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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.
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