-season he's-retired-oh-wait-nevermind story. The Minnesota Vikings proved that adding Favre can get you to your conference's championship game. Then again, the Jets showed that losing Favre can get you to your conference's championship game, so I suppose it's a zero-sum game.

The Indianapolis Colts are vying for their second (yes, SECOND) trip to the Super Bowl, having won it all in Super Bowl XLI. But they will be the only team who can act like they've been there before; their opponents, the Jets have never made it to the Super Bowl since the AFL-NFL merger. On the NFC side, the Saints have never made it to the Super Bowl, while the Vikings' last trip was in 1977, before all but a handful of current players were born or even thought of.

What I'd like to see is Saints vs. Jets, for a couple of reasons. First of all, I root against Indy on the bitter behalf of Baltimore. I've got family roots in N'awlins, and the city clearly has been through quite a bit lately, so it would be nice to see them go. Mark Sanchez conceivably being the first Mexican-American to start in the Super Bowl would be kind of cool. But more than anything else, it would avoid the wankfest that Favre vs. Manning would be. That said, my prediction is Saints over Vikes in a close one, and Colts over Jets in a slightly-less-close one. We shall see!

Surefire way to see us laughing in the Purple Rain

So Prince, Minnesota native and huge fan of the Vikings (and, obviously, all things purple) was so inspired by the Vikings' postseason success this year that he saw fit to write them a fight song. Like to hear it? Here it go:

Skol Vikings it is not. Reportedly, the Vikes love it, but I suspect a good deal of that is out of respect and deference to The Artist himself. I love Prince as much as the next guy (though not as much as Jamie Foxx) but let's be honest. It's garbage. If you kicked it up to 120bpm and put some horns behind it, it would probably suck a bit less, but, well, no.

My coworker Maggie had the best and most obvious solution for a Prince-penned Vikings theme song: Rewrite "Purple Rain" as "Purple Reign" and add some Vikings-specific lyrics. Voila.


Instant gratification? I got your instant gratification right here. Not long after I posted about all of the rules proposals, we've got results!

Before any of the proposals went to the entire DCI directorship, they first went to a caucus which determined whether or not they would be sent forward. The proposal for the 18 minutes of field time with the "free style" section was modified to fit within the current 17 minute framework; the overall effect judges, the seven judge panel, and the percussion judge in the press box were all halted in caucus. All other proposals went forth to be voted on by all 22 world class directors.

It was decided that the sound engineer in the sound booth was a procedural change, and as such, corps could do what they want. Expanded age eligibility was rejected, with the rationale that DCI is a youth activity. The change to the visual sheet was approved.

The proposal that formalizes the use of pre-show time was approved. Hopkins' proposal with the freestyle session ultimately won out, after much discussion at both the caucus and director levels. The thought was that this may harm corps who chose not to do a a "preshow", and the decision was made that corps who chose not to could stay off of the field until they saw fit to take it. It also looks like the floodgates are open for things like "illegal instruments"... it'll be interesting to see how this shapes out.

There were a couple more things enacted by the directors when the got together. I was always taught that direct quotes were for when you can't find a better way to say something yourself, and which these changes, I really can't, so I'll just present them directly from

"There were two other procedural changes that were approved by the voting membership after all the rules were voted upon. Post-show critiques, when corps staff members used to discuss their productions with the judging community on a periodic basis, have been replaced by more informal pre-show discussion opportunities with the judges.
Another change is that corps are now encouraged to send in synopses of their productions prior to the season. They will be shared with adjudicators so they can research the show concepts and listen to source music, allowing them to become familiar with the shows prior to the competitive season."

So there you have it. For rthis post most of all, but really all of the posts related to the rules, I would like to both thank and direct attention to Michael Boo and the fine folks at I'm not a reporter, nor to I purport to be; hell, I'm not even a journalist, just a measly blogger. But was great at keeping me up to date with what was going on so I could in turn offer my opinions to all who chose to read them.

One more note that I happened to learn that came out of the winter meetings: Teal Sound was granted access to the World Class schedule! To be perfectly honest, after reading the news on and the corresponding release on the Teal Sound site, I'm not entirely sure whether that means they are now bona fide World Class or if it's similar to being a Division I-A transitional, but either way, they are at least on their way. They've always been an organizations I've enjoyed (this past year's show notwithstanding) so it's good to see them join the ranks. Congrats, Teal Sound!

