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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bulletproof Glass

The greatest trick the College Football Playoff ever pulled was forcing me to cape for C.Florida.

Two weeks ago in Atlanta, North Carolina A&T capped off a perfect season with a Celebration Bowl victory over Grambling. With the win, A&T earned the right to be called a champion.

When UCF tries to complete their perfect season on New Year's Day in the same venue, they'll have no such opportunity.

The Knights have already grabbed their brass ring, a consolation prize at best: The New Year's Six berth that comes with being the highest ranked Group of Five champion, and a shot at SEC runner up Auburn. Some would argue it's a no-win game for Auburn, but I find it similarly fruitless for UCF: Lose, and they were supposed to; win, and meet excuses about how an unmotivated Auburn didn't want to be there.

But what the Knights don't have is a shot at a championship. No Group of Five team does - at least not as a single year accomplishment. Houston came closest, chasing a bowl victory over FSU with an early season win over Oklahoma. But even an undefeated 2016 campaign by the Cougars would likely have served only to put them in the conversation, not the playoff itself. That slim chance was only a function of getting Oklahoma on the schedule, the likes of which is increasingly rare for high caliber Group of Five programs. It's not just a glass ceiling - it's bulletproof.

Three years ago, the MEAC and SWAC decided that instead of an autobid to the FCS playoffs, their champions would meet in December to crown the HBCU national champion. The SWAC ended its relationship with the playoff in the '90s in favor of a conference championship game, and the MEAC now sends its champion to Atlanta, though highly ranked runners up are still eligible for an at-large bid. Seasons that would have once ended in an early round playoff exit now had the opportunity for glory in a championship of meaning.

The system we currently have still keeps this opportunity from Group of Five schools. The common refrains are that "they ain't played nobody!" and "there's no way they're going undefeated with [insert Power Five team]'s schedule!" - qualifiers that create an unbalanced narrative. After all, if you're going to mythically burden them with the schedule, you must also arm them with the resources these programs wield. For my money, I'm taking UCF with Auburn's budget over the opposite.

The fear of letting a deserving UCF - and to be clear, the language of the College Football Playoff is "best," not "most deserving" - is that it would result in a blowout of an overmatched team. Nothing prevents that from happening with the current setup - Just ask Ohio State, Michigan State, or FSU.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Bowl Bands: College Footbal Playoff - 2018 Allstate Sugar Bowl

They meet again! Clemson and Alabama go for the rubber match, this time in a national semifinal instead of the championship game. While the Tigers have the home team designation as the #1 seed, the Crimson Tide know New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl well.



Bowl Bands:College Football Playoff - 2018 Rose Bowl Presented by Northwestern Mutual

The Granddaddy of 'em All hosts a pair of Sudler Trophy winners for just the second time this century and the first time in a dozen years. Oklahoma last marched down Colorado Blvd. in 2003; UGA hasn't played in the Rose Bowl since World War II, and the Redcoats missed the trip due to travel restrictions, leaving Pasadena City College to march halftime in their stead.



Bowl Bands: 2018 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Auburn last played in this very stadium as they fell to Georgia in the SEC Championship game. Undefeated UCF, who rebounded mightily from a winless campaign two seasons ago, ran into the bulletproof glass ceiling and attains the Group of Five's highest attainable honor: A New Year's Six bowl berth.


Bowl Bands: 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl

Undefeated late into the season, ACC runner up Miami and Big Ten runner up Wisconsin are tales of what could have been this season. The Band of the Hour will march out of their home tunnel, while the Badger Band, in all of their postseason trips to Florida, has never played in the Orange Bowl.



Bowl Bands: 2017 Playstation Fiesta Bowl

This year's Fiesta Bowl matchup will feature spats for dayse as the Husky Band of Washington takes on Penn State's Blue Band. The historically band friendly game is looking to rival even the Rose Bowl as sponsor Playstation brings the programs together (admittedly to promote a game, God of War).


Penn State:

Bowl Bands: 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Pac-12 champion USC takes on Big Ten champion Ohio State. It sounds like the Rose Bowl - indeed, the two programs have met in that game seven times, the second most frequent matchup - but with the Rose Bowl hosting a playoff game this year and neither team making the field, they will meet in North Texas.

The Cotton Bowl has already created a matchup for the two in their Battle of the Bands - see the Spirit of Troy take on TBDBITL below.

Holiday Six Pack

While I was unable to give you the full complement of bowl matchups as in years' past, I couldn't leave you empty-handed. This bowl season will still feature previews of the New Year's Six bowls, as well as the College Football Playoff National Championship once the Sugar Bowl goes final and the stage is set. In addition, there'll be a live look at the Belk Bowl's Fan Central featuring Wake Forest and Texas A&M, and the sights and sounds of the national championship weekend from Atlanta.  For now, enjoy the New Year's Six Bowls!

College Football Playoff

Monday, December 18, 2017

Go Live

The Worldwide Leader's broadcast of the Celebration Bowl's halftime and 5th quarter was genius, evil, or evil genius.

It started with a social media alert - Instagram telling me The Undefeated has started a live video. I was already watching the Celebration Bowl, so it wasn't too hard for me to immediately put two and two together: Halftime on deck! Indeed, The Undefeated, described as "...the premier platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture," was going to bring us what the ABC broadcast wouldn't: Halftime of the HBCU national championship, broadcast as the good Lord intended. Kind of.

Make no mistake: I'm well aware that The Undefeated is a product of ESPN. Any praise or criticism I levee within is the same of ESPN itself. So let me begin with the praise. I'm pleased that ESPN found a way to bring us halftime - and later, the 5th quarter - that the audience gathered around for HBCU football's top prize no doubt expected. That we'd get to see it wasn't a given - after all, they had let us down before, and we had to seek other means. I was happy to get to see the bands be the focus, and on an official ESPN platform, no less.

That's about where the dap stops.

