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Monday, July 9, 2012

The Callout



There are fewer band battle traditions that are more "fightin' words" than the callout. In that vein and tradition, Huffington Post, I'm calling you out.

Writer Anna Susman recently penned a piece proclaiming the Best College Marching Bands of 2011-2012. This was shared with me once (thanks, Mom!) and if history is any guide, will be a few more times. What can I say, people know I like this sort of thing. The article/slideshow recognizes (in the order presented, which is stated as "no particular order"):

  • University of Texas' Longhorn Band
  • USC's Spirit of Troy
  • LSU's Golden Band from Tigerland
  • Texas A&M's Fightin' Texas Aggie Band
  • Ohio State's TBDBITL
  • The Michigan Marching Band
  • FAMU's Marching 100
  • Tennessee's Pride of the Southland
  • Notre Dame's Band of the Fighting Irish
  • WVU's Pride of West Virginia
Let me first note that I'm not here to rail against any inclusion or exclusion on the list. In fact, I find it pretty sound, a veritable Who's Who of college marching's heavy hitters. And that is precisely my problem.

This list claims to celebrate the 2011 marching season, but the same list could have been written in 2010. Or 2001. Or 1998. The author provides no evidence of these bands' prestige in the season at hand. No specific touchstones or experiences. No indication that she even saw any of these bands, live or on TV, save for the video clips included from this season. In fact, no mention is made of anything that took place this year for any of these bands except for the 2011 Sudler Trophy awarded to Notre Dame and hazing at FAMU. 

Of the ten bands listed, eight have won the Sudler Trophy; of the two that haven't, USC and Tennessee, the former is attached to a perennial college football powerhouse; the latter plays each week in the third largest stadium in the country and is attached to a team with a strong fanbase. Both make their presence known during Saturday broadcasts with incessant repetition of a common theme; The Spirit of Troy's Tribute to Troy and The Pride of the Southland's Rocky Top. 

Elsewhere on the list, FAMU remains the token HBCU selection, a lazy meme I've seen on other such lists and a formula from which the author chose not to stray despite the Marching 100 killing a member this past season and being suspended for the remainder of this past season and all of 2013. If you're going to tokenize, at least go the route of a band that played the entire season.

It wouldn't have been hard to make this list 2011-specific. Mention the Ohio University Marching 110, whose playing of Party Rock Anthem went viral this past season. Mention Alabama's Million Dollar Band, who Rammer Jammered the nation after their football team succeeded on college football's biggest stage. Without even changing the lineup, it's not hard to note that the Spirit of Troy would have been present at the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game, were it not for its football team's postseason ban. Or that Texas A&M's Fightin' Texas Aggie Band saw its last matchup for the foreseeable future with the rival Longhorn Band and will be headed into a historically strong SEC West to join four fellow Sudler Trophy winners in Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn. Or that for the first time since 2003, The Michigan Marching Band marched out of the Big House following the annual rivalry game with Ohio State with their shakos on backwards, a tradition following a victory. 

Instead, Susman puts forth a list that has all of the timeliness of a battle rapper who shows up to freestyle with pre-written material. The list comes off lazy, unresearched, and unoriginal. I'm sorry, but when it comes to marching bands, there should be no half-stepping.
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