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Thursday, September 29, 2016

High Notes, 2016 Week 4

After about two years of doing weekly High Notes, I decided to open up the playbook, for noteworthy weekend happenings that were beyond just marching, but were in other adjacents like tailgating, food, travel, beer, and the like.

The funny thing is, I don't think I've every explicitly noted football, except when it was paired with the band performance.

One of this week's high notes changes that. in the late-but-not-too-late hours of Saturday night, I got to witness a bit of Pac-12 After Dark, as the Stanford-UCLA game was at a reasonable 8pm local time for us east coasters (though I'm not gonna lie, I still stayed up for the far less reasonable Arizona State-Cal game). The ending was great by all accounts, unless you're a gambler and lost out on Stanford's front door cover. Still, that the Cardinal found a way to win on a late game drive down the field was the sort of thing those of us with an east coast bias tend to miss out on.

Call me basic, but I've long loved a good fall festival, and North Carolina is not in short supply this time of the year. My kids and I went to two here in the Triad, though from their standpoint, I took them to a couple of fields they delighted in running around.

Finally, this weekend marked the opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, and in a clip I sadly only saw in Instagram's story (so it's gone now), Howard University's Showtime Marching Band was there, fittingly, to help celebrate.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Taking a Knee

This football season, many have been using the ubiquitous playing of the National Anthem at sporting events as a platform for protest. Most notably spearheaded by the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, players and others have remained seated, taken a knee, or raised a clinched fist to protest injustice, most notably police brutality and the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement.

The protests have now hit the band world.

In a week where both Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and KeithnScott in Charlotte lost their lives to police, members of at least two college bands joined in the spirit of protest. In Chapel Hill, members of the Marching Tar Heels protested. As a formidable mass in the student section remained seated, fists raised, at least two Marching Tar Heels took a knee and did not play.

The night before in Dallas, five members of SMU's Mustang Band took a knee but continued to play during the anthem. Of particular note in this instance, SMU was using the game to honor five Dallas police officers, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patricio Zamarripa, who were killed in an ambush during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest following police related killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in a tragically bloody stretch this summer.

Much as NFL and other franchises have each handled protesting players differently, it remains to be seen how bands will address protests from within their ranks.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

BOTR Game of the Week, 2016 Week 4

Unlike most USF alumni, I didn't grow up in Florida, so I was never in the position of having to shake off old allegiances and bad habits before becoming a Bull. That said, if I have anything that resembles fanhood of any of Florida's Big Three, it's the Florida State Seminoles, who I've seen and rooted for plenty, as a good friend of mine is an alum. But while I may say Go Noles more often than not, no one's surprised I'm not in their corner today. I'm sure it's equally unsurprising that the Marching Chiefs' trip to Raymond James to take on the Herd of Thunder - now already in progress - is this week's Band on the Road Game of the Week.



For the What to Watch on SEC Network+, there are no confirmed Band on the Road games from that slate, so I'll default to the early catch: Kent State at Alabama. The Marching Golden Flashes aren't coming to Alabama, but getting to catch the Million Dollar Band is certainly no consolation.

High Notes, 2016 Week 3

It was one of those Saturdays where I didn't see a whole ton of football, and I was perfectly fine with that. It's the busy part of the semester - recruitment, and my Saturday began with Bid Day for our InterFraternity Council. The rest of the weekend gave me the chance to spend time with family, which is more than I can say the previous weekend with Panhellenic recruitment. I met my wife and kids in downtown Greensboro where we hung out at Pride for a bit, and then they headed home while I made a quick pit stop to Greensboro's Greek Festival to grab us some food (that gyro was the real MVP).

That evening, my wife and daughter went to a theatrical production downtown, and my son and I met them later  - past their bedtimes - to check out the ferris wheel that was downtown that evening. All in all, it was a great Saturday to spend here in the Gate City, football or no. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

MOB Mentality

They went there.

Rice's Marching Owl Band is a scramble band. Most are familiar with Stanford, the only such example from the Power Five, with Cal having changed its ways a half century ago and the Virginia Pep Band being banned from athletic events back in 2003. Such bands remain popular in the Ivy League, and their MO across the board is to provide social commentary and poke fun at the opposing team or area. Oh, and sometimes play some music. Tonight, as Baylor played at Rice, the MOB made clear references to the ongoing scandal at Baylor, which identified a massive university failure to appropriately address sexual assault and uncovered wrongdoing within the football program which, among other things, cost former head coach Art Briles his job. While many would consider referencing such a serious situation with frivolity in a halftime show in poor taste, the MOB went right after it, with on field formations giving nods to (Title) IX and (ousted Baylor president and chancellor Kenneth) Star(r).