I can't lie - I was excited to find The Undefeated broadcasting halftime via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But I can also acknowledge there was no figurative or literal cost to ESPN to do so. The halftime broadcast was the high angle look we've often gotten when we do get to see bands, often during the Rose Bowl or National Championship. The 5th quarter was a handheld phone pointing at one band, then the other. As an outfit with as much broadcasting capability as anyone, we got a camera phone with no tripod. They would have been best served to let the folks at Eight to Five or Marching Sport take the reins (and if you doubt me, far better coverage can be found at Marching Sport's YouTube page). All the while, the television broadcast still cut back to the studio to sell ads and continue to promote the rest of Capital One Chick Fil-A Bowl Week Presented By Northwestern Mutual. They may even have flouted some of the broadcast/copyright laws that are often the hollow reason for not showing the bands. We as bandheads were served scraps, but because we've often gotten nothing or some hero's cell phone video in similar fashion to The Undefeated's broadcast, we ate it up.

And I wish they'd do it for the rest of the bowls.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Injury Report

As regular readers may know or suspect, I've been sidelined for a bit from regular updates. An eye issue has kept me from spending virtually any leisure time at a computer, and as a result, this here has suffered.

A corollary to this is that normally by now I'd be deep into the prep work that goes into the Big Band Bowl Battle (B4) each year since 2011. B4 provided a brief synopsis and videos of each bowl game's matchup, and the series has more than 200 posts in it, having included every bowl game for the past six years. Unfortunately, it will not continue in the same format this year, for the abovestated reason.

While it saddens me to suspend the traditional format this year, rest assured there will still be updates of some sort - some may be here, and they will certainly be on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #bowlbands. There may even be a few live and "recorded live" looks from some bowl festivities. #bowlbands, of course, is not proprietary; I encourage any and all to use it as well!

As always, follow 80mins on Twitter, 80 Minutes of Regulation on Facebook and eightyminutes on Instagram!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Bad Blood/Band Blood

Some of you cringed just looking at this.
This past extended weekend was rivalry week in college football. Before the turkey and stuffing we're done digesting, fans could sit down to an extra helping of matchups with names like Clean Ol' Fashioned Hate and the Civil War. Fanbases refused to speak rivals' names, don certain colors, even use entire letters from the alphabet. Amid all of the hate week hoopla, where do the bands stand?

On the one hand, the band acts an an official agent of the university, making it hard to break rank. There are those who hold the band to a higher standard, cringing that an arts organization would engage in something as boorish as a sports rivalry, even doubting that the members care what happens on the field. And not to be overstated, there is the very real mutual respect that exists between band folks, regardless of school, color, or band.

But consider the other side of the equation: A few dozen to a few hundred students gather every week in unwavering support of the team. If they're not vulnerable to get swept up in the spirit they help create, there's no spirit to be had.

The latest controversy - if you can call if that - arose as the University of Kentucky Wildcat Marching Band reprised a show featuring Bruno Mars' 24K Magic at their rivalry game vs. Louisville. The Cardinals - men's basketball specifically - were at the center of a controversy involving bribery and Adidas that lost their athletic director, head men's basketball coach, and others their jobs. Upon seeing the dollar sign drillset - logical, in context - the lazy, typical band-ignorers at the Worldwide Leader decided they had to be throwing shade at Louisville, leaving the folks at UK's band fielding all sorts of unnecessary questions.

The band folks at Kentucky assert that they had no intention of throwing shade to their cross-state foes. But if they had? It wouldn't be the first time.

Archrivals Michigan and Ohio State trade jabs every chance they get - even when their rival's not on the other sideline. Cal and UCLA - rivals in their own right - actually joined forces to throw shade at mutual rival USC. The smack talk preceding CrankFest 2017 took on WWE proportions, and among them, the opposing sidelines in the BoomBox Classic - Southern's Human Jukebox and Jackson State's Sonic Boom of the South - got in some low blows. While scatter bands like Stanford and Rice make a living of it, engaging in their schools' most salient rivalries is a mark of bands at all levels.

There is, of course, the other side of the coin. This same weekend, Texas hosted Texas Tech - arguably their big in-state rival since Texas A&M's departure for the SEC - and did a mass band performance of the 1812 Overture. In one of the most poignant tributes ever, Alabama and Auburn - perhaps the sport's biggest rivalry - joined forces to honor the memory of 9/11 at the Iron Bowl. But in most rivalry situations, my stance remains the same: Save the buddy-buddy antics for an exhibition. This is war.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Looking 100

FAMU's Marching 100 unveiled new uniforms this past weekend at the Florida Classic, to mixed reviews from HBCU bandheads. The new uniforms were a gift in action from FAMU and Marching 100 alumni Bernard and Shirley Kinsey. Stylistically, they're not a drastic departure from the previous look, and in general I'd say they're not better or worse, just different. They trade a base orange for a base green, but with neither holding the "dark" vs. "light" designation in their color scheme, that switch isn't exactly whiplash. Some have noted that the look is a little more corps style than show style, and I can certainly see where folks are coming from with that.

The front of the uniform incorporates a stylized F in the piping and striping, a technique manufacturer Fruhauf Uniforms has used before, including incorporating the pickaxe into Charlotte's band uniforms. The new uniforms lack spats, but so did the old ones. A small detail is some Rattler scaling on the sleeve, and gone are the capes that the old look used. Their covers add a plume, but seem mostly unchanged.

But perhaps the most notable change was the new drum major uniforms. While there's no word if this is their only look - past drum majors have had orange, green, and white options - the debut had the drum majors in black uniforms.