As the Jannuals Turn: Rule Changes Part 3

For those unfamiliar with the term "Jannual", it's apparently what DCI informally calls their annual January meeting. Learned that this past week from the DCI FieldPass podcast, which did a special edition since they're going on. Education!

DCI has put the remaining four proposals out in the open since last I posted, so I'm going to go ahead and wrap this up in one fell swoop. Here's what remains:

DCI judge George Oliviero proposed to create a field visual sheet that is parallel in structure to the other visual sheets. It seems to make good sense, but I honestly don't know much about how the visual sheets are structured, so I can't say much beyond that.

Hopkins proposed that the percussion judge be located in the press box instead of on field during the performance. He postulates that percussion judges on the field are a distraction for the corps and the fans. He even drew the following analogy: "For fans, it might be comparable to attending a Broadway production and watching a New York Times theater critic roving throughout the actors on stage, tape recorder in hand, making comments to put in his/her next column." Nice analogy, I"ll admit, but while DCI is both athletic and theatrical in nature, "Marching Music's Major League" has been seeking to more closely align itself with the sports end of things than its theatre side, so I'll counter with the following analogy: football refs are on the field and baseball umpires are immediately behind the plate because it's the best place to get the call right. The official isn't a distraction, they are part of the action, and indeed help decide the currency--in this case, points--upon which the competition is based. A referee or umpire in the stands could come to a "pretty good idea" of the right call, much as we the fans can by watching either live or on TV. But I don't want a "pretty good idea", and I want the person responsible for calling whether those diddles were fair or foul in the best possible position to do so. He mentions how it can potentially be a danger to the judges or the corps members, but judges, like referees, have become quite adept at dodging the action. The occasional collision occurs, certainly, but it's a price I'm willing to pay for the right answer.

Hopkins also proposes replacing the the judges for music effect and visual effect with two judges for general effect. I think this is one I can get behind. He reasons that the two are often so intertwined--necessarily so--that it makes more sense to judge them together to get a sense for how the two complement each other. Both visual and music performance are judged individually on a couple different strata, so keeping general effect, well, general makes sense to me.

The final proposal, also from Hopkins, creates a panel of seven judges, down from eight at most contests and ten at championships. All of the same criteria would be judged, save for the change mentioned in the previous proposal: Brass performance, percussion performance, color guard performance, ensemble music, ensemble visual, and two overall effect. The one impact he mentions in this proposal is reducing the cost of judgest, and since that appears the only real impact, I can get behind that.

And for those of you who hate to wait, I'll actually have the results of the voting--which apparently took place while I was typing this and posted to just now--shortly!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Today gets a little more interesting...

It's day 2 of DCI rules proposals. Yesterday's were pretty harmless, at least in my estimation. Today's get a little harder hitting. Both of today's reference a change in the way field entry is done and judged.

DCI Contest Director Tony DiCarlo's is relatively inocuous; he suggests merely to formalize the manner in which corps have recently utilized the setup and warmup period; namely, the first five minutes of a corps' 17 minute time slot can be used in whatever manner they choose, including setup or pre-show exposition. This was perhaps most famously done by Phantom Regiment in 2008's championship Spartacus show. Increasingly, shows have been using their warmup time to begin to set the stage for their judged 12 minutes of performance.

Hopkins takes the concept a bit further. His proposal wants to add one minute to the current 17 minute total time, allowing for three minutes of set-up and three minutes for the corps to, and I quote, "warm up, move, use any device they wish, taped music, legal or illegal instruments, etc" before the 12 minute judged performance begins.

Whoa. Slow down there, cowboy. That seems quite loosey-goosey, especially for an unjudged portion of the show (though he acknowledges that at this point the general effect judge could and would take this portion into account when scoring the entire performance). We're using anything here? No holds barred?  What about the corps that wants to set off fireworks? OK, he does make a "common sense" provision for things that could be a danger to corps members, but someone could make the argument and do this safely. Michael Boo of imagines a performance a la Petey Pablo in Drumline. It certainly is allowed in this proposal. You could tap into a stadium's jumbotron and show a video presentation. You could invite a 400 piece marching band on to blow people's faces off for three minutes. After all, what's to say those additional people aren't "any device they wish"?

