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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

They may not have even finished etching The Ohio State's name into the championship trophy, and there's already talk of changing the college football playoff.

I'm not talking about the clamoring for more than four teams - that began long ago. But soon after the glory of meaningful college football was restored to New Year's Day, it could leave just as quickly.

ESPN spoke first, aiming to move the games from New Year's Eve to January 2. While the games occurring during the New Year's Eve-Day holiday was cemented prior to the playoff commencing, ESPN now doesn't want to compete with countdown programming on other (read: ABC/ESPN family) networks. Meanwhile, the Monday night championship game, also codified before the playoff began, could be threatened if the NFL adds playoff teams and seeks to encroach upon the day currently reserved for the championship. But the real enemy to a New Year's Day besot with playoff games doesn't come from outside college football's power structure. It comes from within.

Like many, I hold the Rose Bowl - and, of course, the Rose Parade - in high regard. But its adherence to tradition has stymied progress in major college football, and currently, it's doing more of the same. Before a playoff agreement was reached, the Big Ten and Pac-12 were often the holdouts, citing the sanctity of the Rose Bowl as cause for not wanting to disrupt the system what was already in place. Now, the Rose Bowl's 2pm-Pacific-or-when-no-other-games-are-currently-in-progress kickoff stands in the way, the four of six years when the Rose Bowl isn't involved, of the playoff games occupying their rightful spot during prime time on New Year's Day.

That the Rose Bowl cannot shift in years that it does not host a semifinal is nonsensical. No single game is larger than the sport in which it resides, and yet that's the exact stance that is being projected by the Rose Bowl and approved by the sport's power brokers. It's so entrenched, in fact, that the article speaking of the two other possible time shifts didn't so much as consider playing the games on New Year's Day an option. The Rose Bowl will kick at 5pm eastern, and the subject is closed for discussion. A hefty contract, of course, sits at the core of this. Even giving in to Granddaddy's stubbornness, though, the playoff could conceivably host one playoff at 1pm ET and the other at 8:30ish, following the Rose Bowl. It would force a few concessions: One playoff abandoning a primetime spot, a bit more time difference between the two games, and renegotiating with the Sugar Bowl, who currently occupies the post-Rose Bowl spot on New Year's Day. Still, the displacement could add an interesting wrinkle. If, for example, the 1 seed gets to select which slot they'd prefer, they can opt for the prime time glory or the competitive advantage of extra (albeit a few hours) time. And while primetime still carries weight, the early slot on New Year's Day is guaranteed holiday time for many, while the later game seeks to infringe upon a worknight. Each slot has its pluses and minuses, and if one concedes the staying power of the Rose Bowl, New Year's Day remains what it should be: full of meaningful football.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Testing the Waters

Meet the new boss... same as the old boss?

Jon Waters, the former Ohio State band director removed from his position back in July amid a report of hazing in the band, has applied for the same position. To this point, Jon Waters and those who stand in his corner has asked, protested, and even sued for the reinstatement of his position, and to this point, nothing has returned him to his post. He could very well give in, or await his day in court, but applying for his old position may be the best option.

Why? He may actually get it.

Consider this: All previous attempts at getting Waters his job back would involve the admission that he was fired unjustly. For a school with a pretentiously stated leading "The" and a new university president setting the tone for his tenure in a climate of increased Title IX accountability, admitting wrongdoing is a pretty tall order. So how would re-hiring him be any different? it makes two statements instead of one.

To rehire Dr. Waters would allow one chapter to close and another to begin. It keeps the original message clear: The culture of the band as originally reported was untenable, and it was cause for the person in charge to be removed from his job. But it also makes a new one: We believe that the totality of what you bring to the position - experience as a marching member, graduate assistant, and director of the band, and a tradition of innovation that put even the self-proclaimed Best Damn Band in the Land on a plane all its own - makes you the best candidate to lead this band. If this is indeed the belief, and Ohio State also believes that having lost the position previously doesn't necessarily disqualify him from consideration, this may be the best option for all involved.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Already in Progress

I did - and am currently doing - something this week I haven't done in a bit: watch basketball.

Football has always taken precedence in the two or so months that the two sports overlap. But this year has been basketball all but iced out until football ceded time. Usually, by this point in the season, I've at least kept one eye on the court as a season ticket holder for UNCG. But this year, for the first season since the Spartans started calling the Coliseum home in 2009, I decided not to renew. My attendance had already become more sparse, both with job responsibility changes and spending family time at home, but since my son was born just over a year ago, I had dropped off completely, so instead of renewing something I would rarely use, I decided this year I would do without. As a result, and perhaps helped by prolonged interest in football season with the playoff, I've been very light on the roundball.