In sports, black for black's sake - incorporating black where it's not otherwise a school or team color - is typically used to make a team look faster, stronger, or tougher. Interestingly enough, the black with orange and green accents is reminiscent of the uniforms that Miami debuted during the Virginia Tech game this year. But black often has a different purpose in the marching world. Black is used, in set pieces and uniforms, to obscure, de-emphasize or draw attention away from. Speaking in gross generalities, traditional and show style bands tend towards drum major uniforms in white or school colors, the brightness underscoring their role as showmen, while corps style drum majors tend towards black uniforms, their role being less to be on display and more to serve as a metronome. Given that dynamic, FAMU has to have tended towards black uniforms either for the the sports justification, or to emphasize the black in Historically Black College/University.

Black for FAMU presents an additional issue, however: The Rattlers derive their colors from Florida citrus and agriculture. To introduce black into the palette is functionally adding rot to the scheme. It's the same reason I don't love BFBS for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, adding a storm cloud to their Carolina blue skies.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Initial Reaction

It's hate week, y'all.

Yes, I've been dismissive of the rivalry with C. Florida in the past, but I've since come around. This year's contest has everything at stake. It's a touchdown or a pick six - win the division, possibly the conference, and go on to play in a New Year's Six bowl, or watch your archrival do the same - in USF's case, while also watching them complete a perfect season.

The good folks over at The Daily Stampede broke down why I tend to refer to them as C. Florida. You should read it, but the Cliff's Notes version is that they are quite adamant about being referred to as UCF - probably so as not to be seen as a directional school or a derivative of Florida - and it really gets under their skin. For the record, our style guide wants us to simply be USF as well, but we don't get our feelings hurt quite as much. I'd also argue that we don't have a leg to stand on, considering we spell South Florida in our fight song.

Looks like we're in for a helluva game in Orlando this Friday. See you there, C Dot.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Though we may deign to admit it, we, as sports fans, are helpless. No curses or talismans we wield really have an effect on the outcome of the game. Sure, en masse we may have a little power, but the individual can do nothing.

Somehow, it can sometimes feel even less.

Today, as USF took on Houston in mid-day slot, I was en route to Pennsylvania where my wife has a race tomorrow. As I have before, I "watched" the game via score updates, furiously toggling back and forth between ESPN and Google (the latter was more updated, despite the former broadcasting the game). My emotions were on the whim of rudimentary graphics and text. I was verklempt after our high powered offense failed to score in the first quarter, uneasy as we led but remained within one score, and grew a little more at ease as time wore on. But the most maddening swing came late in the 4th:

At this point USF led 24-21. Houston would go on to score a touchdown and ultimately win 28-24, handing USF its first loss in over a year and ruining a perfect season.

I've said before and repeated tonight, there are few sports feelings as helpless as watching your team lose via score update. As jawdropping as it must have been for those watching live, there was no gradient, however slight, for me between the two downs above. The change was immediate from uneasy confidence to impending doom. And unlike in a space where commiserators were in abundance, I suffered this particular sling in near silence while checking into a hotel.

*          *          *

Present agony aside, all is not lost for the Bulls. While the undefeated season has been dashed, we're still in the driver's seat for most of that which has been within reach. Despite a few prospecting articles, we all knew the Playoff was never an option. Winning out the regular season - including a Black Friday victory over C. Florida - still puts us into the conference championship game, and a victory there still makes the Group of Five's bid to the New Year's Six bowls an option: While USF's ranking and stock will drop after this weekend, most of the closest candidates are conferencemates, meaning that a conference victory may still place us at the top of the heap. Much as it may feel like it, all hope is not lost, but if we can't get it together, the game in Orlando - and with it, all hopes listed above - will be.

Go Bulls.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Band is Undefeated

When Joe over at The Marching Podcast posted that The Undefeated was going to be doing HBCU band rankings, my kneejerk reaction was skepticism. I certainly don't doubt Joe's judgment, and this was even necessarily about The Undefeated. These sorts of lists tend to be suspect because with relatively few folks writing intensely about bands, it could very well be sports folks giving an uninformed or incomplete take on the subject. And specifically to The Undefeated, they are an entity of ESPN, and I've been notably critical of the Worldwide Leader's band coverage before.

But then I read their methodology.

The Undefeated's HBCU cred is intact, but their process for this particular competition - to be awarded as "Band of the Year" during the Celebration Bowl - is thorough. Check it out. Both their panel and their methodology leave no stone unturned. They've shown. unequivocally, that the want to get this thing right, with a panel and process that rivals the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Then - as if they knew I was out here questioning their bona fides - they doubled down on their band cred by dropping the oral history of Drumline - a fantastic piece that I dropped just about everything to read over a lunch break and came away with tears in my eyes from.

OK, The Undefeated. You have my attention.

Monday, October 9, 2017

High Notes - 2017 Week 6

So I hear it was a ho-hum schedule in college football this weekend... did I miss anything?

Of course, I've caught up on the news roundup, and know I missed a helluva weekend. This week's high notes once again opens up the playbook to extend beyond just football and marching band.

This weekend, my family, a friend of my daughter's, and I went up to the Yogi Bear's Jellystone Camp Resort in Natural Bridge, VA. The trip was made possible by having won a contest on RV Family Travel Atlas, and we used it for a bit of fall* camping.

Why the asterisk? Because it was in the 80s while we were there. Frankly, while they had shut down for the season, they would have been well within their rights to get the water park going instead of the Halloween-themed goods. But we did get to enjoy trick-or-treating, a haunted trail, and fall crafts, and still hop in the river for good measure. And while up in the area, we checked out Natural Bridge State Park as well - newly minted as such from some previously private sites we had visited before, as well as the caverns, which we had not.

Columbus Day

Columbus (v.) To discover a place, item, or phenomenon that is already occupied.

As philosopher Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter put it, this ain't politically correct; this might offend my political connects.

A few years ago, I made a post about non-HBCUs playing Neck, a subject I've also been tweeting about near as far back as my social media footprint goes. I stand by everything I wrote in the 2013 piece - I may have hedged a bit less in 2017, granted - and decided a new post made more sense than simply revising the earlier piece.

