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Thursday, August 8, 2013

They're not booing, they're BLOO... oh wait.

There's an unspoken rule in drum corps: You don't boo. That rule goes from a tacit agreement to a vocal admonition on the few occasions that booing does take place. I heard smatterings firsthand at NightBEAT this year; at Carolina Crown's home show, a Tour of Champions event, some of the patrons weren't pleased to hear the home team announced in second place, especially behind the reigning champion Blue Devils. There were sounds of disgust at the disgust in the stands, and others took to the internet to bemoan that fact that anyone would dare be so boorish. But drum corps is a competitive activity. What makes it different from the others?

I get sportsmanship (perhaps only in theory; I am Philly sports fan and a part-time Terps fan). But in other competitive activities, no one bats an eye at those who boo. I've heard the argument made that these are just kids, but that doesn't hold water. After all, Drum Corps International's participants - in most cases young adults, not "kids" - don't differ too terribly in age from college athletes who get booed and more in hostile environments. Is it because it's art? Art is no stranger to critics. Is it because it's a subjective activity? All the more reason fans should express their opinion.

When I was at USF, there was a game where the opponent brought their band. Following their performance, I clapped politely for them, and a friend of mine asked why I would applaud any representative of our opponent. This was the first time I had ever thought of it that way, but then, I was used to being in the opposing band, not simply a spectator, and sportsmanship between competitors or those on equal footing is different than that between fans. I had simply carried my behavior forward, but it's something I continue to do. Why? Because seeing the other band do well won't have a detrimental effect on my team.

In drum corps, the playing field is different. The marching units present aren't simply supporting the competitors, they ARE the competitors. How they fare is the basis for their success or failure. Frankly - and by no means am I suggesting this - booing DURING the performance would actually be the most effective. I'm glad I haven't witnessed that, nor have I witnessed booing immediately following a corps performance. Rather, it's taken place upon the announcement of scores, as fans express their disappointment in the outcome. As booing goes, that's quite tame, and it's clearly geared not towards the performers who are giving their all, but towards the scores itself, and perhaps the judges who gave them.

As I type this, World Class Prelims are taking place in Indianapolis and showing live in theaters across the country. Regardless of the outcome, chances are good that someone, tonight and certainly by Finals on Saturday, will boo. For an association that considers itself Marching Music's Major League, perhaps there should be little surprise that fans act they do in sports.
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