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Saturday, October 31, 2015

BOTR Game of the Week, 2015 Week 9

Bama's off this week, and Auburn's at home, but no matter, this week's Band on the Road Game of the Week is headed to Birmingham, where Alabama State and Alabama A&M will clash in the Magic City Classic. 

From last year's Fifth:


While I would've liked the Eagles to have halted the Panthers' path to 6-0, I can wish them well now that they're there.

Earlier, I made the statement that objectively, I could expect the Panthers to win; good thing sports fandom isn't objective. I felt a good deal better after the Eagles pulled their record even with wins over the Saints and Giants, but despite what the "weakest undefeated" narrative had to say about the Panthers, they were still a relative juggernaut when compared to the struggling Eagles. While I wasn't content to "keep it close," I was pleased that the game remained a game for its entirety.

But let's back up a bit. The beauty of a night game is, of course, the ability to tailgate all day. I left Greensboro, and thus made it to Charlotte, later than I had intended, and the rest of my crew was already in the lot. Thankfully, they had been able to save me a spot, so I pulled in and first pulled out the grill (since I was the one holding that piece up) and later set up my pro-Philly accoutrements. This was my first time getting to fly the flags my brother had flown over Afghanistan for me - an American flag and an Eagles flag (he got me a Delaware flag as well). We had Panthers fans to one side of us and some fellow Eagles fans to the other - folks from all over central and south central PA, now settled in the Carolinas. Our crew was mixed company; I wasn't the only Eagles fan, but it tilted, understandably, towards the blue.

We left with the lot with a good deal of time until game time. A good thing too - the lines getting into the stadium were formidable. It was on the way to the stadium that I happened upon the Panthers drumline. Then into the stadium and up... up... up...

I've joked before about having front row seats for the flyover, but we were literally in the very last row in the stadium. This did highlight the fact, however, that there's not a bad seat in the house.

A few game notes. First: Sam Bradford is not good at the football. But somehow, perplexingly, he's not quite bad at it, at least not bad enough to get pulled. Secondly: Luke Kuechly is really good at the football. Despite living here in NC, I don't pay much attention to the Panthers, so while I knew the hype surrounding Kuechly, I didn't have a gauge for the degree for which it was founded and then some. I looked at his stat line after the game and realized he wasn't even the Panthers' leading tackler on the night, but that game was his season high, and he had a ball hawking ability that was, well, fruechish. I'd love to see a map of his tackles, because they came from everywhere on the field.

Again, the Birds kept it respectable, but ultimately fell to the now 6-0 Panthers. For most of the game, there were chants of E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES! and we even sang the fight song after our lone touchdown. There were remarks about how quiet we had become at game's end, but ultimately there were very few jackwagons on either side of the line of scrimmage. I battled traffic getting out of the lot, but it was smooth sailing back up to Greensboro.

Sadly, that may be my one game for the season. Circumstances are keeping me form USF-ECU next week, and there's nothing else foreseeable on the horizon, But hey, a USF bowl game could still possibly be within reach.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Regional Fare

This is not the time or the place for humility. I did the damn thing.

I made the plan to head to Eagles at Panthers as soon as the NFL schedule came out, but the tailgating inspiration came a bit later. I am, of course, a Delaware Valley product currently living in North Carolina, and after my friend Jesse posted her tailgate for the Saints game with a New Orleans-themed menu, I thought I'd follow suit. While I was unequivocally repping Philly on the gridiron, my creation was a little more bi-partisan: Carolina BBQ cheesesteaks.

First, I feel the need to note that while that's the name I settled on, I'm not culinarily obtuse enough to leave "Carolina BBQ" unqualified. I live in the Triad, so my BBQ was stylistically Lexington. What started as an idea gained a little more traction when I realized my parents were visiting the week before, and Amoroso's rolls from home were an option. I smoked the pork shoulder, made the sauce, and prepared toppings (fried onions and peppers, though only the onions got any use) the day before, and packaged for cooking/reheating on the grill in the lot. I bought provolone and Cheez Wiz and provolone - which I promptly forgot in Greensboro and had to buy in a Wal-Mart en route to Charlotte - and headed down with high hopes.