My most recent impetus was College Marching sharing a postgame celebration with Washington's Husky Marching Band and running back Lavon Coleman - my beef is with neither of them, it should be noted. A scant few of the commenters on either the Facebook or Twitter post verbally took exception with the presence of a song long associated with HBCU bands. But since it's Columbus Day, I'm compelled to point out: Neck has been thoroughly Columbused by bands at Predominantly White Institutions. And despite this going on for probably a solid decade, I still internally - and occasionally externally - give a mild to moderate sideeye every time I hear it.

There are a few notes in this that I find particularly egregious. First, On multiple occasions, I've seen the song associated with LSU. True enough, all evidence points to the Golden Band from Tigerland being Patient Zero - the first PWI to bring the song into the "mainstream," likely by having heard it across town at Southern. But there's no shortage of the likes of:

It's the same script as the latest Kardashijenner discovering "boxer braids" (read: cornrows) or GQ declaring Timbs "This [2016] Fall's Must-Have Boot."

Secondly, I've seen PWI bands use Neck as a tableau upon which to paint whatever they deem stereotypically "urban." South Carolina's Mighty Sound of the Southeast does the Bernie (side note: Did anyone ever actually do the Bernie?). The aforementioned Husky Band clip featured hip swivels and body rolls that would make Elvis proud. And LSU, of course, has a consistently tenuous hold on their ability even to play the song at all due to the vulgar lyrics that accompany it. Further, it wasn't so long ago that the folks lauding the "fun" that this band is having were the ones decrying HBCU marching as undisciplined, lacking in talent, or even primitive - all not-so-subtle dog whistles with racist undertones. Even in the Facebook post, some are spitting "show style" with the same vitriol one with which one may say "ghetto." And yet, in the Drumline era, and certainly with the ubiquity of social media, the once mocked becomes desirable.

These facts are not occurring in a vacuum. This leisurely stroll in the HBCU park is happening at universities that struggle to enroll, retain, and graduate Black students in particular, and in a national climate that is often hostile to those same students. While HBCUs struggle for mainstream (loaded term noted) recognition of all of the things they do well, PWIs are going viral playing a piece that's been in the HBCU repertoire for decades.

I'll note I'm an alumnus of two PWIs and work at a third - at least two of which play Neck - but you'll excuse my lack of humility when I assert that I have a decent handle on culture in America and athletic bands' presence within them. I'm not here to say that PWIs can't play Neck, or even that they shouldn't - it's far from my call to make. But I'll ask that you consider the context and don't be surprised if HBCU bandheads take exception.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Band (Nerd) On The Road

First: as I occupy space on the internet in the week of such unspeakable tragedy, I feel compelled to mention the massacre in Las Vegas and wish peace to those personally affected, and all of us, that we may move beyond thoughts and prayers and towards solution. In the world of sports and marching/athletic music, I know many of us find comfort and enjoyment in crowds of thousands to over a hundred thousand, and this sort of attack must weigh heavy on decisions to be in those spaces.

*          *           *

This past weekend, I made the trip out to USF at ECU. One of my excitements about being conferencemates with ECU again had actually not yet been realized, as the only other game in Greenville, two years ago, I was unable to make. Fortune wasn't the kindest to me in scheduling this year either, but after heading west to get east, I made my way along the two lane roads some may associate with landgrant flagships in the middle of nowhere, down to the 252, and into the stadium just before halftime.

Priority one was, of course, to get myself into position to see the band. As I got into the stands, the Marching Pirates were surprisingly playing to the side two end zone - the seats they had vacated, and presumably, the student section. They performed the rest of their show to the backfield (as the logo faces) sideline giving me a rearview of the show from my vantage point.

I then made my way around to my section - or more accurately, the section I ended up squatting in to catch a friend and be among some of the other NC alumni. While USF led by just a touchdown at the half, the momentum grew in the third quarter. ECU would score their final touchdown about halfway through the third, while USF would continue to impose its will, ultimately dropping a 60-burger (61, actually) on the overmatched Pirates.

Having arrived so late, I have an incomplete picture of the ECU gameday atmosphere I've heard so much about. While announced attendance was 35K in a stadium that holds 50, that wasn't my experience upon arrival, and apparently it didn't seem that way earlier in the game either, based on a first quarter text that read, "This place is empty." I missed any pregame tailgating, though at least some were back at their rigs after the game (no telling if they waited the game out or got an early start on the postgame).

After the game, I followed the sound of drums, as I am wont to do, and caught a pleasant surprise in the form of the ECU Drumline's postgame performance. I was the only green clad fan there, but no one seemed to mind. It was a pleasure watching them throw down before ultimately making my way back to the car and treating myself to a postgame beer - Jai Alai from Tampa's own Cigar City Brewing, naturally.

From there, it was out to the town. A friend from high school had just moved to Greenville, but we weren't able to catch up; luckily, another friend, a fellow Bull who used to work at ECU, came with several suggestions. Most establishments along the main strip were packed - perhaps a bit more of how Greenville does postgame. I got myself some eastern NC BBQ (when in Rome...) and turned my beer tastes back local as well. Before heading back west, I checked out Uptown Brewery, recommended by a friend-of-a-friend.

ECU, I look forward to seeing you again in two years. I know this season's been rough so far, which may have led to the atmosphere, but I hope we can make it a fun one in 2019.

Friday, September 29, 2017

High Notes - 2017 Week 4

Decorative gourd season has returned.
This past weekend was pretty basic: We spent the first weekend of Fall at a nearby orchard, enjoying cider, picking (banjo and fruit variety) and celebrating the season on a mid-80s North Carolina day. The bluegrass band played Rocky Top while we were there, and I got to chat Bulls with a man who splits his time between NC and Tampa, so there's that

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Taking a Knee

On a weekend when everyone, including the current occupant of the White House, is weighing in on the protests and the protests-of-the-protests taking place surrounding the National Anthem in the NFL, I suppose it's as good a time as any for me to weigh in:

I'm not currently watching the NFL.

