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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mild to Moderate Annoyance Week

It's the last week of the regular season in most conferences, and it's Thanksgiving weekend. In a lot of places, that means one thing: Hate week. The week your fanbase waits 51 weeks for, to get a crack at an archrival to vie for the only acceptable outcome: Victory, and the year of bragging rights that come with it.

Thing is, I'm a USF alumnus. We don't have a longtime anything in football, much less a permanent rival. We are matched up, appropriately, with UCF this week and probably analogous weeks in the future. The degree to which I believe it's a rivalry changes by the day, but I'm certain that even if it's not now, it will be.

If I may take a page from 8 Mile's B. Rabbit, yes, UCF will beat us this year. They're a better team, likely BCS bound, and at present, we're garbage. They've got every right to take numbers like 4-0 and 64-12 out of our collective hind end on the field come Friday. Call this a defense mechanism, an attempt at a reverse jinx, or simply an objective assessment - it's all three, really - but that's how I see it. And yet, as much as I'd love to give in to the dark arts of hate, I can muster little more than what I consider UCF more often than not: A mild to moderate annoyance.

Having said all that, the folks over at SB Nation's USF site, Voodoo Five, have all of your MMAW needs. Check 'em out.

Monday, November 25, 2013

B1G Saturday

This weekend, The Ohio State University Marching Band paid tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (with a passing nod to the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination) with a Civil War-themed show. Perhaps it holds a bit more timely significance for the Buckeyes; after all, the perceived strength of their conference against their southern neighbors could spell the difference in Ohio State going to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl or the National Championship game. TBDBITL did get to toss some surreptitious support to a team that could help them in their quest: Battle Hymn of the Republic, featured in this field show, doubles as Glory Glory to old Auburn, a team that could punch the Bucks' ticket to the championship with an Iron Bowl victory.

Down in College Park, the Mighty Sound of Maryland commemorated their final ACC home game by forming ACC before morphing into B1G, their conference a year (and potentially $52 million) from now. While there is no homogenized ACC marching style, the Terps may have done well to accent the Big Ten tribute with a high step or a back bend. After all, the band stepping onto their new conference's Sudler-rich landscape may be one of the biggest challenges of their realignment. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Forward Pass

I'm posting this one from the phone so I'll keep in brief: The Band of the Fighting Irish re-innovates the forward pass with their own version of Dorais to Rockne, a century later.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

BOTR Game of the Week 2013 Week 13

Sometimes, the game of the week isn't the most competitive, or the highest profile, but the biggest story. This week, the Florida Classic will be a two band affair for the first time since the death of Robert Champion. The event will be significant, if not competitive, as the Marching 100 is far from full strength since their return earlier this year.



Monday, November 18, 2013

...and Sometimes Thursday

When I stated that Amazing Happens Every Saturday, there was no slight intended or implied at Thursday games (or Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday, for that matter). Here, Clemson's Band that Shakes the Southland gives us a little 8-bit on a Thursday night:

A few states north, we get a first-person view on Saturday afternoon in the Penn State Blue Band. Well, that is, if the first person were tiny and mounted on a bass drum facing the drummer:

Home Stretch

Seasons seem to come and go so quickly, and we're down to just two weeks remaining in most conferences' regular seasons. In the midst of a national picture that seems sewn up, should each of the leaders keep winning, there are some interesting conference races out there.

Yes, Central Florida leads and will probably look to take 64-12 out of USF's hide come Thanksgiving weekend. Frankly, I'd say they could stand to be ranked higher than their current #17, especially if they win out with their sole loss coming by 3 to South Carolina. Even one loss will likely send them to the BCS - they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Louisville, and with the next tiebreaker being BCS ranking, they'd probably be fine over unranked Cincinnati, who they don't play this season, should it come to that.