The verdict? Delicious, and it's not just me saying that. While my North Carolina native friend Hannah pointed out that my chopped BBQ pork wasn't as authentic as it could have been (I'll remind you I'm a transplant) the consensus is that the final product was some good eatin'. I've since recreated it in the kitchen with that which remains, and this may have to be a repeat engagement for the next time the Birds are in town.

Monday, October 26, 2015

High Notes: 2015, What Week Is It Again?

I hit a bit of a midseason slump when it comes to providing both games of the week and weekly high notes. In my defense, I am a Leavitt era USF alumnus. (too soon?)

Part of the reason is that last weekend was Homecoming at my employer, and I'm heavily involved in putting it on. In fact, I work specifically with the parade, which typically has garnered recognition for at least one of the participants. This year is no different; this year saw a growth in band - specifically high school band - participation, and everyone present put on a show that greatly enhanced the homecoming festivities at UNC Greensboro. My High Notes for week 7 are the marching bands of Ragsdale and Smith High Schools and the drumlines of Grimsley and Page High Schools, all Guilford County (NC) Schools.

This week I headed south to Charlotte to see my Philadelphia Eagles take on the now 6-0 Carolina Panthers. There'll be more to follow on that front, but in the context of High Notes recognition, the Panthers' PurrCussion drumline is certainly worthy. I happened to be trying to link up with a friend at her tailgate on my way to the stadium. Sadly, we never connected, but I was fortunate enough to hear the sound of approaching drums. I've said before that if you ever want to lure me into a trap, the sound of distant drums would do it; I will go check them out. But these drums were headed in my direction, specifically to the Destiny's Child Lose My Breath (notedly taken from a University of Michigan cadence) intro. I got to get up close and personal with PurrCussion, and the effects from Light Em Up were amazing for a night game. The Panthers host Monday Night Football next week, so I"m sure they'll get a replay. But for now, check them out from last night:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

It's Hard Out Here for a Non-Power Five Team

Yes, that was a Hustle & Flow reference, mayne.

I thought I left my "we all we got" mantra back in the Big East, where it could at least get us somewhere, but I find myself taking interest in the teams in the American that remain undefeated and still have a shot at making a New Years Six bowl game. As I watch, I realize how utterly improbably it is for even the best group of five teams to make it into the four team playoff.

How improbable? Let's take a look at Memphis, currently the highest ranked among group of five teams, and with a marquee win against still ranked Ole Miss - who beat Bama - from the Mighty SEC. I tried to plot a road map that would get them into the playoff, and I realized such a map has a whole lot of turns.

Memphis' best win, Ole Miss, needs to win out and win the SEC, while Bama gets at least one more loss
Houston and Temple, the American's two other undefeated teams, would need to win out, losing only to Memphis. This would pit an undefeated Memphis against an undefeated Temple in the American title game. Temple would have also handed Notre Dame another loss on their way there.
The Big Ten champ needs to be as weak as possible. Let's say Iowa, a team with no top 25 opponents, advances out of the West. Someone would need to come roaring up in the East to unseat Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan. Let's make it Penn State... who lost to the American East champ Temple.

These pieces may effectively remove the SEC, Big Ten, and Notre Dame from the mix, and Memphis would have a win over the SEC champion and the one loss American runner up who has a win over the Big Ten champion. Is this enough? Probably not. Assuming the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 champions head to the playoff, there's still a good chance that one of the major conference runners up - especially a one loss Baylor/TCU/Oklahoma State, or a two-loss, non-division winning Bama - could still get the call.

So what would it take for a group of five team to advance to the playoff? We don't yet have enough data from the playoff committee to know for sure, but I would imagine it would take multiple years of sustained success, like what nearly got Boise State in during the BCS era. The thing is, the playoff committee has shown that their rankings don't have quite the inertia that the AP Coaches, or BCS have had. They are tasked specifically with taking the current year into account. Add to that the fact that it's had to see a coach like Justin Fuente remaining at the mid major level after a year like this, and programs like Memphis may forever be behind the 8ball.

And MJG.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Head Ball Coach Emeritus

Most have heard by now that Steve Spurrier has vacated his position as the football coach at the University of South Carolina. I've got precisely no standing to offer any type of retrospective or even deep commentary on his career or most recent stop at South Carolina; if you want someone to do that, I'll point you to SB Nation's (and the University of Florida's) Spencer Hall. I'm simply here to share a band video i took during my trip to Columbia that was inadvertently narrated by the Head Ball Coach himself.