Frankly, these days my boycott of the NFL is only slightly more impactful as my protests of Denny's and Hobby Lobby, two establishments I rarely if ever patronized. If I'm going to devote the better part of a weekend day to  football, Saturday wins every time. My NFL viewing had been downsized primarily to Eagles viewing, and living not only out of market but in another NFC market, catching the Birds from my home was a rare occurrence. Still, even that won't happen for the foreseeable future.

My choice is the reaction to a few other related decisions. Most famously, Colin Kaepernick decided to protest police brutality during the National Anthem. The NFL's 32 owners decided, individually but functionally collectively, that for this he was unemployable as a quarterback in the league. I, in turn, decided that that particular set of values didn't align with my own, so at present, I'm not watching. Contrary to popular narratives on both sides, no one's first amendment rights were harmed on the process.

As has been well documented, this is far from the only problematic thing the NFL has on its head. But not choosing to boycott before in no way precludes one's right, for whatever reason, to decide this is the time. I've also got no ill will towards anyone who decides, for whatever reason, that they'll choose to keep watching, even if they align with Kaepernick's viewpoint.

I'm not sure I know what my end game is. The end of the season? Until the league has made whatever I determine to be progress? Until Kap is employed? Until the Eagles make the Super Bowl and I ultimately backslide? Or am I done for good? At this point, I don't yet know.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

High Notes - 2017 Week 3

I'm finally exiting that annual September stretch where work obligations keepe from catch much college football. This past weekend I got got to let my feel flag fly on another way: at Greensboro Comicon.

The convention had quite a few local sponsors, but the one that led to the coolest crossover was the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Situated just down the street from where the convention took place, the ICRCM commemorates the site of the Woolworth's where the Greensboro Sit-In took place. For the event, Tuskegee Heirs' illustrator Marcus Williams created an awesome print of the A&T Four as heroes that was available at the con and with VIP admission. The print, pictures above, is about half of the reason I decided to go, and 100% of the reason I got the VIP admission.

To bring it full circle: On that same Saturday, Greensboro's NC A&T Aggies were out of town. The football team and the Blue and Gold Marching Machine had traveled south to Charlotte to take on the 49ers and ultimately notch a victory against the FBS squad. As ESPN's Ryan McGee brought to my attention, the touchdown that put the game out of reach for the Niners was an interception by Franklin McCain III - the grandson of the A&T Four's Franklin McCain.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Don't Start No... Won't Be No...

I followed pro wrestling most closely during the Attitude Era of the late '90s and early 2000s. While cutting promos has always been a part of the performance, the smack between the likes of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin was legendary.

CrankFest 2017, a battle of the bands in New Orleans is following suit, and the products are legendary. Here's what's out there so far:

I'll update as it continues, which it most certainly will. As for what they'll bring to social media and CrankFest itself, I think Bart Scott put it best:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

You Had One Job

Warning, this one's all about me, until I make it intentionally not all about me.

This is your fault, ECU.

There's a game I've had circled since before there was a date to circle: USF at ECU. Since we've become conferencemates again, I've looked forward to biennial tilts a reasonable drive away. Two years ago, circumstance caused me to miss a rainy Bulls victory in Greenville, but this year, outside of falling into the small window of weekends I'm already spoken for, surely odale the trip. Learning the day was a sigh of relief, but with a morning event on the schedule, we were in the clear, unless...

Yup, it's a nooner.

I blame you, ECU.

Surely, if the Pirates had their druthers - and the clout that typically eludes a winless team - they'd throw a dreaded Dowdy-Ficklen night game at their nationally ranked division foes. Even an afternoon would have been favorable, and personally preferable. But a noon game presents a schedule conflict that will certainly cause me to miss part of the game, if not avoid the trip entirely.

But the reason? So much bigger than a football game.

While I would have loved for the two to coexist, my Saturday morning will be spent the better part of an hour in the opposite direction from Greenville - Forsyth County's Tanglewood Park, to be exact - as my wife races in Athena's Run, an annual 5K for gynecologic cancers, which benefits the Gynecologic Cancer Fund at the Novant Health Foundation Forsyth Medical Center. My wife and I lost our friend Karen to ovarian cancer back in 2010, and the inaugural run took place later that year. More recently, our friend Dianna lost her mother to ovarian cancer. My wife is running for the two of them, as well as another friend, Mandy, who died (causes unrelated) almost exactly a year ago from the race date.

If you'd like to donate and support my wife and our team since the first race, Karen's Krusaders, you can do so here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Moving Lines

For many, seeing the worth of Band on the Road doesn't take any convincing. From either a sports or band perspective, the added value of having a marching band in the stands goes without saying. But what if their was an actual dollar figure placed on that added value?

For those who bet sports, a common refrain is that the home field is worth three points. And while that may often play out, any sports fan will tell you that not all home fields are created equal. There's a marked difference between the crowd at the Big House and the crowd at Autzen; the crowd at Death Valley (either one) and the crowd in a rented NFL stadium (either one). Some houses can be taken over by visiting fans, while others will always be tens of thousands of screaming fans rooting for the home team. But are bands part of that equation?

Consider that this past weekend, two major intersectional matchups saw the road team win. Oklahoma beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe, while Georgia went on the road to Notre Dame and came away with a win. The highest rated betting sites had each home team as the favorite by as much as a touchdown, And yet the road team walked out with a victory. And in each case, they got to hear the fight song coming off the horns and drums of their very own.

