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Monday, August 29, 2016

Rammer Jammer

If I recall correctly, I first read Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer 11 years ago, after finishing grad school but before starting my full time position - my first foray into reading for pleasure again. The lack of social media evidence corroborates this claim.

I'm far more sophisticated as a sports fan, tailgating fan, and RV enthusiast these days.

As the full title outlines, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania captures all of the madness that is University of Alabama football. Alabama native and lifelong Bama fan-turned Columbia man and New Yorker Warren St. John follows - nay, joins - the RV corps that supports the Crimson Tide at each football game. The book takes you into the lot with a colorful cast of Crimson clad fans, as well as games - home, away, and Birmingham - booster meetings, ticket brokerages, and a studio set or two. Eleven years ago, it was where I first heard of the eponymous cheer, met PAAWWWLL Finebaum, and in many ways got engrossed in a fan culture outside of my own USF Bulls, then not even a decade old. For St. John, the journey met both the journalistic need of the book itself, but also scratched an itch as a lifelong Bama fan. For me, it was the first book in a series of welcome tailgate escapes for me: To follow would be Clay Travis' Dixieland Delight, Adam Goldstein's Tailgate to Heaven, and the YouTube series Tailgate32, among others. In fact, in the larger sense, it sparked in me other literary escapism in the form of the road trip, as Tar Heel Traveler, America Unchained, and American Pie are also among reads since that time.

But now, over a decade later, I read the book with fresh eyes. No longer a mere enthusiast, I follow college football with a fervor that extends beyond just my program. Tailgating too is a passion, and I've got gear befitting of someone who gets into as often as I'd like to, which is to say far more often than I actually do. And perhaps the most recent edition to the many boxes this book checks for me, Serendipity led me to the RV Family Travel Atlas podcast, which I've been listening to for months now, adding yet another layer of familiarity to St. John's quest.

Ever since the first read, I've had distant dreams of a similar trek. Revisiting it has reinvigorated the desire. I'd recommend the book to everyone, but be forewarned: It may be contagious.

Dress those Lines

While my primary sports-adjacents are marching/athletic music and tailgating, I've long had love for uniforms as well. I'm a regular reader of Uni Watch, and have been known to do my share of uniform commenting (and sometimes kvetching) here as well.

How could I not amplify the latest project from College Marching?

College football uniforms have long run the gamut from traditional to avant garde. On the bleeding edge of design, programs like Oregon, Baylor and UMCP seem to have a new design each week. Throwbacks and fauxbacks, uniforms honoring our armed forces, breast cancer awareness, BFBS (black for black's sake, for the uninitiated), and all chrome everything are just a few of the trends we've seen in uniform design. Why not honor those who are there supporting the team, through thick and thin, from the pregame until the last note sounds - because they're the ones sounding it?

In their current series, College Marching is reimagining college football uniforms in the style of each school's marching band. The Big 12 dropped today, and the other Power 5 leagues will follow in the days leading up to opening weekend. Some might be as likely to roll off the looms at Nike or UnderArmour as Fred J. Miller and DeMoulin, while others - most notable Texas and Texas Tech - take on a far more creative interpretation. Regardless, all of the renderings are top notch. Be sure to follow along as the series continues!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

NPS 100

This year - and specifically, this week, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. Admittedly, this is an interest of mine that stretches outside the normal boundaries of sports, marching/athletic music, and tailgating on which 80 Minutes typically focuses, but it doesn't require an HBCU drum major's flexibility to tie marching music and even sports back to America's Best Idea.

I live in Greensboro, NC, and I've often said this city is at its peak in mid-March, when the ACC basketball tournament is taking place across town from the reenactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. It was at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park - where I made this weekend's centennial pilgrimage - that I first learned the ACC-ubiquitous *dut diggy dut dut, dut diggy dut dut, dut!* Go [Team Name] is actually based in a Revolutionary War-era snare call for attack.

Military music is the most obvious point of connection with the National Park Service units. The Marine Band has regular summer missions on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The Navy Band was involved in the rededication of the the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina, and each of the premier ensembles have a role in military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. At Arlington and other NPS units where Taps is sounded, I'm reminded of my own connection to the bugle call, as my college pep band director is its foremost authority. The University of Maryland at College Park even put an NPS unit - Fort McHenry - on their helmets, while partnering with WVU to reenact the bombardment that birthed out National Anthem.

Happy anniversary, NPS!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Band on the Road Project 2016

(Less talk, more database? Here you go.)

You love your team. You love them more with a soundtrack.

For some, the series needs no introduction. Band on the Road, now in its sixth year, documents marching band travel to away and neutral site games over the course of the season. As in any year, the database is completely open source, so while I've laid the groundwork based on bands' public schedules, anyone with insider information should feel free to add any travel that is missing.

Last year, the database underwent a pretty big change, and It's stayed the course for 2016. Where there were once separate lists for each game week, there is now one list, in calendar format. I've stuck to the Power 5 leagues, plus Power 5 adjacents Notre Dame and BYU, again out of scope, not slight. And I've included all HBCU classics, regardless of division, where once I had simply included the Division I HBCUs.