Friday, October 9, 2015


I've had the opportunity to be part of some pretty awesome things in my life, and this one is definitely up there.

If you've read this for any length of time, you've likely heard me mention my friend James. He's all but the reason there's an FSU tag here, a good friend of mine, and my roll dog for various sporting and beer events here in NC until he moved from Charlotte to Alabama about a year ago.

Back in 2008, I made an offhand comment that has since made a huge impact. That year, James was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and when he shared the news on Facebook, one of his friends quipped something about a sausage and meatball fundraiser and selling bracelets. I said that I'd totally buy a ROCKstrong! bracelet, and from there, a mantra was born. If you know James, you know he's rock personified, so my comment wasn't out of place to anyone reading it. But from that moment, the phrase became synonymous with his fight, and I'm honored and humbled to have been the one who birthed it.

Fast forward to present day: Not only did James put a foot up cancer's ass, he's fixin' to run 26.2 miles on it - again. James is about to do his third marathon in a year's time, this time the Chicago Marathon, this upcoming weekend. The bracelets I had once joked about became a reality, and I proudly wear one. So a huge shoutout to James as he prepares to run this weekend. If you want to donate to the American Cancer Society through his fundraising efforts, you can support here.

BOTR Game of the Week, 2015 Week 6

Band on the road? I'm counting it.

Due to flood conditions, the LSU-South Carolina game, originally scheduled to take place in Columbia, is being moved to LSU. The game will still tally as a Gamecock home game; South Carolina will take the gate proceeds, wear the "home" uniforms (though in an interesting turn of events, they chose to wear white at home, leaving the usually white-at-home Tigers in Purple) and enjoy all of the comforts of home except for the actual location. But there's one slice of home they may not have anticipated.

LSU's Golden Band from Tigerland will be playing the role of SC's Mighty Sound of the Southeast, at least in some fashion. The Tiger Band is learning South Carolina's fight song and alma mater for use during the pregame. No word if they'll be going as far as playing the fight song when the Gamecocks score, but regardless, it's a great show of bandsmanship from a part of the country that knows what it's like to have weather drastically effect one's ability to play at home.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

High Notes, 2015 Week 5

Never let it be said that I'm not a homer, and this week's high notes will point towards the home team USF Bulls, whose Herd of Thunder shone in a Friday night game (and defeat) against Memphis. They typically find their way into high notes once a season, if for no other reasons than they're good and they're the team I always make an effort to watch. And while their sound was noteworthy, so too were their uniforms.

First catching a glimpse of the HOT's new look, I wondered for a moment if I had somehow overlooked a new set that debuted at the beginning of the season. I haven't, after all, watched every minute of every game; is it possible I somehow missed it? Then I remember who I am and concluded there's no way I wouldn't have noticed, and sure enough, Friday night's game was the debut of the Herd's new set, paired with the football team's SoFlo look. I enjoy the tops quite a bit; I didn't have a problem with the old sets, but the white certainly adds some Florida flair, and is probably welcome in the Tampa heat.

It was the bottom half of the look that had me exclaiming, "WHAT ARE THOOOSE?!" Black pants have been the norm for HOT, and are pretty standard for many bands, particularly in the corps style tradition. Green would have been a good look for obvious reasons, white would've really popped, and if they wanted to go with the lighter palate but avoid white, USF's gold (tan) would have provided a look I've not seen on many other bands. While gray is neutral by most measures, I find that in this context, it makes gray the overwhelming look, not fading into the background in the manner black or white may. In a vacuum, the look's not bad, but because I want to see my team in green and gold, it throws off the look. I liken it to Blue Stars' gray bibbers; the blue evident in their name is an afterthought. My history affinity has always excused a certain amount of gray for gray's sake for southern programs (See also: Alabama's drum majors, various football uniforms) but looking at these doesn't scream USF to me. Purchasing band uniforms is an expensive proposition, however, so it looks like I'll have plenty of time to get used to our new look.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tis the Season

Trying to step my propane game up.
The American Tailgaters Association declared September National Tailgating Month, but October is when I'm preparing to get things cooking, figuratively and literally. Late October and early November feature a couple of my teams coming to North Carolina, and despite neither one giving me much to be excited about, I look forward to getting to see them live - and the festivities that surround it, of course.