Both the Pride of Oklahoma and the Redcoat Marching Band traveled with their teams, serving up a slice of home in what could otherwise be a hostile environment. Did the friendly sounds of Boomer Sooner or Glory Glory help spur the team to victory? Were the road fans that much more galvanized by a marching band designed to do exactly that? I don't know what the point swing is for having a band make the trip, but I'd say it's something the oddsmakers ought to be taking into account.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

BOTR Game of the Week, 2017 Week 2

As you've heard from me in the past at about this time, Week 2 often coincides with sorority recruitment on the campus where I work, so these updates have often come late or not at all. This week has an amazing slate of Band on the Road games. But for recognition, I'm going to go inter-subdivisional with Jacksonville State's Marching Southerners traveling to Georgia Tech. The Marching Yellow Jackets are two for two in seeing a band across the field, having faced the Pride of the Southland in Mercedes Benz Stadium last week. Jacksonville State already shares a marching link to Atlanta: Drum Corps International's Spirit of Atlanta spent a decade calling the JSU home, competing during that time as "Spirit from JSU".

High Notes - 2017 Week 1

College football roared back last weekend for its second week of action last week - Week 1, because we learned a lot in college. As usual, the landscape of campus based contests were dotted by high profile neutral site games, and one in particular caught my eye.

In Landover, MD, two teams from adjacent states renewed a rivalry for the first time in a dozen years. Conference realignment has broken up more rivalries than it has started, and West Virginia/Virginia Tech, who used to be rivals in the Big East is among them. The two last played two years after Virginia Tech left for the ACC, and the rivalry has laid dormant until this year.

I'll admit there are a few things that made this game stand out to me. The renewed rivalry aspect is the biggest. I also have a soft spot for rivalries involving West Virginia. Historically West Virginia seceded from Virginia after Virginia seceded from the Union, so it's got that aspect similar to Kansas Missouri (which we also lost to realignment) and Cresap's War, a realignment gain.

The atmosphere just outside of DC seemed electric, fueled by requited rivalry, a damn good game, and if I were a betting man, a good deal of alcohol. These two need to keep playing, either in this fashion or, ideally, on their respective campuses.

Elsewhere in the week's high notes: SEC Network's commitment to showing halftime of games they air allowed me to catch a few shows last week. Missouri State visited Missouri and went Band on the Road, and while both shows were good, FCS Missouri State gets the nod for putting on a great show on the road.

Transition Tradition

At one point, my blanket statement for the separation of seaaons is that you'd never catch me drinking pumpkin beer and wearing seersucker at the same time.

Now I do it on purpose.

Some time a few years ago, I figured it was a great ceremonial transition on one of the unofficial ends of summer. That which was once abhorrent became an annual ritual. And while it's still typically a bit before I head to the Punkin Ales and Oktoberfest of the world full time, it's a good time for a first taste.

This year, that first taste came NY way of New Belgium's Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin. While the pumpkin was evident I'm the name, the kiss of heat in the finish from the habanero was the perfect allegory that summer's not yet over.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

JI Row Scope

Courtesy of @OhioSt_Drumline
Ohio State's snares have a new look, but it feels quite familiar.

The latest look from The Ohio State University Marching Band's approximates the stripe on the Buckeyes' helmets, carrying the gameday tradition through halftime in a visual way. The snareline's new look replaces solid silver drums.

In addition to looking damn sharp, the new drums serve an additional purpose: Were TBDBITL's look not so iconic, there are few markers, save for miminal striping and scarlet and gray plumes, that tie the deep navy uniforms to the home school. This addition makes them unmistakably Buckeyes.

Only thing that's left to do is add buckeye leaf stickers.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

BOTR Game of the Week - 2017 Week 1

There are always high caliber matchups in Week 1, but I'll say that my game of the week is Chalky Studebaker - after all, it's what everyone else picked: Florida State vs. Alabama in Atlanta. College Gameday will be there, it's a top 3 matchup, it's the opening college football game in Mercedes Benz Stadium, and oh yeah, both bands will be there. In a stadium that will host Honda Battle of the Bands and DCI's Southeastern Championship, the Marching Chiefs and Million Dollar Band get first crack at it.

Queen City

So yes, merely a week later, the recap of Queen City Battle of the Bands. First, the twitrospective and social media recap:

So here's what's not immediately evident from the story. First: I left Greensboro sometime in the 4pm hour, with the intention of getting down in time for any pre-show activities. I got rerouted a few times on and off 85 and its perpetual construction, and after crawling through the actual stadium traffic and parking, I was going to be just in time. Or would have, were it not for some disadvantageous entry management that made it take forever to get in. I missed Winston Salem State - no big deal, which I say not as a dig at the Red Sea of Sound, but as acknowledgment that they're relatively down the street from me. With my first priority being to get in and get seated, I first found myself at the side 1 20 yard line. It actually wasn't a bad spot - the stands element of this year's Battle put me right across from the bands, so I was in the blast zone for both Talladega and Jackson State. But then Christy hit me up, and I headed over to the 50 to hang with her crew.

As I mentioned in High Notes, Norfolk State took it in my opinion, but they certainly weren't the only band worth writing home about. Tennessee State's sound was great. Bethune Cookman, while undeniably talented, felt like a business trip, though not as much as Honda often does for them. But my biggest honorable mention goes to Miles, who, among other things, initiated the QCBOB Mass Choir.

I will note on Miles' part, part of my intrigue with them was overcoming my own bias. Even though I cognitively know better, I still place higher value on the Division I - MEAC, SWAC, and Tennessee State - bands. Add the regional disconnect, and I really didn't have any expectations for Miles. What impressed me the most was the degree to which every instrument held their own for a full sound.

Speaking of sound, QC was a crankfest of sorts. On the one hand, I love a hornline that can push your hairline back, and there was no shortage of those. It was a welcome contrast from earlier this summer in DCI - which I also love - still bringing power but in a different way. I'm told the stands battle was a new element. It's design gave each band two two-minute sets per pairing, but the selections were hit or miss.

The SWAC side of the equation - Bama State and Jackson State - fell towards the middle of the pack, taking an L not necessarily to the MEAC, but to the field. Jackson State in particular didn't put their best foot forward, choosing to start their show marching all the way to side 2 for an entrance.