But there's something more troubling in this proposal than this free-for-all. One of the things he goes out of his way to mention the use of is "illegal instruments". This, to me, reads like a potential gateway drug to non-brass/percussion instruments in DCI. After all, if you can bring your clarinet up to the six minute mark, how long will it be until it can come out beyond? It's not a road I'd like to travel down in drum corps.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Don't like the rules? Change 'em.

As we approach DCI's winter meetings, it's that time of year again when corps can suggest changes in the rules to be voted on. As is usually the case, The Cadets' George Hopkins has a lot of thoughts on the matter. It was his suggestion, and of course, the other directors' blessing that brought us amplification, electronic instruments, and water. This year, he's behind five of eight proposals. The folks at DCI are releasing them a couple at a time, so as they come through, I'll share them and give my thoughts.

Proposal 1: Change in Age Limits
This proposal is to shift the age-out age by six months, so that instead of excluding those who turn 22 by June 1, anyone who is still 22 by December 31 of their marching year would be allowed to march. This isn't one about which I feel particularly strongly, but I think it makes some sense; either you can march at 22 or you can't. It will lead to another year of eligibility for those born in the back half of the year. Hopkins proposed this a few years ago and it got shot down, but this isn't the first time he's brought something back to the table. It's interesting to look at this in contract to other age rules in sports and activities, which often dictate how young one has to be to begin.

Proposal 2: Sound engineer in press box
I'll admit, asking me about electronics proposals is a little bit about asking me who the Dallas Cowboys should draft. If you first take into account the fact that I'm not so keen on electronics to begin with, you can understand my hesitation with this proposal. That said, I begrudgingly understand that amplification and electronics are here to stay, and unlike the Cowboys, I want what's best for the corps involved, and of course us the audience, so I think I'd give this one a pass. Currently, sound is controlled by an engineer on field level, while another staff member may go into the audience or elsewhere in the stadium to get a feel for how the sound plays out. This would essentially make the second sound engineer the offensive coordinator, calling his or her plays from the booth via radio to effect the action on the field. If it's ultimately going to lead to better sounding corps, I'm willing to accept it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

USF decides to Skip It

Skip Holtz, formerly of the ECU Pirates, is now the head football coach at USF. I, for one, am glad to hear it. Skip has made ECU a forced to be reckoned with, certainly in Conference USA, which they've won the past two seasons, but also in the state of NC and even against the likes of WVU and Virginia Tech. I think he can be dangerous playing in the Big East and having the state of Florida at his disposal.

Skip (I suppose I should call him "Holtz" or "Coach Holtz", but dammit, his name's Skip!) has a couple of things going for him besides just his winning record. His situation at ECU had a lot in common with USF. Although it's not nearly the football state Florida is, ECU is a relative also-ran in a state where the majority of attention is paid to two public schools and one private school (Carolina, NC State, and Duke in general; Carolina, State, and Wake in football). Even without the BCS tag (though granted, none of the schools above will be mistaken for "football" schools anytime soon) he made it clear that he was a major player in the state. In fact, he (along with ECU athletics marketing) made the bold claim that this state is OURS. I'd love to see him make the same statement in Florida.

Another plus to Coach Holtz is that very last name. Skip is the son of College Football Hall of Famer, former Notre Dame coach, and ESPN commentator Lou Holtz. Daddy liked to name-drop Skip and ECU at times that didn't exactly fit; I've got no problem with USF pulling in that extra publicity.

There are a couple more interesting facts about the company we keep as this coaching carousel turns. The destinies of USF, Louisville, and Cincy are forever intertwined, as these three amigos made the trek from Conference USA into the Big East. This path continues as these three each break in new coaches in 2010. Here's hoping USF's can achieve what the other two already have: A Big East championship.

In addition, of the three top state universities in Florida--Florida, Florida State, and USF--two and a half will have new head coaches, Urban Meyer's situation at Florida notwithstanding.

Other shakeups across the country:
-Tommy Tuberville took the head position at Texas Tech. After all, their logo contains his initials.
-Pete Carroll got out of Dodge left USC for a position in the NFL with the Seahawks. I wonder if a lackluster season last year and NCAA investigators on their way had anything to do with this?
-In his place, Lane Kiffin, formerly of Tennessee, took the head coach position at USC. To hear Big Orange Nation tell it, his resignation went a little something like this:

