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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Leave No Doubt

I've equivocated on the nature of the rivalry between USF and C. Florida before - to be fair, I stopped denying it once we became conferencemates and are now destined to play every year - but if I didn't feel it before, there's no doubt now.

Collin over at Bulls 24/7 summed it up best as he has for years (previously at Voodoo Five on SB Nation): It was time to obliterate the Knights and restore order. C. Florida came into the game winless, leaving the same way, but in true rivalry fashion, USF showed no mercy and ultimately cruised to a 44-3 victory. An opening field goal provided the only points the Knights would see all night.

USF's role in the rivalry has been to not acknowledge it. I was amused to see that over the course of game week, USF Athletics' official Twitter account didn't so much as mention that week's football opponent. The vitriol was clear come gametime, though: After the Knights scored, USF's first play from scrimmage was a reverse to a bomb downfield. It didn't land, but it made it clear the team was entering the game with an FU mentality. Later in the same drive, USF went for and converted a 4th and 8 from the C. Florida 32, another "we don't respect you" play. I don't know if the outcome of that drive, or even the goal, was to take the Knights' heart, but as mentioned, they wouldn't score again.

As the final game in a winless season, it was a sad scene in Orlando. The near empty stands were punctuated by a handful of melancholy die-hards forced to endure the season's merciful march to the scaffold. While the weeping endureth for a Knight, they aren't too far removed from glory. The dropoff for the Knights has been precipitous; just two years ago, they were celebrating a Fiesta Bowl championship over oft-offensive juggernaut Baylor.

In fact, to speak to the rivalry: The Knights erected a "Meanwhile in Orlando" billboard in Tampa, boasting their conference and Fiesta Bowl championships. I'm pleased my dear alma mater wasn't too classy to rub their noses in it.

Order has been restored. Go Bulls. \m/

Thursday, November 26, 2015

BOTR Game of the Week, 2015 Week 13

There's expectation - rightfully so - that one of the nation's biggest rivalries, Ohio State vs. Michigan, will be quite the game. There's been much talk about the two head coaches, Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh, but I'd like to turn the attention to the other men up front: The two drum majors.

Ohio State


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

American Exceptionalism

While there are some who feel that Friday nights should be reserved for high school football, I've long enjoyed them for college - especially when they present the opportunity to get a win out of the way and go into Saturday already feeling good. This past week, that was the case for USF: After a thorough drubbing of Cincinnati, our second most played rival, I got to put up my feet and root for a Memphis victory over Temple, which would have put USF in the driver's seat for the Eastern division. The boys from Philly held serve, though the Bulls still have a shot, should they beat C. Florida - which much as I'd like to, I'm not taking for granted - and a hot-handed UConn squad which just knocked off a previously undefeated Houston takes out Temple. The fact that I'm even in a position to discuss potential championship scenarios is more than I could have asked for, but the Bulls are looking better than they have in about five years right now.

On the other side of the conference, Houston and Navy meet Saturday for the de facto Western division championship. I tend to root for chaos as it relates to the national championship picture, and a Navy win could point to that: Should Navy win the conference, they'd be in contention for a New Year's Six bowl as the highest ranked group of five champion. But wait! Should #24 Toledo make it to the MAC championship game and win, they could very well be waiting into the wings, meaning a Navy loss could put them in. That would mean we'd have to wait until after the Army-Navy game to set the bowl field. For that matter, there's a chance - albeit very slim - that if the perception of Navy, and in turn their opponents, is predicated on their win-loss record, the committee could choose to wait until that game played out to see how to regard a top 4 cusp team in Notre Dame. How crazy would it be?

It's been a banner year for the American, but the sad truth is, excellence will be hard to sustain at even the top performing programs, because schools with more money, talent, and resources will always be looking to poach coaches. As long as the American sits outside of college football's power structure and had a glass ceiling with respect to championship access, the coaching positions will be but stepping stones to major programs. Memphis and Houston are already reportedly preparing to throw tones of money at Justin Fuente and Tom Herman, respectively to try and keep them put. If they and other top performers like Navy's Ken Niumatalolo, Temple's Matt Rhule, and if he can keep up the good work, even USF's Willie Taggart stay put with the intent to build for a few years, the American can continue to rise.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

BOTR Game of the Week, 2015 Week 12

We're running out of weeks, so I'm inclined to give a bit of bonus action. The first is a top 10 battle in Stillwater that could have playoff implications as Baylor and the Golden Wave Band travel to Oklahoma State.