Which isn't to say I don't love basketball. Indeed, I'm relatively certain that college hoops is sport and level I've seen the most of live, adding at the very least four years of pep band to five years as a season ticketholder and many more individual games and tournaments attended. I love college basketball, even though I tend to limit myself to two months and change giving it my full attention. And as much as 80 Minutes draws its name and most of its content from marching band, I actually spent more time as a pep band member than I ever did marching.

My transition includes the media I imbibe. While college football and marching remain a common thread all year, football podcasts give way to basketball ones. And as I'm not the only one who yields for football until it's over, I watched the first basketball College Gameday of the season this morning

While my time with the sport is fleeting, I try to hit it hard when I hit it. A few years ago I did my first Basketbinge two seasons ago and hope to repeat that at some point soon. I'll be heading north in February for pep band alumni day at my alma mater. And my March will truly be mad as Greensboro hosts the ACC women's tournament, men's tournament (for the last time in five years) and a regional in the women's NCAA tournament. So what I lack in volume, I hope to make up for in quality.

So while I'm the one who's just getting here, welcome back, basketball.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Staccato Notes: Championship Eve Edition

I've been collecting a bunch of small things that have come to mind lately, none of which necessarily warrant their own post. If only I had a format for that? Oh yeah.

-"Clash of Styles" has been a common theme for the national championship game. I agree - and yet most don't mention the one at halftime.
-Worth noting: If one wants to do a side-by-side of TBDBITL and OMB, each did a West Side Story show in the past two seasons. Ohio State Oregon which is to say... good job, good effort, Oregon.
-Speaking of Ohio State, members of TBDBITL were involved in various alcohol related incidents in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. The cynic in me is inclined to quip about an ursine inclination for sylvan defecation when you put a band trip and New Orleans together, but it's worth noting such actions are verboten and, well, rules are rules.
-The College Football Playoff got a lot of things right, and one of them was preserving a marching band halftime show. I stated my preference early and often, and to their credit, I've seen no evidence that the alternative was ever considered.
-Lest we forget, the half of the division that has always had a playoff crowned a champion on Saturday - North Dakota State, for the fourth year in a row. An interesting setup put their band side-by-side with Illinois State's in one of the end zones.
-There are rumblings once again of a postseason bowl pitting the MEAC champion against the SWAC champion for a de facto Division I HBCU national champion. It seems ESPN's behind it, and some folks can't keep their mouth shut, but that's about all we know at the time. Certainly questions abound, like where, when, and what happens to the MEAC's relationship with the NCAA football playoffs. Selfishly, I want this within reach, though Nashville may be the most logical candidate, ironically under the nose of the only other Division I HBCU, Tennessee State.
-While I always think it needs far more fanfare, the latest Sudler Trophy has been awarded, this time to Kansas State's Pride of Wildcat Land. The Big 12 now boasts six. The worst part about the awarding of the Sudler? The two year layoff until the next one.
-The "ringleader" in the hazing incident that claimed the life of FAMU drum major Robert Champion has been sentenced to 77 months.
-While I haven't yet shifted gears to basketball and pep band (though that's likely coming about 24 hours from now) it's worth noting the NCAA put together a pep band top five. The Atlantic 10 claims the top two spots with VCU's Peppas and George Mason's Green Machine.
-And finally: Slate put together a national championship matchup between the two bands, and while I'll admit I spent a minute or two in my "that's my turf!" feelings, it's really damn good. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Championship Threads

One of my favorite sports-adjacents (a term I only recently started using but rather enjoy), outside of bands, of course, is uniforms. I'm but a novice that doesn't necessarily explore the finer points, but the subject fascinates me, and as such I keep an eye on Uni Watch, the finest in the business.

Of recent note, Nike, who happened to outfit each of the participants in the first ever College Football Playoff - including its flagship, Oregon - revealed the uniforms for the championship game. Here's what Oregon and Ohio State will be rocking:


There are two observations nearly everyone points out: The first is that Ohio State, the lower seed in this matchup, is in the dark jersey; the second is that Oregon, in silver-white-silver is not wearing either of its school colors, green and yellow. Theories and explanations abound, though none official have been offered. ESPN's Rece Davis, on the Championship Drive podcast, offered an interesting take: The team largely made by the uniform supplier is being outfitted (by said supplier) to imply that it's not the clothes that make the man. I've got two observations, both of which stem from my primary sports adjacent.

I've often stated that there are a handful of things of true beauty in drum corps, and perhaps the most visually stunning is Phantom Regiment's all white uniforms under stadium lights. Phantom , with their assorted horns, buckles, and accoutrements, put on an image of white and silver the truly pops under stadium lights; surely Nike has a feel for how visually appealing something so simple can be, and wanted to harness that for their flagship.