I find that my threshold differs from a band-specific event than to seeing bands in a football context, but I will say even the "lesser" bands were mostly enjoyable - sort of the same philosophy of a bad day fishing topping a good day at work.

QCBOB was a great time. It was an announced sellout. I don't know where they set that threshold, but the concert side stands were pretty full and there were a good amount of folks on the backside as well. I'd love to see this event move to Bank of America Stadium - as it was rumored earlier this summer - in future years. Charlotte, as a city, fashions itself as an Atlanta proxy as a major southeastern city, and QC is essentially Honda without the name or longevity. They could stand to move into the city's premier stadium. In fact the HBCU band world could do far worse than having QC and Honda roughly bookend the season. Regardless, I'll be back.

Friday, September 1, 2017

High Notes 2017 Week Zero

I know I still owe you a Queen City Battle of the Bands recap, and I promise you it's coming - hopefully even before the Week 1 Game of the Week. In the meantime, though, true to form, I've got to offer up my High Notes for Week 1. As you know, while the football was limited, I got more band - and certainly more live band - than I typically get to take in by heading down to Charlotte. With that in mind, my High Notes citation for Week Zero goes to Norfolk State's Spartan Legion for doing the damn thing in the Queen City.

My second high note isn't a band, but another part of the experience. I got to hang out for most of the show with Christy, founder of The 5th Quarter and - essentially redundant from the previous descriptor - bandhead extraordinaire. The 5th, for those unfamiliar, is essentially the pioneering bandhead community online, and has been for what has to be approaching two decades now. Christy and I connected on Twitter a few years back, on Facebook a bit more recently, and got to meet at QC, where she was graciously able to squeeze me in with her crew right on the 50. I also got to meet Gerard from Marching Sport after the show, and take the picture of a few stops on the bandhead internet.

Friday, August 25, 2017

BOTR Game of the Week - 2017 Week Zero

It seems each year, I was poetic about the Elysian ideal of the first chill in the air signaling the start of football. By no means it is the first - this summer has had a couple of delightful mild patches - buy I definitely felt that chill this morning on a day I've personally earmarked as football's harbinger.

This year, college football starts on a nebulous "Week Zero" (or is it Week Point Five?) born of some scheduling anomalies with teams playing Hawaii. With so few teams and bands in action, it should come as no surprise that the Band on the Road Game of the Week is not a game at all. Instead, I'm taking the show on the road down to Charlotte for the Queen City Battle of the Bands, an HBCU marching band exhibition that is among the season's most anticipated. This year's participants are Alabama State, Bethune Cookman, Jackson State, Norfolk State, NC Central, Miles College, Talladega College, Tennessee State, and Winston Salem State. Football/marching season is upon us, and there's no better way for it to step off.

Band on the Road 2017

(If you're more interested in the database than the prose, I'm happy to oblige)

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

That was the driving force behind Band on the Road when it began back in 2011. Wouldn't it be great to know if your band was going to be at an away game you might be thinking about attending? Or if, at home, your opponent might be bringing a little extra juice into the stands?

I started a database with the intent of being valuable to sports fans and band fans alike. To my knowledge, it's the most comprehensive, if not the only one of its kind. And while I provide the startup, the goal has always been crowdsourcing. This belongs to y'all. Once I set it free, I hope not only that folks take interest and find it informative, but feel empowered to update it themselves with any information they may have.

Over the years, the methods have stayed mostly the same, but the output has been greater. Bands have kept up with their websites better, and provided information on social media. This year, I got a great assist from College Marching, who included quite a few key road games in their What to Expect in 2017 piece. The annual comb through schedules serves further to whet my appetite for the coming season.

And, of course, there's you. Now that the database is out in the wild, I invite you to update with whatever information you may have on band travel. It is always my aim for the resource to be as comprehensive as possible, and that can't be done without your help.

This disclaimer I always include, for myself, as much as anyone else: I stick to Power 5 schools and HBCU classics for scope, not slight. A few years ago, it meant axing my own Big East/American as they fell out of the sport's power structure. I am fully aware there are amazing bands in the Group of 5, FCS, and Divisions II and III that could stand to be included, and I invite you to add them as well!

As often, this is going live on 8/25 - the unofficial marching holiday and season harbinger. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Look Within - Season Ten Countermarch

One week ago, DCI wrapped up its 2017 campaign. One week from now, college football gets underway with limited "Week Zero" action. It's only fitting I should post this at halftime.

In celebration of ten seasons of 80 Minutes of Regulation, I'm doing a look within. In part, it's something I was considering anyway, and the fact that a few other entities I admire are celebrating has inspired me. It's not necessarily an anniversary - while the content that became 80 Minutes started back in July 2007, the blog itself didn't launch until February 2008 - but with my two primary seasons being drum corps and college football/marching, it's the end of the 10th season of one and the start of the 10th for the other.

As I mentioned, a few other entities are celebrating milestones around this same time. Halftime Magazine is celebrating its 10th anniversary, while Solid Verbal, like 80 Minutes, is going into its 10th season. Unlike either of them, however, 80 Minutes of Regulation is a solo act on my part, so this retrospective will feel more like a look in the mirror than it may otherwise. I'm up for it.

The Origin Story
80 Minutes of Regulation was born of the merger of two separate endeavors. In the mid-aughts, a mere half decade after the Cash Money Records takeover, Facebook and Myspace emerged and introduced social media as we now know it (sorry, Friendster). Their impact was undeniable, and was quickly emulated throughout the internet. A few such imitations manifested as social blogging sites. This was a world with which I was already familiar, having maintained a LiveJournal for several years beforehand, and I was already using some social spaces, including LiveJournal and message boards, to chat, mostly sports, with some band thrown in because I can't help myself. So when the Worldwide Leader launched MyESPN, I started talking over there, and when Halftime Magazine came into being with a social blogging aspect, I quickly took to it as the home of my marching chatter. In February of 2008, came into being, and the site was born.

