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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Making Plans

My wife and daughter'll be out of town next weekend, and I'm trying to figure out what I'll do with myself in their absence. After entertaining the stereotypical offerings of sleep, steak, beer, and football, I also looked at what is going on in the area as well. Turns out there are a couple of band competitions within reach--a battle of the bands down in Climax, and Carolina Crown's BandBEAT down at Gardner-Webb.  Boiling Springs is a bit far, but I'm still considering the show in Archdale. But as I sit and think about attending either contest,  I realize: By and large, high school competitions aren't my thing.

Maybe that comes as a surprise, maybe it doesn't. After all, one doesn't necessarily expect a fan of the NFL or college football to show up at the local high school game. That speaks, of course, to level of competition, and that's certainly part of it, but moreso, it's that I'm a bit of a transplant to the competitive marching world. 2004 was when I started following DCI regularly, and it wasn't until after that that I ventured into competitive marching band. Sure enough, my high school band could compete with anyone, but we typically did one music festival competition each year, not a competitive circuit like TOB or BOA. As a traditional style native who has always been far more concerned with a band that thrills an audience than one who aims to please the judges. And while I don't know the competing bands in either of these contests, I think it's a safe bet that a critical mass of those participating will be of the latter variety. As a musician and former band member myself, I can most certainly appreciate what these bands put on the field, but by and large, unless I've got a tie to one of the bands on the field, I'm likely to sit it out.

Friday, October 28, 2011

BOTR Game of the Week, Week 9

So as you may have noticed, no High Notes for Week 8. Once again, my schedule didn't allow for a whole lot of football watching.

I'm making this week's Band on the Road Game of the Week the Shreveport Classic, a SWAC showdown between the conference's two Honda representatives, Jackson State's Sonic Boom of the South and Prairie View A&M's Marching Storm. Let's take a look:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Familiar Looking Honda

Yesterday morning, the folks at the Honda Battle of the Bands released the bands invited to the 2012 Invitational Showcase. In the third year of the new, eight band format, the participants are:

  • Virginia State and Winston-Salem State (CIAA)
  • Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State (MEAC)
  • Albany State (SIAC)
  • Jackson State and Prairie View A&M (SWAC)
  • Tennessee State (Independent)
Two primary observations: One is that the field is fairly balanced with respect to conference membership. Along with the change in number of participating bands (down to eight from ten) the manner in which conferences were represented changed as well. In the current format, each conference (and one independent) is guaranteed one representative, with the remaining three spots going to at-large bands. The first year of the new format saw three SIAC representatives, with the CIAA, MEAC, and Independents notching one participant apiece.

The second observation is that it looks quite familiar. In fact, there has been just one change from last year: Clark Atlanta is out, and Prairie View is in. This is a significant upgrade, and with all respect due to PVAMU, I don't mean that as a slight at Clark. It's purely opportunity based. After all, while folks travel from all over to attend Honda, bandheads in Atlanta have every opportunity to see CAU on a regular basis. Prairie View is more of a treat in that sense.

Friday, October 21, 2011

BOTR Game of the Week, Week 8

While I'll try not to be one-dimensional, there are a few bands for which you've seen me express my love, either through High Notes or otherwise. It should come as no surprise, then, that this week's Game of the Week is a matchup between two sets of Tigers from the SEC West, as the No. 20 Auburn Tigers and AUMB visit the No. 1 LSU Tigers and the Golden Band from Tiger Land for an afternoon tilt in Death Valley. Which Tigers ya got?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Expansion No One's Thinking Of

As conference realignment continues to turn, the ACC may very well be looking to continue to expand their ranks. In doing so, it wouldn't be a bad idea to cast a line to a school that's been a successful independent and seems staunchly opposed to conference membership.

That's right. the ACC should offer a lacrosse-only membership to Johns Hopkins.