Oklahoma State:

But down in Orlando, it's Classic weekend. The Florida Classic, will, sadly, always be remembered for tragedy, but the battle of the bands between Bethune Cookman and FAMU has never disappointed.

Rapid Reaction: DCI 2016 Schedule

That roll step tho.
Yesterday, Drum Corps International released its schedule of major events. Certainly there's still football, basketball, and lacrosse to get through before we got there, but it was a nice look ahead, and a few particular pieces caught my eye.

The first thing I went looking for upon the schedule's release was Carolina Crown's Tour of Champions stop. Last year, the event moved from Charlotte to Winston-Salem on the campus of Wake Forest University. I made the case for Winston before the show even stepped off, and was confirmed in my belief  following the show. To my excitement, the show is indeed returning the BB&T Field.

The tour returns to Florida, and in a big way. I have fond memories of the show in Orlando form my days in grad school in Tampa, and fans in Florida, especially the central and southern parts of the state, are at a travel disadvantage when the Summer Music Games don't dip down onto the peninsula. While locations aren't yet announced, the tour announces stops in northern, central, and south Florida. There's a good chance that the central Florida stop is a return to Orlando - either the Citrus Bowl or C. Florida's stadium - but there's an outside chance that show ends up in Tampa, especially if the northern and southern stops - presumably Jacksonville and metro Miami, though Gainesville, Tallahassee, or Daytona could be in the running for the northern stop - keep all of the other FL action along the Atlantic.

The Tour of Champions has ballooned to an eight event series, though it's entirely in the eastern and central time zones with stops in Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio. That's not to say the tour doesn't head west - the Madison Scouts make the trip to join the west coast-based tours this early season in sites like Stanford, the Rose Bowl, and Fresno. The Rose Bowl and Stanford are just a couple of the major college and professional stadiums that punctuate the tour, which will also hit the homes of the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and of course annual major events in the Alamodome, Georgia Dome, Lucas Oil Stadium, and Minnesota - likely in TCF Bank Stadium which the Vikings and Golden Gophers currently share, but potentially to open U. S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings' new home. The Masters of the Summer Music Games show in middle Tennessee returns to Vanderbilt instead of Middle Tennessee State. Having never attended the show in neither location, but with all due respect to Murphreesboro, I like the presence in the big city and in an SEC stadium.

The dates released yesterday to not comprise the entire store, but I'm already liking what I'm seeing for the summer of 2016.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dawgs and Deacs

UMBC men's hoops, a team that went 4-26 last year in the America East conference, has no business hanging with a team, even a subpar one, from the mighty ACC. And yet, last night, I saw it live.

My daughter and I went to see the ol' alma mater play Wake Forest for the regular season opener. I had absolutely no expectation for a victory for the reason stated above, but damn if my first institutional love didn't lead me on. Despite the expected mismatch - and to be clear, Wake had some key cogs out of the night's matchup, it was a game to the end, including a few Retriever leads deep into the 2nd half. The Dawgs were ultimately overwhelmed and fell 78-73 in Winston-Salem.

On a night where quite a few mid-majors got victories over major conference foes, it's tough to think about what could have been. While I was pleased with our overall play, I was infuriated by our free throw shooting - just 12/25 from the line. The points we left at the stripe could have won us the game, even if Wake would have made all of theirs. Wake's pep band, who I was directly across from, was enjoyable as always, though I feel as though the game schedule didn't give them as many chances to play as it could have.

Being out that way, I realized how often I've been on Wake Forest's campus for sporting events, and it's always been rooting against the Deacs. I've got nothing against them, but their role as a destination is simply that of "where I can go see my team locally." No hard feelings, Wake.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

BOTR Game of the Week, 2015 Week 11

I'm not going to lie, I get a little anxious in double-digit weeks, knowing that the regular season is rapidly hurtling towards finality. While the bowl season provides a stay of execution, inevitably early January will be upon us and we'll be back without football.

Sorry to be so morbid. Week 11's game of the week is actually already underway as I type this; fortunately/unfortunately they don't televise pregame, so you didn't miss that. As I type this Northwestern and Purdue are in progress on the Big Ten Network.