Without further ado...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cooking with Gas

The new grill and its majestic floral backdrop.
I don't know if it was low cost of entry, an innate, caveman instinct in my brainstem towards building a fire, or really effective marketing from Kingsford, but I've always considered myself a charcoal griller. My tailgate lot start began with with a fold out Wal-Mart unit that set me back just a couple of Hamiltons, but Old Faithful was put out to pasture after over a decade of use a few months ago, having been replaced two years ago by a walkabout propane model just in time for tailgating DCI Championships in 2014. That one became the home grill for a bit after my home charcoal model didn't make the move a year ago. But now, the beaut you see here is the new home model.

Purchased this summer and up and kicking in time for a Fourth of July party, I've since become decently proficient, if I do say so myself. I actually gave it a trial run before having folks over for the 4th; after all, with limited gas experience, I had to make sure I knew what I was doing. Turns out I had nothing to worry about; if anything, I took a step down in difficulty switching to propane. While I've often been the sort to fire up the grill frequently, there's something to be said for the easy on, easy off of gas. I'm not hauling this bad boy to the tailgate lot anytime soon, but it'll be the face of homegating from here on out.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Tale of Two Shows

I realize a week is a lot of time to wait for a drum corps post. By now, the summer tour has wended  its way far from my southern encounter, inching ever closer to next weekend's finals in Indianapolis. But a week ago, on the Sunday and Monday that flanked the July-August threshold, I got out of the summer's relative drum corps radio silence on my part and into a couple of shows in North Carolina and Virginia.

I had opined philosophically - on multiple occasions - about how Wake Forest's BB&T Field was the ideal location for NightBEAT, but hadn't fully experienced it in reality until a week ago. As previously stated, there is a formidable case for leaving the event in Winston full time. One of the first things I noticed this year - which may have been in place last year, but our schedule kept us from realizing - is that NightBEAT is far more of an event in Winston-Salem than it is in Charlotte. It's a similar argument to keeping the ACC men's basketball tournament in Greensboro instead of larger metros: While events can get swallowed up in larger cities, the smaller ones can truly roll out the red carpet. In Charlotte, the event wasn't even in the area's premier stadium, while it certainly is in Winston (sorry, Bowman Gray). Heading west on I-40 into Winston, highway display signs guided "event traffic" along their way. I even wondered aloud for a moment of we were headed to the "event" of which they spoke, having never received such guidance in Charlotte, and it quickly became evident that we were.

The CrownEVENTS team has never skimped on making sure this was not just a drum corps show, but an event. This year was no exception: The Voice's Katie Basden provided pre-show entertainment, the Commandant's Own Marine Drum and Bugle Corps returned in exhibition, and the show featured a flyover - reportedly the first in DCI history - from the Bandit Flight Team from Raleigh. As a North Carolinian of over a decade, this is where I proudly puff out my chest and note "First in Flight". Wake Forest's stadium has a jumbotron; I haven't been in a non-finals show with one since 2004-05 in the Citrus Bowl, and I don't recall that having been used for commercials, previews, and different angles on the corps for those who chose to look. We were seated at about the 2 yard line on side 2; until the kids are older and can sit more still, we opt for the cheap seats. In ACC parlance, we made it through a Notre Dame conference football schedule - just five of the eight corps - before the heavens opened with a rainstorm that ultimately called the show. While we missed Crown, the Cadets, and Blue Devils, we did get to catch this year's conversation piece and current clubhouse leader, the Bluecoats.

The next night, I was a single rider, driving solo up the road to Salem, VA for the Summer Music Games of Southwest Virginia. The two stadiums are night and day: NightBEAT took place in the fairly recently renovated stadium of a Power 5 team in an urban area; the Salem show was in a stadium most often used for high school football nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I've made the trip a few times, and Salem Football Stadium has long been one of my favorite places to watch drum corps for the scenery alone. It's also often been my chance to catch DCI's mid-majors - while I'm certainly not lamenting having a Tour of Champions show in my relative backyard, Salem's always been a chance to see what else the summer has to offer. True to form, this year's show only featured the Cavaliers of the G7 corps, while treating me to West Coast road warriors in the Mandarins and Oregon Crusaders, as well as the Blue Knights, Crossmen, Jersey Surf, and Spirit of Atlanta. I think between two nights, I might have caught every cymbal line marching DCI this summer: Santa Clara and Madison on Sunday, and Jersey Surf, Mandarins, Spirit, Oregon, and Crossmen on Monday. As a crash squad enthusiast, seven out of eleven distinct corps is not a bad haul.

I realized that before Sunday's show I had gone over a year without seeing an actual field show: With only lots and practice last DCI season and the anomaly of no live football games last season, I hadn't seen a band/corps perform a full show in uniform since last year's Crown Preview.

Remind me not to let that happen ever again.
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