The second is the contrast that will be present at each institution between team and band. While the look of the Ohio State Marching Band is inextricably linked to the school and team, they actually achieve it without using school colors, save for a scarlet and gray plume, so while the team will be representative of the school colors, the band will not be. On the other side of the field, the football Ducks in silver and white will be supported by their marching band, clad in green and yellow by Nike.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

RIP Stuart Scott

I'd be doing you, the reader, a disservice to begin this introducing Stuart Scott as though you didn't know who he was. What I didn't know was how much I would be affected upon the news of his passing this morning. Perhaps it's seeing his life reflected upon by many of those who knew him best. Perhaps it's the generation - the hip hop generation - I shared with a man 16 years my senior. Or perhaps it's that as a father, I cannot fathom leaving behind my children, as Stuart Scott has with his two daughters. Whatever it is, news of Scott's passing hit me hard today.

It's possible I return to say more about a man who meant so much to so many. It's equally possible that I will not. But as I wish a peaceful rest to Stuart Scott, I will part with his own words:

"When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live."

Friday, January 2, 2015

Siege of Rome

If you're anywhere adjacent to a band dork - to use his parlance and my own - on social media, chances are good you've seen the above incendiary tweet from sports radio talk show host Jim Rome. I fired back a few reactions in 140 characters, sometimes using a particular four in succession, but because it's an itch that must be scratched, I'm going to give this more than it deserves: A response.

Some have already started contacting Rome's employer, threatened to sic angry band parents on him (an aside to my people - the threat to call your parents doesn't do you any favors here), pointed out how hard band members work, and given the "band dorks are people too!" response. There's already a Buzzfeed response. I have in too many arenas had to set the bar at the merely entry level "justifying our existence," and I will not again set my sights that low. But to first answer a straight forward, if not condescending question: Yes. There are people who find what is done on the football field when the clock's not running on Saturdays, Fridays, elsewhere throughout the week, and all summer "cool".

But I'm not the one to vet this. I am the dork Rome speaks of. I marched three years in high school, spent four years in my college pep band, and have been chasing it ever since. But the same is not true for the crowds that pack the Georgia Dome each year for the Honda Battle of the Bands. It's not true for many of the tens of thousands who file into stadiums for DCI shows throughout the summer. And for the droves who head to the concession stand during a Saturday halftime, there are many more who stay to see what those dorks with their instruments are up to. Two separate field shows by Ohio State last year have north of 10 million views. Certainly that's not the same hundred former marching members just hitting refresh?

I've had conversations with folks who know how I get down and have said that they don't care for marching bands. You know what? Cool. We don't all like the same things. But when it went from a personal preference to questioning the value of the activity as a whole, it became an entirely different conversation. It ceased being one man's opinion and became and invitation to pile on or a dare to disagree, so I choose the latter. And because Rome brought the cool factor into it, let's go there. I have no desire to perpetuate a flawed high school social strata, but let's consider: I marched on a field. Rome possibly wrote for the school paper. We're on the same rung, playa. And while both marching band and sports journalism exist as sports-adjacents, only one can survive without the sport.

Many, like me, are fans of both college football and the NFL, but there are millions who don't care for the pro league, opting only to follow it at the college level. There are myriad reasons, but once you concede that the athletes are better in the NFL, you're left looking at the difference in the overall gameday experience. Part of that difference? Those dorks running around. In fact, the NFL has started adding drumlines and marching bands to seize some of that. The NFL and its member franchises are in the business of making money, and frankly, they do it quite well. Why, then, would they tack on a cost that no one wants to see?

Jim Rome has band dorks - and unlike him, I use the term with pride - at his throat now, and rightfully so. And while many may not have been familiar with his work until that tweet blew up, as a consumer of sports media, I know of him well. I also recall what's happened in the past when Jim Rome has run his mouth:

An important postscript: Everything stated above stands, but because I believe in giving credit where credit is due, I'd be remiss if I didn't also include the following from Jim Rome:

B4: College Football Playoff National Championship - Ohio State vs. Oregon

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott probably wish this game was in the Rose Bowl, where the two met in 2010, for old time's sake, but certainly neither can be mad that their conferences are represented in the inaugural College Football Playoff championship. While Oregon made short work of the Seminoles, Ohio State came from behind against Bama and was able to hang on (Sloopy). TBDBITL's military crossbelts and Oregon's Nike tracksuits are but one allegory for the clash of styles that runs through this matchup.

Ohio State:
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