Florida State has already emphatically clinched the Atlantic division, but things are a good deal more interesting in the Coastal. As much as a five-way tie is still not only possible, but not entirely far-fetched. I have a few thoughts about this race, and they're all entirely selfish. As much as I hate Duke, I almost - ALMOST - want to see them win the division, in that rooting-for-the-underdog sort of way. Still, I'm going to the ACC Championship game, and the thought of being in amongst a critical mass of Dookies nauseates me. Miami would bring about the matchup the ACC football championship was created for, and could send my friend Josh up this way. I have no desire for Georgia Tech, as it would mean a rematch of last year's championship. The five way tie would send Virginia Tech down here, and I wouldn't mind seeing the Marching Virginians in action. Still, with the human element remaining in the BCS standings, while FSU's title bid seems unquestionable, you'd have to wonder what voters may do if FSU should somehow struggle with a four loss VT or GT if Ohio State should cruise past a one loss Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. Which leads me to...

Big Ten
I can't bring myself to be bothered by the fact that Ohio State could go 25-0 over two seasons and still miss the national championship game. After all, had they self-imposed a bowl ban after Tattoogate and forgone the Gator Bowl appearance, they may have played Notre Dame for the title last year. Meanwhile, while the Spartans are still in the driver's seat to win the division, it only takes a slip-up from them this weekend for Minnesota to have a shot at the Legends division crown when they face Michigan State. If Ohio State and Michigan State both hold serve, however, we'll see a dual Sudler matchup for the first time in the history of the Big Ten championship game.

Big 12
The two teams ahead of Baylor on the schedule are the two teams behind them in the league standings. If they beat Oklahoma State, they can revert their focus to whatever shot they have at the national title hunt. Lose there, and the Cowboys hold tiebreakers over Baylor and Texas as long as they themselves can survive Bedlam.

With Stanford's loss this past weekend, Oregon is back in the North division driver's seat, though if they drive to Pasadena, it'll be a week earlier than they may have liked, barring mass disruption ahead of them in the BCS. In the South, Arizona State can make it easy, but UCLA still controls its destiny with the Sun Devils and Trojans remaining on the schedule.

Done with their conference slate, South Carolina has become Aggie and/or Rebel fans, as they need for Mizzou to slip up. If they lose either of those games though, the Gamecocks take it in the tiebreaker. Out west, another set of Tigers licks their chops, as the Iron Bowl gives them the chance both to knock off their archrival and punch their ticket to Atlanta. In perhaps the most suburban dad move ever, I saw the end of their game against UGA on the TV in an Ikea, but that win keeps hope alive on the Plains.

I hate that the season's this close to the end, but there's still plenty of excitement to be had between now and bowl season.

Friday, November 15, 2013

BOTR Game of the Week 2013 Week 12

The pickin's are quite slim for this week of football, with only four verified Band on the Road matchups on the docket. I'm going to give the nod this week to a game with Big Ten Legends division implications, as the Spartan Marching Band from Michigan State makes the trip out to Lincoln to take on Nebraska.

Michigan State:


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Traditional. Power.

I've heard both Stanford head coach David Shaw and his predecessor Jim Harbaugh state how their interest is not simply in building a team but building a program. At least one of them mentioned he would like to see them get to the point where Stanford not being a winning team is a distant memory, and with their continued success they're certainly well down that road.

Last week, Stanford derailed Oregon's title hopes for the second time in as many years, while giving themselves an outside shot of entering the conversation. Not only are they in the conversation for a Pac-12 championship annually, but they are doing it in a traditional fashion; their pro-style offense serves as a foil to Pac-12 North rival Oregon's spread.

While the football team is traditional, their band the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, is anything but. In the tradition of Ivy League scramble bands, Stanford's band is perhaps the most nontraditional in the major conferences. While I know that Stanford embraces their "nerd" image, as one of the most academically rigorous programs in major college football, I don't know how much they embrace their unorthodox band.

As Stanford's football team continues to raise its national profile, might there be pressure on the LSJUMB to be a little more traditional? After all, probably their closest counterpart was the student-run Virginia Pep Band at UVA, which fell out of favor a decade ago and was replaced by the Cavalier Marching Band. Half a century prior, Stanford's baymates in Berkeley, the Cal Band, made the change after meeting Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Stanford's band the last of a dying breed at their level of competition, but is anyone seeking to change them? Each year, as they vie for a Rose Bowl berth and more likely than not a matchup against a traditional style, Sudler Trophy-winning band, the light is shone on how they are different. Will this remain their calling card or become an uncomfortable wrinkle to be smoothed out? The answer lies in Palo Alto.

