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Saturday, August 25, 2012

DCI 2012 Wrap

Here I sit, nearly two weeks after the fact, reflecting on the 2012 DCI season. It's what happens when work and blog get busy at the same time.

There comes a point where you've fed the beast so much it becomes impossible to tame.

The very reason for this space's existence is to juxtapose sport and marching/athletic music. And yet I find myself a bit troubled by life imitating art. Or art imitating life. Or art imitating sport.

This season the Blue Devils of Concord, California captured an unprecedented 15th DCI World Championship. Close on their heels, as they had been all season, Carolina Crown tied their best-ever finish with a silver medal. While all accounts are that Carolina Crown was the crowd favorite, Blue Devils simply could not be denied by the judges, touching off some plain ol' ugly on the internet on the part of Crown fans and Blue Devils haters--often one in the same--alike. Thankfully, there was nothing that came through audibly on the online broadcast of the retreat and awards from Finals, but the backlash from the internet was palpable. Many of the Crown faithful were not happy.

I never got to see Crown and Devs in the same show (while both were at NightBEAT, a sick daughter prompted our departure before Crown, who we'd seen at FirstBEAT, performed) but at least on one viewing apiece, I loved Crown and BD didn't do it for me. That said, I will readily admit that I'm a Crown fan, and while I've got nothing against these Blue Devils--unlike their synonyms at Duke and Central Connecticut State--they have many times not been my cup of tea. Still, it seemed clear to me that the Blue Devils were just the better corps that night and all season long, period.

I'm no stranger to passionate, over-the-top, and frankly, assholian fanbases. I am, after all, and Eagles fan and a part time Terps fan. Still, I never thought I'd find myself seeing the same from my fellow Crown fans. But indeed, Crown has found itself a passionate following, for better or for worse. But as much as I speak about marching/athletic music and sports in the same breath, it is my preference that the  two remain distinct in at least some ways. For example, as an Eagles fan, I hope that we beat the everloving piss out of the Cowboys twice a year, and I'd wish for three times if we met in the playoffs, which I'd also actively root against because I hope they lose every game. In contrast, I'd consider the Cadets the corps that I "hate" the most, as there was a pretty solid streak where I didn't see eye-to-eye with their shows or their director. And yet, in 2011, I found myself unapologetically rooting for the Cadets, who I thought had an amazing, well-written and well-performed show, while I was slightly less thrilled with the show of my favorite corps. The absolutism of "my team right or wrong" that I exhibit in sport simply doesn't make its way into drum corps. And while I sometimes find myself disagreeing with judges, I see it simply as that, a disagreement on the merits of an artform, a difference of opinion, not a conspiracy to slight my favorite corps. But what happens when it seems everyone disagrees with the judges?

Before the 2012 season, DCI did an overhaul of the judges sheets intended to reward corps who connect with the audience. All evidence I've heard is that Crown was quite clearly the people's champion, even in light of the Blue Devils' clear victory to the judges. So if the sheets do not truly place the judges on one accord with the crowd--understanding, of course, that there are technical elements that judges are evaluating that many in the crowd are not--what is the best way to do so? The change to the sheets is evidence that it is the goal of the league to reward connecting with the crowd, but at least this year's admittedly small sample size suggests that this may not have functioned in the manner intended. Does DCI go the route of a split champion? One awarded by the judges and another rewarded in another manner--either direct audience voting or some manner of fan or media poll?

I want to make it perfectly clear: I congratulate the 2012 champion Blue Devils, and for all I know, it may be a small but vocal minority of fans out there giving the rest a bad name. But from what I hear, just in terms of cheers on Finals night, the crowd don't lie. Let's find a way to capture and reward that.
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