It's clear that conference expansion and realignment is driven by big time football, and lacrosse would be lucky to be third or fourth afterrthought. Still, reeling in the two biggest names in any given sport--they already got Syracuse--certainly can't be a bad thing. In addition to being one of the winningest and most followed programs in the sport, Hopkins has a TV contract that, while not nearly as lucrative, mirrors the one Notre Dame enjoys in football.

So why in the world would they want to join the ACC? Honestly, the biggest "why" is that the biggest "why not" has moved out of the way. As an independent, Hopkins is free to schedule who they wish, but not unlike Notre Dame football, they have a few staples on their schedule. They typically play each of the Baltimore schools, but beyond that, the regulars include College Park, UVA, and Syracuse. They can now have all of that in a conference schedule, plus throw in Duke and Carolina for good measure, and still have plenty of room to schedule UMBC, Loyola, Towson and the like. As for the ACC, with the Hopkins add, they move to six teams, the marker of a legitimate conference. While the ACC has never needed the auto-bid that comes with that, as all four schools are tournament perennials, it certainly adds to their dominance and makes their strength of schedule even more ridiculous. What's more--and I realize this is pie-in-the-sky--this may lead other ACC schools to look at adding or re-adding lacrosse.

I know it's not the biggest shake-up overall, but ACC, you want to keep making moves? Set your sights to North Charles.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pause for the Cause

While this post is relatively non-sequitur for this blog's typical coverage, I'm using my internet real estate to hopefully bring attention and/or funding to a cause about which I feel strongly.

I lost my friend Karen last summer to ovarian cancer. Several months later, due in no small part to Karen's partner, Beth, the inaugural Athena's Run took place in Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, NC. My wife and I participated last year, and unfortunately, due to our schedule, we are unable to walk/run this year. However, Karen's Krusaders will still be going strong and I am still fundraising on their behalf and in Karen's memory. I'd love it if you would click here and consider donating.

Gynecological cancers are a subset of cancer that includes ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, and uterine cancer, among others. According to the Athena's Run site, a woman in this country is diagnosed every seven minutes, and sadly, 28,000 lose their battle each year. Athena's Run, now in its second year, raises funds for GYN cancer research through the Forsyth Medical Center.

Please don't misconstrue what I am about to say next, because I believe we should continue the fight towards the eradication of ALL cancers. Breast cancer awareness is well marketed. The color pink has become synonymous with the cause, and particularly now, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is ubiquitous, found everywhere from your local stores to NFL players on Sundays. I do believe that this level of awareness does help the cause of all cancers, but it is worth noting that GYN cancers, which similarly affect our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and friends are not nearly as well known. There's no catchy slogan (my working rallying cry is Save the Hoohas) and you'd be hard-pressed to find much in teal, the color of GYN cancer awareness. I hope that if you don't have the funds for the cause, you can at least join me in raising awareness.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

BOTR Game of the Week

Back at the beginning of the season, I said that I hoped to give you "more" this season. I think I've started to do that, especially with the Band on the Road Project, but I can't believe it's taking me until midseason to think to do a Game of the Week

A few caveats: Given the nature of this blog, the Game of the Week pick will be based just as much (ok, let's be honest, probably way more) on the band matchup as the football matchup. This means that I'm only focusing on games that have both bands present, as identified in the Band on the Road Project. Favor will of course go to full bands, so traveling pep bands will play second fiddle.

With all that said, in Week 7 I give you the Battle of the Bay: The HBCU rivalry between The Marching Force of Hampton University and Norfolk State's Spartan Legion. Behold (no pun intended):

In other news, with tonight being Midnight Madness at colleges across the country, pep band season is upon us. For schools with football, it likely represents a split in focus for the band folks, while schools without football begin their basketball season grind.  All the best for those stepping into the stands tonight!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Big East's Days are Numbered

I've tried to avoid being the "sky is falling" USF/Big East fan, reacting to every new piece of conference realignment news as though it spells doom and gloom for the conference. But I'll be honest, the more I look at things that have transpired recently, the more I'm led to the conclusion that the Big East will soon cease to exist, at least in its current state as a BCS auto-qualifying conference.