Setting the Spread

I can't pretend to be a lifelong tailgater. As much as I love it, it's really only been a decade, since I started at USF in 2003. Even so, until relatively recently, I had a pretty narrow definition in mind. Put simply, a grill had to be involved.

I strayed from this a bit a couple years ago when we went fairgating prior to FSU at Wake Forest. While the beers-and-a-bumper piece of the equation prevailed, the edibles came courtesy of the Dixie Classic Fair.

I went a slightly different route earlier this year. With an early start for UNC Charlotte's first home game, I opted for breaking out the camp stove to cook up some eggs, bacon and bagels. A little different, but it's cooking on site all the same.

This year, again, at FSU-Wake, I changed the game. Faced with another noon kickoff, I decided that while I was there to see FSU with a couple of alumni friends of mine, the tailgate would be distinctly North Carolina. Going the storebought route for the first time, the morning consisted of sausage balls from Biscuitville, biscuits from Bojangles, and doughnuts form Winston-Salem's own Krispy Kreme. The beer from Red Oak made for a tailgate firmly rooted in North Carolina's Piedmont.

On the one hand, Bojangles would be glad to see that their #TailgateEverything campaign at least served to claim one more tailgate, but from my standpoint, the call made good logical sense. The members of my crew for this game traveled to Winston from Greensboro and Charlotte. Firing up the grill prior to the nooner wouldn't have been practical, or would have at least required us to arrive in the lot a good deal earlier. The camp stove could've come back out, but I think the call we made was the right one. So while the grill came out for the postgame, the "catered" pregame was certainly the ideal move.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday Morning Drum Major

I'm just going to have to ask you to go ahead and ignore me when I put a day/time of day on this sort of post.

I've been critical of Wake Forest's Spirit of the Old Gold and Black Marching Band (SOTOGAB), and I realize that a big part of that comes from a bias I hold: I like big bands and I cannot lie.

A big part of that is my own experience, but part of it is strictly functional. Having always experienced BB&T Field as a visitor, I find myself on the back side of drill and in line with SOTOGAB in the stands, and with the bells never pointed in my direction, they're difficult to hear. While the lopsided nature of yesterday's game put fewer bodies between me and them, getting the full effect was still difficult, though I was able to move right over next to them at one point. Still, while the basketball iteration of SOTOGAB has always impressed me, I find their football version lacking, and it's pretty much for that reason. I don't blame them for this, one bit; Wake Forest is, after all, one of the smallest schools playing major college football, with an undergraduate enrollment of less than 5,000. Their numbers - they march about 50 winds - are decent relatively speaking, but unfortunately, they just don't have the sonic output I'd like. Sorry/not sorry.

That said, I stuck around for their halftime show - I wouldn't not - and enjoyed it, both in concept and execution. They did the world's fastest football game, running through a game (and ultimate Wake Forest victory) through the course of halftime. The game-winning field goal, not unlike this one from Hawaii, animated a giant kicker on the field to put the ball (a flag, which I thought was a great use of guard and preferred to Hawaii's version) through the uprights. There was even a great show-within-a-show moment where halftime of their halftime game was their Jazz 101 halftime show from earlier in the year.

Here's where the Sunday Morning DMing comes in: I can think of just a couple of things I would have done differently with that show. First, maybe it's just me trying too hard to make the band/football team analogy work, but especially since they march four sousaphones, there's no reason they couldn't have been down linemen at some point, especially lined up against the bass drums.

Perhaps most poignantly, though, I think SOTOGAB missed a prime trolling opportunity. I don't know how many uses that show will get this year, but I believe it made its debut at this game. Perhaps it's not the best time to poke fun at the opponent when you're losing 42-0 at halftime, but then, perhaps it's the perfect time. Knowing FSU's history, they instead could have lined the opponent up for the game winning field goal, missing it wide right.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thursday Night Lights

When you're in college, the weekend starts on Thursday nights. Every club within flyer-dropping distance of a campus hosts a college night on Thursday. Anyone whose schedule allows avoid Friday classes. The lure of the coveted weekend and all that comes with it is too great. And in college football, it means getting things underway on Thursday night.

For the record, as a USF alumnus, I hate Thursday night games, my dear alma mater being 0-for-everything in them. Still, my own teams woes aside, it is nice to have football to enjoy before the work week ends. Likewise, teams that play on Thursday nights get to enjoy a much less cluttered space than those who join the fray with everyone else on Saturdays.