From The District to Columbia

You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are. -Yogi Bhajan

Over the past few weeks, students in sports and marching/athletic music realized the power they wield to fight injustice in two distinct arenas. In the nation's capital, the marching band at Howard University went silent as their scholarships and band budget went unpaid. Meanwhile, in the nation's heartland, the football team at the University of Missouri joined in solidarity with campus protests of a racially intolerant climate and inaction from the university president. The team vowed not to participate in any football-related activities until the president was removed from his position.

In both cases, the protests met their primary objective: SHOWTIME is back in action, having received their payment, and Missouri's president Tim Wolfe has resigned, though a hostile environment persists on the Columbia campus. The two situations differ: At Howard, the band members went silent due to an issue directly related to their membership in the band; at Mizzou, the football team, comprised of a majority of black students, stepped up not because of an affront to the team itself, but to their identity as black students on campus. Both sets of students - primarily black students in each - made manifest the power at their hands due to the part they play in our nation's Saturday obsession.

At Mizzou, a football Saturday cannot take place without the men on the team. Not surprisingly, people started listening once they got involved, despite all but ignoring another student's hunger strike. At Howard, while the games can continue, the game day experience is drastically deadened without the band's presence. While Silent Showtime was reasonably quiet outside of HBCU and marching band circles, the Mizzou football team brought the attention of ESPN and the sports entertainment complex to Columbia. Both groups went about their protests nonviolently but persistently, and both effected reasonably swift change. It has been a while since we have seen action on this level from groups of students with this particular type of power; are these isolated incidents, or the start of a sea change?

Monday, November 9, 2015

High Notes, 2015 Week 10

The game in the South Carolina upstate went wire to wire this week; its Game of the Week designation translated into High Notes recognition. Unlike at Georgia Tech, the Marching Chiefs were in the lower level, right behind the end zone, putting them 120 yards and some change from the Band that Shakes the Southland. I don't know if it was the placement or ESPN had their mics on 11, but both bands came through loud and clear. Clemson may have gotten the victory, but both bands get the recognition.

In a mixed bag of sorts, USF played just across the state from me at ECU. I planned on heading out there - how could I not? - but circumstances kept me from not being able to. On the one hand, I'm not mad about missing the opportunity to sit in the rain for that game. Interestingly enough, I've only missed two games when USF has played in the Carolinas, and both have been rainy games. That said, I did miss a Bulls victory that pulls the good guys within one game of bowl eligibility. I understand that's a pretty low bar, but it's been a rough five years. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Bandbox Stadium

I've speculated before about how stadium design could be used to enhance a marching product, but in the home of the Sudler Trophy's latest winner, they're being intentional about it.

Kansas State is in the midst of renovating Bill Snyder Family Stadium, and they're keeping the band in mind with the updates. Specifically, the planned phase IIIB will create a "Showcase Stage," planned to maximize the Pride of Wildcat Land both sonically and visually. The marching band and Student Government Association were intentional in the plan of that specific piece of the stadium, as they continue to strive to maximize the fan experience.

Check out the plans for the renovation here.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A New Beat

So it's a year later - I told you that might happen - but I've finally seen Drumline: A New Beat. Previously stymied by a lack of cable, it became available on Netflix recently and I watched it earlier this week.

I'll start with what you want to know. I liked it. In fact, as I continue to think about it, I liked it quite a bit. I had set my sights pretty low for the made-for-TV installment, so low expectations may play a role, but for what it was, it was enjoyable.

The film starts, as the first one did, with the protagonist heading off to college. Instead of Devon from Brooklyn, it's Dani from Westchester, also a snare drummer, setting off on her own at Atlanta A&T without the support of her well-off parents, who would rather she attend Spelman. Dani's cousin is already captain of the drumline at A&T. Meanwhile, A&T alumnus (now Dr.) Sean Taylor returns to direct the band, due in no small part to the influence of his old college flame and "Dean of the Students" (that was actually said) Dr. Nia Phillips. Sean was hired on to turn the band around, as they hadn't won the Southern Jamboree Classic in six years, and were getting routinely spanked by this movie's purple-clad nemesis, Southern State. Southern State is under the direction of Sean's brother, Kevin, whose backstory is that he preceded Sean in The Senate (A&T's drumline) but Sean stepped on his toes by becoming captain in his junior year. Oh, and Kevin happens to be Nia's ex-husband.