It did lead to some good, however; in the wake of the horrific earthquake in Haiti, a Knoxville retailer is donating Lane Kiffin shirts to the recovery cause.
-At Tennessee, it's looking like Duke's David Cutcliffe, formerly of Tennessee, may be headed back. When the position became open, a friend of mine speculated that Leavitt could be a good fit. I definitely want to see Leavitt land on his feet somewhere, and perhaps Tennessee could have been the place. After all, he wouldn't choke/slap anyone there. They've got guns.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Leavitt Out at USF

As of 12 noon on Friday, January 8, Jim Leavitt is no longer the head coach at USF. He was relieved of his duties after he was alleged to have struck a player and a university independent investigation found him responsible. I've got mixed feelings about this fact, and they stem from numerous identities and beliefs of mine, including identities as a sports fan, a Bulls fan, and a higher education professional; and beliefs regarding abuse, conduct of caretakers, helicopter parents, things held in confidence, and many more.

When the news first broke, it was from a reporter that has in the past seemed to have a bone to pick with USF's program, and the wording seemed inconsequential at best. In the original story, I believe Leavitt grabbed a player by the throat and "struck" him twice in the face. My first thought is that this would be an accurate statement if Leavitt choked and punched a player, or if he pulled him close by his pads, spoke sternly to him, and then tapped him lightly twice. I figured the truth lied somewhere in between and nothing would come of it, but it seemed the story wouldn't go away, stories were changed, others spoke up, and finally the investigation that ultimately led to the dismissal took place. I'll also note that in the investigation it came up that other actions were taken by Leavitt, including the disposal of a player's personal effects, that certainly didn't help his case any, but I will primarily address the initial actions, as it seemed that, and reactions to that, predicated the rest of the situation.

I will first state that no one deserves to be abused. Male, female, adult or child, 6'4" or 4'6". But I also believe that actions do not occur in a vacuum. Context here is key. I recall someone related to this story making the statement that if Leavitt did what he was accused of to someone on the street, he would be arrested for assault. While that may be true, it should also be noted that if one were to do what they do on a football field to someone on the street, they would be arrested for assault. Again, context is everything, and what is done among a group of men vying for a common goal in a locker room is different than many other situations. It is possible that even on the harsher side of potential actions, Leavitt should have been disciplined, but not necessarily fired.

In direct counterpoint to that argument, however, is the fact that if Leavitt did indeed act on the harsher side of what was alleged, he betrayed his role as a de facto caretaker for the young men in his charge. His role as coach goes beyond directing practices and game day activities. He is to be a leader of men and in many ways a role model, even as far as a father figure, and as such, mistreatment of the young men who depend on him for more than simply x's and o's should not be tolerated. In this sense, firing Leavitt was certainly warranted.

I'm also concerned about the fact that this became the story it did. While I stop just short of the hood maxim, "stop snitching", I do believe there are some things that should be held in confidence and, where possible, handled internally. When a member of a team or organization, I think that airing dirty laundry to outsiders leads largely to misperception and confusion that is unnecessary. While those of us who have followed the program or even watched a single game on TV have seen that Leavitt is nothing if not unorthodox, but there doesn't seem to be evidence that he's ever laid hands (headbutts, perhaps, but not hands) on a player before. If it's correct that he hasn't, I don't see why this is something that couldn't have been handled either man-to-man or as a team. I do realize that Leavitt, as the coach, did hold a position of power that may have frightened individual players as to the status of their playing time or even scholarships, but there is strength in numbers, and as it seems through the investigation that there was plenty of conversation going on between and among players and as such this very well could have been resolved through other means.

What is perhaps most disconcerting to me is that this came about, not unlike the situation with Mike Leach at Texas Tech, with plenty of parental involvement. I think it's quite indicative of the times we live in and the phenomenon of helicopter parents for the millennials that are today's college students. Again, I think it's a shame that the adults who play on the team--and while it may make a better story to speak of the "kids" on the team, each and every one is an adult--couldn't handle this directly. It's worth noting, too, that with Leach and Mark Mangino, Leavitt is the third coach to lose his job on allegations of player abuse this year. It is perhaps indicative of the times we live in. Also, an interesting fact that I don't know is of any consequence, but is worth noting: I'm currently reading Ivan Maisel's The Maisel Report, and apparently Leach and Mangino were among only a handful of Division I head coaches who had not played college ball themselves. Leavitt, however, did--I don't know what that means in terms of how he saw fit to interact with his players, however.