Once simply the bastion of also-ran conferences - I'll include my own Big East/American in this  - Thursday nights are increasingly hosting marquee matchups, but never has there been a Thursday slate more anticipated than this week, featuring #10 Baylor at #6 Oklahoma AND #3 Oregon at #5 Stanford. This confluence comes at the collision of two entities jockeying for position: The fledgling Fox Sports 1, which is televising the Big 12 matchup, and the Pac-12, which seeks attention to combat the east coast media bias. Both games were expected to be big, certainly, but I'm sure no one knew when the schedule came out that a Thursday night in November could be this big.

For perhaps the first time since the series began, I'm recognizing a Thursday night game as the Band on the Road Game of the Week. The Oregon Marching Band is making the trip to Stanford, which is significant for a few reasons. First, mid-week games require the team and the many moving parts that accompany college football to miss class, especially for the away team. Secondly, the Oregon band isn't one that does a whole lot of away travel. In fact, the Stanford game is the band's one trip this year, not even making it to Washington, a border rival and a mere 4 1/2 hour bus ride as opposed to the 8 1/2 to Palo Alto. What that says is that this is a big game - it has decided the Pac-12 North for as long as such a division has existed - and that the Oregon brass believe that having the band present at a big game is advantageous, which I love to see. Whether it's bringing a slice of home into a rival stadium or playing defense against the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, the Nike-clad Ducks are hitting the road.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Everything Old is New Again

What if I told you that the new and exciting shows the Ohio State Marching Band has put on recently aren't actually that new at all.

Exciting? Absolutely, and I think few would disagree that TBDBITL is executing this particular style possibly better than has been done before. As for new, however, it may be the veritable three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust to what some in the marching arts are putting out these days. So while Urban Meyer may have brought the spread offense to Columbus, its marching band is as traditional as ever.

Traditional here is not a value judgment (or if it is, it's a positive one) but simply a declarative statement. In oversimplified terms, corps style incorporates the roll stepping and often abstract drill embodied by the corps of DCI and a majority of high school marching bands, while traditional style involved high stepping and typically more straight lines and concrete drill. The show style, represented by HBCUs and many historically black high schools, dovetails most closely with traditional style. I know that during Ohio State's current 15 minutes, many HBCU bandheads have pointed out that HBCU bands have been animating drill for years, and they're right. But this isn't a matter of someone getting their first; rather, it's a matter of those who remain there.

As far as the marching arts are concerned, corps style folks will tell you they have innovated, and in a lot of ways, they're right. A friend of mine, a corps alumnus and color guard instructor, had the recent Ohio State video shared with him on Facebook, as many of us in the band world did. A friend of his, presumably also a band insider, quipped derisively: "Boy, I bet this was a bit hit back in 1965 when this kind of thing was still innovative." I think this shows a couple of things: One, with all due respect to this gentleman, there's more than one way to innovate. And while many of us believed that what Ohio State did was amazing, it is by no means a universal truth. This also illustrated a philosophical divide: For some, if you're not at the forefront of a specific type of innovation, moving in the direction the activity seems to be headed collectively, you're in the dark ages. But the millions of hits on the recent YouTube videos from TBDBITL would seem to tell a different story: When appealing to the masses, sometimes the principle of parsimony prevails.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

BOTR Game of the Week, 2013 Week 10

A few consecutive busy weekends kept me from identifying these games a few weeks in a row, but I'm back in the saddle.

Not to be on Ohio State's, um, buckeyes too much, but after the viral acclaim of the last two weeks, they have earned the "What will they do next?" expectation. This week, TBDBITL goes on the road as Ohio State takes on Purdue, and the band that made MJ moonwalk a few weeks ago will face the band that actually had a member walk on the moon. It's a Big Ten Network game, and the station would do well to put what may be the conference's best foot right now forward and show halftime. For that matter, if you're in the vicinity of West Lafayette, tickets are available on StubHub for just $6.50. I'm positive halftime alone will be worth that price of admission.

Having given you your fair share of Ohio State's Marching Band recently, I'll instead just include the All-American Marching Band's intro video.

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