Years ago, when it was improbable but still mathematically possible that Penn State and Stanford would meet in a bowl shortly after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, I wondered aloud: If the two were to meet, would the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band go there? While we never learned that specific answer, Rice may have shown us tonight that there's nothing off limits.

Friday, September 16, 2016

BOTR Game of the Week, 2016 Week 3

In this week's matchups, there's perhaps no interconferene game more anticipated than Ohio State-Oklahoma. Both blueblood programs who have each made an appearance in the College Football Playoff, the game could mean redemption for an already once-defeated Oklahoma, or a bellwether for Ohio State.

Oh, and the band matchup, between a pair of Sudler-winning programs, isn't half bad either.

Ohio State:


In this week's What to Watch - highlighting a halftime you can actually see via SEC Network+, another Ohio band goes on the road as the Marching 110 of Ohio University head south to Neyland Stadium to take on the Pride of the Southland. SEC Network+ coverage opens at 1pm; my strategy has been to open the feed and keep an eye on the game clock as the second quarter winds down.

In Flight

There's been quite the flight out of the state that boasts of being first in it.

Back in March, the North Carolina legislature passed HB2, a bill that, among other things, requires individuals to use the bathrooms that correspond with their sex as listed on their birth certificate, regardless of gender identity. The bill's original passing garnered criticism from many, including many in the sports world, but in the past couple of months, leagues have been voting with their dollars, hitting the state majorly by moving events elsewhere.

The NBA took flight first, moving the 2017 All-Star Game originally scheduled for Charlotte. New Orleans is the beneficiary (sound familiar, Hornets fans?) despite Atlanta dirty macking on the game as far back as April. But two more shoes dropped in the past week: The NCAA pulled out all non-campus-based tournaments and championships; of most impact to me was the first and second rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, scheduled for here in Greensboro. But in the most meaningful move yet, the ACC pulled its championships from North Carolina, including the football championship from Charlotte and the women's basketball tournament from Greensboro. That even this league would pull from North Carolina is particularly telling; the ACC was founded here in Greensboro and has called the state home for 63 years. Four of its prominent institutions, including perhaps the nation's biggest basketball rivalry, are located here. Their willingness to take this stand speaks volumes. No word yet as to where either is headed, though sources (and I've got my own, not just Brett "Sources" McMurphy) say football is in talks with Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

While I'm sad that I'll miss out on the events, I'm happy to see these leagues take a stand.

Game Recognize Game

Few would argue against the Ohio State University Marching Band and the Southern University Human Jukebox being among the best bands in the nation, and on top of their respective interpretations of their craft.

Right now, none of that matters.

The Southern University community, like much of Baton Rouge and southern Louisiana, was devastated by catastrophic flooding through much of the month of August, and while the waters have receded, the community - in a state heavily affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 - continues to assess damage and rebuild, both physically and emotionally.

An olive branch - or more specifically, a buckeye leaf - was extended from Ohio, as the Ohio State band sent the Human Jukebox a bass drum head, signed by all of their members, as well as a note from director Chris Hoch, letting Southern know they had their back in the face of adversity. See the video below.

Argue all you will about the talent of either band - and again, there's very little to argue - but this was an amazing showing of bandsmanship.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

High Notes, 2016 Week 2

This week's high notes won't surprise you one bit. After all, I already gave the game a nod in the What to Watch section of last week's Game of the Week. Thanks to SEC Network+, I was able to watch halftime at Prairie View A&M-Texas A&M. There is perhaps no finer clash of styles available, though it does underscore the fact that because of the SEC's footprint, there is an unintended benefit of catching quite a few HBCU bands with the new setup.

In the grander sense: SEC Network+ coverage? You've got yourself a fan.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

BOTR Game of the Week, 2016 Week 2

This week has been pretty widely regarded as a drop off from a strong week 1 slate, but from a band perspective, there are still quite a few strong matchups.

This week's game of the week is Reality of Missing Out (ROMO?) for me. Three years ago, when the Battle at Bristol was announced, I reached out to one of my football roll dogs, James, and postulated that with the sheer number of tickets available, even the expected ticket gouge at this level of event would be tempered by supply. Plenty has happened since that time, however; most notable James moving to Alabama and me becoming the fraternity/sorority life advisor, which gives me responsibility for Panhellenic sorority recruitment this weekend. Still, there's no doubt in my mind that the event is quite the spectacle, and I find the band matchup - both the Pride of the Southland and Marching Virginians are making the trip - intriguing, if not a daunting prospect for both bands. Crank it to the cheap seats, y'all.