So where to now? USF has just lost the only coach that the football program has ever known. Leavitt built the program from the ground up, from the trailers it once occupied into a BCS program. I'll admit it's difficult to see him go under these terms, but I also think most would admit that the program to some degree had stagnated, finishing no better than 3rd in the Big East and making a habit of a mid-season slump in October that put us behind the eight ball once conference play began. I'll admit I don't mind seeing a change for those reasons, but again, I never wanted or imagined that it would happen this way. There has also been speculation that the investigation was trumped up so as to provide just cause for dismissing Leavitt without having either to make the difficult decision to pull the program's one and only coach or having to pay his contract buyout, but I choose to believe that that was not the justification behind this.

This does, however, come at the worst possible time. With National Signing Day around the corner, the recruiting game is more important now than ever, and we currently only have an interim head coach, Carl Franks, the running backs coach. We also face the toughest year in Bulls history this coming football season: We play out of conference games at Miami and at Florida, and in the Big East, we travel to West Virginia and Cincinnati, as well as Louisville, where we've never won, with Charlie Strong at the helm. For these reasons, as well as overall stability, I hope there is a decision soon. One of the concerns is that whoever we bring in won't have the same ties or commitment to the program that Coach Leavitt did, but hopefully we can bring in a winner. Best of luck to Leavitt for whatever the future may bring, and certainly all the best to the Bulls.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

And the Tide Keeps Rollin'...

I mentioned before that 2009 was the Year of Chalk, and it would seem that this extends to regular seasons played in 2009 as well. Alabama, the 2009 BCS national champions, are one of the programs with the most national championships (depending on who you ask). And as much as I hate to say it, as I sit here and watch the Eagles get manhandled by the Cowboys once again, the Cowboys are looking damn good, and with a Super Bowl victory they would tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowls. Someone stop the madness.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year Potpourri

I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said before, but the NHL really makes some head-scratching decisions. They institute an amazing event like the Winter Classic, and then, for reasons unbeknownst to me, put it on New Year's Day, a day reserved in most minds for parades and football. I was really interested in this year's matchup too, Flyers vs. Bruins in Fenway, but again, football.

That said, I was pleased to hear that the rink in Fenway isn't going away just yet. BC and BU will be playing a night hockey game this coming week there as well. That should be good times for the city of Boston, the two schools, and all involved. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be televised anywhere.

If you are a collegiate bowl game, your half time entertainment should consist of the bands of the teams that are playing in that bowl game. Period.

That said, I continue to be pleased with the Rose Bowl's commitment to really showing a decent portion of both bands' half time shows, instead of paying it some fairly cheap lip service, as Fox does.

This coming Tuesday, the Orange Bowl will mark the last BCS game televised on Fox for the foreseeable future.

And it's not that I don't like football coverage on Fox. To the contrary; I'm a fan of an NFC team, so I watch plenty of football on Fox. But I believe they should stick to the pros. Especially since they spend all year not showing college football and then snatch up the largest games of the year. They go into the game with little practice, and it shows.

Still, I have mixed feelings about everything major moving to ESPN. From a social justice standpoint, I believe there are a few things you should be able to have access to without having cable. Some of these are sports, including football and NASCAR; I don't know why those are particularly important to me, but  I feel intuitively those are probably statistically among the favorites of low-income households. So I wasn't too pleased with Monday Night Football moving to ESPN, and I'm less pleased to see the same with the BCS bowls, despite enjoying ESPN.

Today has been, again, football and parades. I actually had a double-dose going on at one time--USF was playing in the International Bowl, which they won, 27-3, and AI made a great showing, as always, in the Fiesta Bowl Parade. I was surprised that we reportedly only traveled 120, but then, the band is smaller these days and economic times are tough. And it's interesting to see how the cymbal part for Sounds of Christmas--which I don't believe we ever had sheet music for--has changed over the past 11 years.

Tomorrow, my last day of vacation, I head to see UNCG play the Terps (I'll be rooting for UNCG, for the record) and then come back home for a nailbiting Eagles-Cowboys season finale. I've got half a mind  to patronize UNCG athletics' sponsor Jersey Mike Subs and pick up a cheesesteak on the way home. I would think that with a name like Jersey Mike's they'd know a little something about making an authentic Philly cheesesteak. On the other hand, I'm not sure I could risk the bad mojo of an improper cheesesteak, so I may forego that.

Helluva matchup in the Liberty Bowl here--I'm going to give my full attention to the larger screen.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy new year, everyone! In addition to new beginnings, New Years Day is a huge day for the two things this blog is about: sports and bands. I watched the Rose Parade this morning, and the rest of the day has been full of bowl games.