First, I'll put up the counterpoint, which actually did make me feel a bit better. Over at Outkick the Coverage, Clay Travis believes that the Big East is unlikely to lose its bid. He makes a few compelling arguments, among them the lack of clear definition of the requirements of continued participation, the allegations of collusion on the part of ESPN (the BCS' TV partner) in the Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC deal, and perhaps most importantly, as an original member of the BCS cartel, they may know too much and it becomes a liability to jettison them.

Hopefully that rings true, because evidence to the contrary is mounting rapidly. Here are a few of the facts that I think may doom the conference:

The Big East can't stop the bleeding. Recently, we saw both the Big XII and the ACC rally its members and raise exit fees in an attempt to keep their respective members from being cherry picked by hungry conferences. The trouble is, that sort of move requires a vote of the membership. In the Big East, with everyone trying to get out to save their own skin, they are unlikely to raise this above the current $5 million, which has proven to be little deterrent.

Lack of schools that can add value. I'll admit that USF, Cincinnati, and Louisville proved six years ago that a non-AQ can rise to the occasion when picked up. Still, there have always been a number of "next in" possibilities for BCS expansion. These are the schools in non AQ conferences that have shown prolonged success and perhaps have made their way to the BCS on their own merit. The trouble is, that list is shrinking rapidly, as most have already made their way to AQ conferences. Utah's in the Pac-12. TCU, a former future Big East member, is now headed to the Big XII. Hawaii is a shell if what it was in the June Jones era. This leaves Boise State, who is allegedly being actively courted. This leads me to another point:

The Big East is being forced to reach. There are really only two reasons to reach significantly beyond your geographic base for a new team. The first is that the team you seek to add has a tremendous upside, as was the case when pretty much every conference in the country was courting Texas. The second is desperation, which is the mold from which the Big East seeks Boise State. Look, I was able to bend my mind enough to interpret Fort Worth as "East" when we were bringing in TCU, but there's no convincing me that a team located in the Northwest belongs in the Big East. And while Boise is certainly the most deserving of the non-AQs, I still contend that they really don't hold a huge upside for a conference to pick up. After all, once they stop being a Cinderella story and join the big kids table, what you're left with is the Boise media market and Idaho recruiting.

The Big East had nowhere to go but up--and still went down. When the Big XII lost Nebraska and Colorado, most still would have placed their strength as a conference at 3 or 4 among the 6 AQ conferences. Even with the loss of A&M, retaining Texas and Oklahoma goes a long way towards keeping their prestige respectable, even if they end up reaching into the ranks of current non-AQs to fill their empty spots. The Big East, on the other hand, widely regarded as 6th of 6, will continue to fall. Consider that the Big East is the only one of the current AQs to have never had a current member compete for a championship in the BCS era. Without the clout to lure schools in other AQ conferences away, the Big East has no choice but to add current non-AQs to fill its coffers, further jeopardizing conference prestige.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. The Big East remains a divided conference, and it may cause its downfall. The current member ship currently consists of eight schools who play football within the conference and eight who do not, though the latter set includes Notre Dame, a football independent, and Villanova and Georgetown, both of whom play FCS football. The loss of Pitt and Syracuse tips this balance in basketball's favor. What's more, the already unwieldy size of the basketball side of things makes expansion harder; evening out the football schools means creating an unmanageable behemoth come basketball season. Even when seemingly logical solutions consisting of a combination of football-only memberships and full memberships are brought up, there has been little movement; in fact the Boston Globe reports that expansion talk has stalled for this very reason. The Big East's need to serve two masters and the disparity of the lenses through which different conference members view its preservation may ultimately lead to its undoing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

High Notes, 2011: Week 6

I know I said in the last post that because of my lack of games on TV, there wouldn't be a recognition for week 6, but the internet had prompted me to go back on that word and award my Week 6 High Notes recognition to the Ohio University Marching 110. If you've been anywhere online in the past week or so, you've probably seen the heavily-viraled video of the Marching 110 performing Party Rock Anthem. If somehow you've missed it, behold:

First of all, let me point out that the Marching 110 is an excellent marching organization. they were long before this video went viral, and will be long after. They march well, they play well, and as you can probably tell, they have fun on the field.