I've decided to start adding a segment to the Game of the Week: What to Watch. While I've never been accused of an SEC bias, their current band stance gives them the additional attention it should. I'll start giving a heads up on the SEC halftime to watch, since one actually can watch it now!

But a funny thing happened. Thanks to the aforementioned sorority recruitment, I'm not posting this until halftime has already passed for the morning and afternoon games. So the call I expected to make, Texas A&M-Prairie View A&M, has already passed. Talk about a clash of styles! I watched it, and while the feed is a fixed, high angle camera, I'll take it. Both Ole Miss and Vanderbilt were hit with weather delays, so the Vanderbilt Spirit of Gold (and likely visiting Middle Tennessee Band of Blue) haven't yet taken the field. In the evening slot, my What to Watch is the Auburn University Marching Band, with an outside shot of Arkansas State's Sound of the Natural State visiting.

High Notes 2016 Week 1

What a week 1 it was! The ESPN-proclaimed Best Opening Weekend in the History of All of College Football didn't disappoint in terms of intrigue from the football standpoint, and some of the band action wasn't too shabby either.

I'll use the holiday weekend's bookends as Week 1's high notes. While there were games on Thursday and Friday, the weekend began at 7:30am Eastern with Georgia Tech and Boston College meeting in Dublin Ireland. Hey, I suppose Ireland's got an Atlantic Coast too. What's notable is that the Screamin' Eagles and Marching Yellowjackets did a joint halftime show across the pond, making it quite the Band on the Road trip.

On the other end of the weekend, FSU and Ole Miss did battle in Camping World Stadium (formerly the Shitrus Citrus Bowl). The game was a great end to the weekend, and both the Pride of the South and the Marching Chiefs brought great power to Orlando.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

It Just Means More

I questioned not long ago which of the regional/specialty/conference TV networks would be the first to incorporate regular marching content. The more I read about the development of Project X--er, the SEC Network, the more I think it's abundantly clear that they'll hop on this and run with it. -"Oh. Of Course.", June 2012

This isn't about "I told you so," but rather excitement that my prediction came to fruition.

This past Thursday night, while watching the stateside opener of major college football, host of [Memphis] Tigers Tonight and Twitter friend John brought to my attention that the WatchESPN feed had a separate SEC Network+ feed for Tennessee's Pride of the Southland (and visiting Appalachian State's Marching Mountaineers) halftime show. After a bit of research, I learned that it is now standard operating procedure for SEC Network games to have a separate SEC Network+ (online only) broadcast of halftime, available via WatchESPN. There didn't seem to be much fanfare; the first "announcement" I came across was via on Twitter. Still, scanning the SEC Network TV schedule for any Saturday will show, unmistakeably, the halftime show as separate programming about an hour into each game.

This isn't ESPN's first venture in showing halftime, but it's the most significant. Last summer, ESPN began televising halftime of MEAC games in ESPN3, but those were few and far between. They've shown bowl game halftimes in varying amounts,but those games are special by design. This current move means three halftime shows each Saturday, the regularity of such we be never seen in the ESPN era. While this is great in a vacuum, it may very well multiply in college football's arms race. Consider that the Big Ten Network is a rival on multiple fronts: the conferences, the networks (ESPN and Fox) and the fact that the Big Ten, a conference that takes marching seriously and holds 10 Sudler trophies among its 14 schools, is being upstaged by another conference. It's not unreasonable to consider that they could follow suit. At the risk of quoting myself again, from June 2012's "Band from Television":

Someone's going to hop on this, and whether it's the Big Ten, SEC, Longhorn, or some other network, it wouldn't surprise me if the others follow suit to keep up with the Joneses.

No argument here.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Week One

Most game weeks, I give you my Band on the Road Game of the Week; the game that will feature two bands that's that week's key matchup. There are plenty that fit the bill for opening week - a few that have already passed, in fact - but instead, I'm celebrating the return of the sport and the marching and gameday atmosphere that accompanies it wholesale. It's the glorious time where nearly everyone began the week undefeated (sorry, Hawai'i), old friendships are being rekindled in the lot and in the stands, and you're hearing those strains of your fight song live once more. Gotta love it.

Whether you're enjoying it from your couch, your yard, your car, or a stadium near you, happy opening week!

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