|Not a bad way to spend a weekend.|
Stop 1 - UMCP at Wake Forest
My first stop was actually backtracking from the overall trajectory of the trip, heading west before ultimately trending northeast, but I didn't have to leave my own metro area to zip over to Winston-Salem for the Terps at Wake Forest. As I mentioned before, this game was actually a late filler for what I thought was going to be a trip to Butler-VCU, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. While it would have been great to see the VCU pep band, the basketball team ultimately mashed out the Bulldogs. The Terps-Deacs was a good deal more competitive, and still didn't disappoint on the pep band front.
I learned just before that it was CP3 Day, honoring Wake Forest alumnus and Winston-Salem native Chris Paul. Upon entering, I got a few CP3 Day T-shirt, which was a Jordan brand CP3 shirt with no Wake Forest branding, other than being black and gold. Score!
I was pleased that I read Stadium Journey's review of Wake's home court and knew that the pep band would parade into the arena to their seats (which I was also perfectly poised to see). When I heard the horns and drums go by outside my section, I headed out and caught this:
Without propping my Wake Forest experience entirely on the aforementioned article, I will agree with the point that Wake's pep band is "better than average" and allowed to play more often than not. I've been critical of their marching band iteration before, but I give their pep band plenty of credit.
The Chris Paul presentation was done during halftime, and his number was immortalized in the rafter. It also happened to be the last home game, so senior members of the team, pep band, and spirit squads were recognized at various points during the game.
The Terps ultimately won, though apparently I was incognito enough rooting for the Terps, because at some point the guy in front of me asked if I thought they (Wake) could pull it out. I didn't have the heart to tell him I hoped not.
Following the game, I decided to take a brief constitutional around the lot while waiting for cars to leave. OK, maybe I forgot where I parked, but it served that purpose as well.
It was time for the trip's longest haul, and I needed to be in place 300 miles away. While I typically avoid I-95 in VA on trips north, it was the most direct route this time through, so I hoped it wouldn't be the parking lot it can be at times. I was fortunate in that it went off pretty much without a hitch, which was good, because I didn't have much time to spare, but I was in my seat in the Verizon Center before tipoff.
Stop 2 - SUNJ at Georgetown
First of all, despite having been to DC my entire life (my mom grew up there, and my grandma still lives there) I had never been to the environs of the Verizon Center. I found somewhat reasonable parking ($15) and walked the couple of blocks to the arena and climbed into my 400 level seats. One of the first things I noticed was that the Verizon Center felt huge, even though I've looked it up since and it's got a smaller capacity than the Greensboro Coliseum. The second was the history in that shared building - it had banners from the Capitals, the Bullets, and the Hoyas.
If the sole intent of this trip was three pep bands, I would have fallen short, and it was Georgetown's fault. The Anacostia Sr. High School Marching Pride was filling in. While I was prepared to take Georgetown to task for this, I'm willing to offer them an out. One the one hand, interestingly enough, I've only seen major conference teams ever not have a pep band in the stands. I saw it here and I saw it at Virginia Tech. In contrast, we played games over break at UMBC, and the pep band at UNCG is always present. It was Spring Break at Georgetown, and while that shouldn't be an excuse by itself, they have this mitigating circumstance: Their Spring Break ran this past week and into this weekend. Tomorrow night, they play Syracuse in their Big East finale against their archrival. If they could only have the band at one of their break games, that's the one for it.
Rutgers actually put up more of a fight than they were expected to. I was rooting for the home team, because as you may have heard me say before, Ruck Futgers. Big East officiating was in full effect in this game, unfortunately - hopefully the Catholic schools that are keeping the name take them with them.
After the game and the walk back through Chinatown to my car, it was a relatively short jaunt up the B-W Parkway to my resting place for the night, a cheap motel (cheaper on Hotwire) near BWI and UMBC's campus. the walls were thin, but that didn't stop me from passing out after a long day of games and driving.
Stop 3 - Binghamton at UMBC
Home sweet home. It actually may have been a full decade since I set foot in the RAC (I can't recall if I spent any time there the last significant time I was back on campus, Homecoming 2006). While tipoff was at 2pm, I was on campus at 11:30am, the report time for alumni drummers. I caught up with a few folks immediately: Paul, who I played with back in my day, and Matt, a fellow alum and current director, who I met back in '06. I was introduced to the current drumline as the guy who first bought field drums for the band. Back in my day (this would become a common theme of the experience) we had something like a bass, three snares, a set of quads, and a pair of cymbals. They were now marching seven basses, several snares, a couple of tenors, and a couple pairs of cymbals. I hadn't made up my mind as to if I was going to try my hand at drumline activities, as my entire pep band experience was on set, but being there I was able to pick up a cadence quickly that I ultimately ended up performing with the line at halftime.
There were actually quite a few folks from back in my days that were there, and it was good to see them all. Among them was Jock, who was a fellow drummer and a year older than me. I started in the pep band's second year, so with his presence we had a continuous link from the pep band's origins to the present day. Of course, we also had that with Jari, our longtime director, who came back as well.
We were addressed by Dr. Brown, our athletic director who is retiring after this year, and invited to give. I wasn't even mad at that - it's what you do when you bring affinity groups back for a reunion - and it did get me thinking about making a somewhat major gift again. Once upon a time, I donated a custom bass drum head, which was all well and good until it went obsolete with the logo change.
While my experience was with the pep band, it was actually the spirit groups alumni day, meaning there were also alumni back from the dance team, cheerleaders (which didn't exist back in my day) and Fever Retrievers (another dance group that didn't exist). There were a few dance team members from my time there as well.
There were at least five alumni drummers back, so my time on drumset was limited, as I knew it would be. While I missed my favorite piece (Sing Sing Sing) I got to hop on for a few others. So how was I? In sports parlance, I've lost a step, but I wasn't horrible, considering I hadn't touched a drumset in nearly seven years. The whole experience was good times with great people - many I had once played with and many more who I'd never met but with whom I shared a common bond through the Down and Dirty Dawg Band.
The game was a UMBC victory; it's not a great year for the Dawgs, but we managed to pull the team in the league worse than us for the home finale. We closed with the alma mater - it's been in existence for less time than I've been out of school, but I made it a point to learn the lyrics. It was also the processional at our wedding. Afterwards, Melanie, Everett, and I walked the campus. As I mentioned, I hadn't been back since 2006, save for a few drive throughs, and neither of them had been back since graduating, so things were quite different, yet strangely the same.
This was the third such gathering, and it was the first time I made the trip up. A few of us vowed to do it again, and try to get other fellow dinosaurs to come back as well. Maybe each time I can make a similar basketbinge out of it.