As I hinted at a few posts ago, I wanted to do a 2009 year in review. So without further ado, here it is: A couple of categories I picked, plus a look ahead at 2010.

Live Events
I got the opportunity to take in quite a few things live this year, and of course there's nothing like being there in person. Here are my tops, in chronological order:

The Inaugural Parade - There was something special about being in DC as history was made and the first black president took the oath of office. But let's be honest: I was there for the parade. In addition to the Alexis I. duPont High School Tiger Marching Band making its first inaugural parade appearance since George H. W. Bush, there was an all-star line-up that included The Cadets, TBDBITL, and the Marching 100.

UNCG vs. Davidson men's basketball in the Greensboro Coliseum - This game was a one-off before UNCG men's basketball made the move to the Coliseum this season. I'm a little biased because I was part of the committee that put it together, but the atmosphere was electric. UNCG ultimately lost to a Stephen Curry-led Davidson squad, but this was big-time basketball.

UMBC men's lacrosse at UNC in the NCAA tournament -  it was a gorgeous day under (unfortunately) Carolina blue skies. I was impressed with the contingent of Dawgs at the game, which was actually pretty even with the Heels in their own stadium. I brought out the grill, flew the UMBC flag high, and saw and amazing performance. Unfortunately, that performance was Billy Bitter putting on a clinic and running roughshod over our boys to seal the deal for Carolina.

Summer Music Games of Southwest Virginia - for as long as I've lived in the area, I've been meaning to get to the drum corps show up in Salem, VA, but only first made it this year. We got tickets down low and it was a completely new experience, even for shows we had seen before. Add that to the fact that it's set in the picturesque mountains of VA, and this is a show I definitely intend to head back to.

Eagles at Panthers on opening day - Another beautiful day here in NC, and even more beautiful because I got to see my Birds get a W to start the season. We got down early to tailgate, and were parked next to a couple of Panthers fans who made perhaps the best ribs I've ever tasted. With Jake Delhomme as our 12th man, the sizable contingent in the upper decks wearing green went home happy.

Biggest Surprises
USF women's basketball wins a National (Invitational Tournament) championship - nice to bring home some hardware after what many thought was a snub from the NCAA tournament committee.

Electronics in DCI - the big surprise is that I didn't absolutely hate it. As a corollary, I was also pleasantly surprised with how tastefully the (Holy Name) Cadets used them this year.

AI football goes undefeated - If you would have told me at any point that I would be going to see AI play in a playoff game Thanksgiving weekend, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. IT was a helluva run.

USF over FSU - it wasn't a surprise that it happened; I think most people who have seen the two squads over the past few years believed it could happen. But after Grothe's injury, it seemed a slimmer chance that the Bulls would march into Tally with a freshman QB and come out with a victory. And despite how much we believed it could happen, "USF defeats FSU" is still a huge step on the landscape of college football in Florida.

UMBC's abysmal basketball performance - Regardless of what we lost after this past season, I don't think anyone would have believed that we'd have just one victory heading into the new year and conference play.

And no surprise at all...
Sadly, USF's mid-season slump no longer surprises anyone.

Looking Forward to in 2010:
USF's conference slate in men's hoops. We're just 0-1 in conference now, but the non-conference was good to us, and we may just turn a corner--or at least win a couple more conference games.

The return of Bobby Atwell. It'll be great to see him suit up for Retrievers men's lacrosse once again. There's no telling what could have been last year had he not been out with a torn ACL, but having him back patrolling the defense could certainly set the Dawgs up for success.

A Cubs' game at Wrigley Field. For our honeymoon, Megan and I are driving cross country and then taking an Alaskan cruise. We're hitting several points of interest along the way, and one of those for certain will be a game at historic Wrigley Field.

Carolina Crown's upcoming DCI season. Coming off of a silver medal season including first ever head-to-head victories over the Cavaliers, could a championship be in their sights? Honorable mention goes to the Madison Scouts, who after Relampago did a cleaning of house and brought in what looks like a pretty all-star staff.

USF at Florida. We get another shot at one of the Big 3, and this time it's the Big One themselves. Florida will be A.T. (after Tebow) and right now their coaching situation is questionable, so who knows what the future holds?

WE'll all be waiting to see what this year holds. Happy 2010, everyone!
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