Is there anyone not in a marching band who thinks those dorks running around with their instruments are cool?
— Jim Rome (@jimrome) January 2, 2015
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:
Band nation - I hear you. I was out of line. I apologize. I do not condone bullying of any kind and that was not my intent.
— Jim Rome (@jimrome) January 2, 2015