In considering A New Beat, it's worth noting that I'm not comparing it to Drumline, but looking at it as a distinct work. Other than its made-for-TV status and all that may come with that, it has a few other things that set it apart: First, while Drumline saw itself as a blockbuster, A New Beat picks a lane - urban young adult - and stays in it. In TV fashion, A New Beat bounces back and forth between multiple, often minimally developed themes: Dani's family dynamic, both with her parents and cousin; her acceptance on The Senate as a female snare drummer; alcohol and drug use; a gay character on the drumline and his relationship-not-relationship with a closeted football player; and multiple other romance angles, including Dani and fellow drummer Jayven, Sean and Nia, and Josh (the token white kid) and Tasha (a cymbalist who's lowkey wicked smart).

To the band-as-celebrity angle, we hear the familiar voice of Big Tigger (formerly of BET and DC's WPGC; now in Atlanta on WVEE) on what seems to be a bandcentric gossip site, The 5th Quarter (a take of from, if not a nod to, the actual 5th Quarter, founded by friend of the program Christy) Tig also hosts the Southern Jamboree Classic with Devon Miles, now a big time entertainment mogul (so, Nick Cannon playing his idealized self?) who Sean calls upon when times get tough and members of the band start to, well, remind him of Devon. The film uses a few cool devices throughout: A text bubble pop-up when that's how characters are communicating (VH1 piloted this technology long ago as Pop Up Video) and a drum cam that gave us a view from inside the drum (never mind that they were using Remo ebony batter heads...).

A few notes for those looking for connections to the original: On an TV budget, it's understandably difficult to sell the bands as top tier; in fact, the multiple storylines made it clear that the believability of the bands in the movie as high quality bands was secondary to telling the stories with bands as the backdrop. The production was such that even when they took the field, the sound was clearly studio. No Greek-letter organization plays as significant a role as KKPsi or Laila's Sigma Phi Alpha did in the original; a Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia crest is visible in the A&T band room, and there's a brief shot of a sorority woman clad in pink and green with letters that are clearly not Alpha Kappa Alpha. But if you're a fan of the original, there's something that feels right about being back on A&T's campus, back in their band room, hearing A&T's field entrance cadence, and seeing Sean and Devon on the screen together once more. Even Dani's stance and smirk, clearly patterned after Devon Miles, bring a slice of nostalgia.

Drumline: A New Beat isn't bringing home any major awards, and it won't have nearly the impact its predecessor did, but it's certainly well worth the hour and 45 minute runtime.

Friday, November 6, 2015

BOTR Game of the Week, 2015 Week 10

It's a bit of a light travel week, but I'm glad that one of the week's larger games also features some pretty significant band travel, as the FSU Marching Chiefs head to Clemson. My completely unconfirmable prediction: Somewhere in the crowd, completely devoid of both irony and self awareness, a Clemson fan will turn to a friend and say, "Man, they sure do play the war chant a lot."



High Notes, 2015 Week 9

Call me basic if you'd like, but it should come as no surprise that, as someone who writes largely about marching band and football, I love fall. This past weekend was Halloween, so high notes is once again stepping outside of the marching/athletic music realm and instead shining on the season itself. By day, we headed out to a local farm with many of the standard fall trappings: Hay ride, corn maze, and silos of corn the kids could play in sandbox style. That evening, I stayed home and passed out candy as my wife took the kids trick or treating. We moved back in August, and the new neighborhood proved quite lucrative for us... I mean them.

Monday, November 2, 2015

S.H.O.W. Me The Money

The S.H.O.W.T.I.M.E. Marching Band of Howard University has heard their pleas fall on deaf ears, so they're going silent.

The #SilentSHOWTIME movement is a concerted effort by the band's membership amid unpaid disbursements both to band member scholarships and the band's budget. The band also reports being unable to get any answers from administration when asked. This past Saturday, the band took the field during halftime in all black, and that field show only remained as a tribute to a former band staff member, Bob Jackson. The band remained silent in the stands, and did not play a 5th quarter.

S.H.O.W.T.I.M.E. is, of course, a major ambassador for the university and a vital part of the HU gameday experience. I hope, for the continuity of the band but moreso for the students involved, that this is resolved quickly.

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