When things like this blow up--I remember the same a year ago with the Hawaii field goal kicker--it's always interesting for me, doing what I do. I usually get a couple of questions: "Did you see that? Wasn't it amazing?"

To answer the first: Chances are quite good I'm the biggest band nerd you know, and as such, yes, I've probably seen it.

For the second--Wasn't it amazing? In most cases, if it's being passed around, yes, it is amazing. But here's the thing: Amazing happens every Saturday on football fields throughout the country, and a lot of it happens when the game clock isn't running. Amazing happens in a variety of marching styles, with a variety of musical offerings, and it happens largely out of the view of television cameras, and sadly, also out of the view of live spectators who take the opportunity to grab a beer instead of watching what's going on on the field. The band featured in particular makes amazing happen pretty much every time they strap on their spats. So I'm sure you'll allow me the role of both hipster and evangelist when I say yes, I've been seeing marching bands do great things before it went pop. I encourage you to get out there and check it out yourself.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

All's Fair in Tailgating and Football

I set up fairgating in the last post. The day is now behind me, and it was just as glorious as I may have imagined. The journey began at 9ish Saturday morning. Winston-Salem sits less than an hour to my west, so it's a pretty innocuous trip for me. If I may give a shout-out to my little piece of the Tar Heel State here, I was reminded on the drive that, while they're not there quite yet, fall foliage here along the Piedmont gets quite beautiful. While I love making fall trips to the mountains, there's plenty of beauty right here at home.

My roll-dogs for this one were my friends James and Rachel. Both are FSU alums; James from undergrad and Rachel for her master's. James and I did the FSU @ Wake game two years ago, and upon arriving to the lot, we realized we've essentially got a "regular" spot now in the parking lot of the Joel Coliseum, which is adjacent to both the fairgrounds and BB&T Field. We started our day out with some standard beers-and-a-bumper tailgating. Going both seasonal and local, my cooler contained Blowing Rock Oktoberfest from Boone Brewing Co.--which I recommend highly--as well as Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale (because I'm a Delawarean and can't help myself) which never disappoints. 

It's also worth noting my change in gameday attire. When supporting someone else's team--most often FSU in recent years--my MO has been to wear a shirt in an appropriate team color and something representing my actual team; my "but don't get it twisted..." piece de resistance. Yesterday for me it was a garnet polo with a USF hat that's the shade of "gold" (khaki) that could support either team. James was poloing is as well, in an actual FSU polo. As we sit on either side of the 30 threshold, are we becoming polo fans? I'll take it. I'm still about a half-century from being a sweater vest fan, though.

After a few beers in the lot, we headed on into the Dixie Classic Fair to commence the first leg of fairgating. We were actually right next to one of the food areas, so finding fair grub was a quick trip. For me, it was a corn dog and some onion rings. Following that, we headed on over to the stadium, getting tagged for re-entry upon exiting the fair. 

Naturally, we were on the complete opposite side of the stadium from our suggested entrance. In our trek around, we saw--and I'm stereotyping here, I realize--what appeared to be Wake Forest fraternity and sorority members tailgating adjacent to the stadium, flying such "historical" pieces as a 13 star American flag, the stars and bars (the national flag, not the battle flag), a "Don't Tread On Me," and a Bonnie Blue (I wonder if they recognized the irony of flying the flag of West Florida when playing FSU?). We made our way into the stadium and took our seats in a very heavily FSU area. 