The Eagles come to Charlotte for a Sunday Night matchup with the Panthers, and a few friends and I snatched up tickets to that as soon as they were available. I was inspired lately by a friend of mine's city-themed menu for Saints at Panthers last weekend, and I'm planning to do one of my own amongst a mixed crowd of Panthers and Eagles fans. It just so happens my parents will be visiting the week before; I've already asked them to bring some Delaware Valley culinary comforts down, but that doesn't mean I'm going to shy entirely away from the Carolina side of the coin either.

Two weeks later, my USF Bulls come to East Carolina for a game that will likely become a biennial trip for me now that the two are conference mates. I look forward to making the trip out to Greenville for what I'm told is an excellent gameday atmosphere in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. I don't yet know what the complete plans for the day are yet; I know of quite a few other Bulls here in the Carolinas, and I have some friends who sport the purple as well, so I'm confident there's a good time to be had.

Add to that I'm still unlocking a new lot achievement. Last summer, before heading to the DCI championships, I bought a propane grill. I tend to be #teamcharcoal, but a propane walkabout on sale made me go a route I had passively pondered before. Sometimes, it just makes a whole lot of sense to be able to just turn a grill off without having to extinguish coals. It's also doubling as my backyard grill after the move, so I'm learning my way around it so I can be a pro in the lot.

If early season results are to be believed, I can't put too much trust in either of my teams on the gridiron in those matchups, but here's to having a good time regardless!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

BOTR Game of the Week, 2015 Week 5

The ACC is one of the conferences that travels the least, so it's always great to see a band take to the road for a game that's a considerable distance. This weekend, Pitt makes the trip from the Burgh to the Burg to take on Virginia Tech. While it's a bit of a haul for the Pitt Band, Blacksburg is actually one of the closer conference games for one of the conference's northern outliers. Pitt recently rejoined the Hokies in the ACC after having shared a conference in the Big East. And as always with Band on the Road trips to Tech, there will be three bands in Lane Stadium, as Pitt will join the Marching Virginians and Highty Tighties.


Virginia Tech:

Music and Lyrics

Earlier this week, the University of Florida's band was told by their University Athletics Association to stop playing certain tunes, specifically those that incited negative chants of "You Can't Do That" and "Move Back, You Suck".

Never mind the fact that neither phrase would even be censored by network television (the former being extremely mild).  This isn't the first time a band has been curtailed due to the chants that joined their offerings. Ole Miss' Pride of the South stopped playing From Dixie With Love due to its new "traditional" ending. They Hey Song at Maryland-College Park and Neck at LSU have been called into question as well. Even Alabama's Rammer Jammer is typically saved for after the game goes final these days.

It's interesting to note that none of the controversial lyrics are actually related to the tunes in question. Rather, each is a university specific tradition that is attached to the song. While it's true preventing the song may curtail the chants, why not address the behavior itself?

The thing about instrumental music is that there aren't, by definition, lyrics. It's why college pep bands have taken to playing Cee Lo's [Forget] You with reckless abandon, or more recently, Big Sean's I Don't [Associate] With You. The fact that these pieces are played instrumentally allows for their popularity and music to shine through without the vulgarity of the lyrics coming into play.

Herein lies the rub: It would seem that when instrumental, the lyrics don't matter - unless they do. At the beginning of this school year, the Brandon (MS) High School Band was ordered to stop playing How Great Thou Art, a Christian hymn, in accordance with a federal court ruling that specifically banned religious activities a school sponsored activities. While I take little issue with the court's ruling, I'm at odds with its implications, particularly in the arts and particularly in this case. Again, with no lyrics, that which we may know as How Great Thou Art is simply a piece of music. Without lyrics, what's to distinguish Greensleeves from What Child Is This? For that matter, as a former choir member, I can make a case for the use of even religious music in an educational realm when its primary function is as art. My college choir experience, for example, wouldn't be the same without Bach's Magnificat or Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.

Ultimately, the schools (and at times, outside forces) will make the decisions that serve their spaces best. But when doing so, intent vs. impact and injury vs. innocuousness ought to be considered.
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