FSU started redshirt freshman QB Clint Trickett, who has been at the helm for a few weeks while starter EJ Manuel has been on the mend. I conceptualize Wake Forest as the sort of team that many look at the way I looked at Syracuse (before they ruined our Homecoming last year)--a pretty sure W on the schedule. As such, the FSU faithful were beside themselves as the game began to slip away, due in no small part to the Noles being heavily penalized. EJ Manuel did eventually take over at QB, but despite matching all of Trickett's passing yards on his first drive, penalties, turnovers, and Wake Forest's offense imposing their will overwhelmed the Noles, who fell 35-30 to the Demon Deacons.

The day was pretty perfect weather. The high topped out at around 80, which did get a bit warm with the sun beaming on us for 3 1/2 hours. Still, it was a beautiful day to be at the ballpark and a great day for football. 

For those looking for this week's High Notes band recognition, sadly, you'll have to do without. A full day of football and fairgating didn't give me the opportunity to see any games on TV, and the one band I saw live, Wake Forest's Spirit of the Old Gold and Black, did not earn their keep. As a band, simply put, they don't impress me much. Owning my big band bias, and knowing that Wake only has about 4,000 undergrads, they are quite small for my taste. A corollary of this fact is that they mic them in BB&T Field, which, at 31,500, isn't a behemoth stadium by any stretch. And you'll recall I took issue with their halftime show two years ago; this year their show was "Finales and Finishes". Sound familiar, Crown fans?

Following the game, it was back out to the lot. While waiting for my wife, daughter, and a few friends to join us, we enjoyed a bit more beer and chatted with a few Wake fans out in the lot. We eventually made our way back into the fair and caught up with everyone else for Fairgating II (Electric Boogaloo). My wife had been at the fair last week, and despite not typically going in this direction, tried and highly recommended the fried Oreos, so I partook. We had a good afternoon-evening of wandering around the fair before calling it a night. My last gastronomic treat was cajun chicken on a stick before we headed out.  I don't know how they do it in Texas, but my fair/game combo made for a great day.

Friday, October 7, 2011

High Notes 2011: Week 5

While I didn't get to spend the entire day in front of football in Week 5, I was around for the primetime games. I spent most of my time on Bama-Florida, and the Million Dollar Band won this year in much they same way they were recognized last year. Once again, Alabama was on the road, and the football team's dominance gave plenty of reasons to strike up the band. And of course, as with any victory where they are present, the Million Dollar Band led the Bama fans assembled in a rousing Rammer Jammer.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Each of the past couple of years, I've gone to see a Florida State football game when they were in NC. A couple friends of mine are FSU alums, and it's live college football for me, so I consider it win-win. This year--next week, actually--I'm headed out to Winston-Salem as FSU comes to town to play Wake Forest.

While I'm sure I didn't invent the concept (though the internet leads me to believe I coined the term) we're doing things a little different this time around. Instead of traditional tailgating, we'll be fairgating. The Dixie Classic Fair, a prety major regional fair in Northwest North Carolina, is adjacent to BB&T Field, so we figured we would instead take advantage of all sorts of fried goodness available at the fair. It'll actually be a double fair day for me, as my wife and daughter are headed west for us to do the fair following the game as well. Fairgating will be new to me, though I'm sure they do it at the Red River Shootout/Texas State Fair each year. I may miss my standard style though I may still bring the cornhole boards) but I'm looking forward to it!

And now, for something completely different: We're talkin' Baseball?

Actually, I'm only talking baseball to talk about the fact that I don't talk baseball. I always say that I don't care too much about baseball until we're deep into September, and the other night proved to me that even then, it's a hard sell.

I think many would agree that a few nights ago was one of the most drama-filled nights in Major League Baseball, and I was connected to it in multiple ways. In the American League, my team (Red Sox) battled my wife's team (Orioles) for the opportunity to earn either a playoff spot or a chance to play in a tiebreaker game for one. Elsewhere, my archrival (Yankees) played my home team from grad school (Rays) that the Rays may have that same opportunity. In the National League, my hometown team (Phillies) was putting the closest thing to a home team here (Braves) out of commission.

With all of those story lines, surely I would give a damn... but I did not. Sorry, baseball.
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