While it's on a boilerplate somewhere, 80 Minutes of Regulation draws its name from college football - the equal interest in both the 60 minutes of regulation play and the 20 minutes allotted for halftime. I don't recall exactly how I came to that name or even my early feelings about it, I couldn't imagine it being anything else now. I have tried on a few taglines: The longest enduring was "From referee's whistle to drum major's whistle and back again"; it was briefly in some spaces "A band site with a sports problem"; and now, speaking to the full offerings and throwing in a pun for good measure, I've settled in on "The Cadence of Gameday".

Early on, due mostly to the timing of the launch, I actually talked my fair share of basketball and lacrosse. While there were some greater thematic pieces, I also stuck pretty close to programs in which I had a vested interest; namely, my alma maters and primary fanships. Still, even in the early days, I was able to speak not just sports and marching/athletic music, but their intersection.

I'm going to interrupt myself for a quick usage note that also speaks to the beliefs of the site itself. It has always been my unwavering belief that sports and sports-adjacents (primarily marching, though I've incorporated tailgating and more of the gameday experience as well) ought to be discussed in the same space. But I've always stopped short of considering marching band a sport. This takes absolutely nothing away from the activity. The performers are undeniably athletes (at least those doing it right!) and marching band members have always worked as hard as, or harder than, the teams they support. Calling something a sport doesn't add value; it's not some sort of high-water mark that all physical activity should seek to achieve. No, marching/athletic music is absolutely valuable for what it is. My use of the term marching/athletic music is information-rich by design - the music (whether marching or pep) occurs in an athletic space, and again, its performers are athletes.

Over the years, the blog has taken on some additional projects. The most notable of these is the Band on the Road Project released each year (next week for 2017!) as a crowdsourced database for marching bands attending road games. Band on the Road also highlights a Game of the Week and its marching band matchup. As each college football week wraps up, I also (usually) recognize a notable band in High Notes. Each bowl season, I take on the challenge of the Big Band Bowl Battle, previewing the band matchups in what has ballooned to over 40 games. And in March, more on social media than the blog itself, I keep an eye on the #bracketbands seeking their One Shining Moment.

I ventured briefly into podcasting with the 80 Minutes (Give or Take) Podcast. While fun, it ultimately proved an unsustainable exercise in listening to myself talk. I've also been fortunate enough to have the site (or myself) featured in a few different spaces for its unique take.

From the vision and mission, two points that continue to guide what I think the blog has always been and will continue to be. 80 Minutes of Regulation:

  • Strives to be the leading and most sought-after source in opinion and reaction related to sports and marching/athletic music; and 
  • Will be at its best when drawing parallels between occurrences in sports and marching/athletic music that outlets specifying in one area or the other would likely miss.
In the early days of the site, I began a simulcasting relationship with the YardBarker Network. I recall having been a bit turned off early on by some of their ad placement requirements; I had a naive (and frankly, foolish) belief in my role as an amateur hobbyist, and feared that monetizing was "selling out". As you may notice, that belief does not endure. I did make a few relationships in those days that added some value to being networked.

While the internet is full of sportswriters of varying calibers, the marching media are a tighter knit group, and I'm pleased to say I've gotten to know a good deal of them. I believe my connection with the author of The Line series predates even this site. I've graced the pages of Halftime on a few occasions. I was interviewed for the Marching Podcast. I chatted with the founder of early on, and I've long been connected with the founder of There are many other folks who may not maintain other spaces but are content creators in their own right. Elsewhere in sports-adjacents, I go back to the YardBarker days with Tailgating Ideas. While the connection is certainly important, I'm inspired daily by the way these folks, and many others execute their craft and continue to carve a space for interests I hold dear.

I'd consider my entrance into Twitter, now arguably my primary platform, to have been a bit off. I stayed completely clear for longer than many, and when I first stepped on in early 2010, it was intended to be just for 80 Minutes, but it also soon became my personal account. It does keep me connected with people I know personally and some I've connected with outside of the sports and marching/athletic music realm, but I fear digressions into life or politics may turn off some who simply signed on for the 80 Minutes content. Though my circle is smaller than it could be, it's been cool to get to know folks who I found or who found me through simply the shared interest. It took me far less relative time to find my way onto Instagram, the Facebook page has been a mainstay, and while it's not as dynamic as I'd like, I occasionally get things up on YouTube as well.

Absent evidence to the contrary, I think I can legitimately say I'm the best at my particular specific niche of the intersection of sports and marching/athletic music. Out here in the blogosphere or other media, there are millions who talk sports better than me. There are at least dozens who talk HBCU marching or DCI better than I do, and probably a solid handful who talk general marching better than me. But there's no one out there - at least not that I've encountered - who is bringing this particular combination to the table like I am. To that end, I think I make for a formidable generalist. I'm as comfortable talking Power 5 conference bands as I am HBCU bands, DCI, or some of the other top-flight college bands. Even in the sports world, I can slide into lacrosse as easily as basketball or football. Other sports-adjacents, like tailgating, travel, and uniform design, fall within my sphere as well.

Difficult Passages
There's an Onion article that I sometimes look to for - is strength the right word here? - when I feel I'm not giving the site the attention it deserves. The headline is the story: Find The Thing You're Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life. The fact of the matter is, since 80 Minutes began, I've gotten married, had two kids, become a homeowner twice over, taken on additional work responsibilities, and all sorts of things that take precedence over fanatical updating or keeping atop all of the latest stories. It's nothing I apologize for - again, this is a hobby - but in an ideal world I'd love to be producing more. Still, one of the great things about having other great folks in this space is that I can amplify a lot of what they do. After all, I love sharing what's out there more than I love my own ego.

While I'm no slave to analytics, I do have a pretty good idea of what kind of numbers I do. Frankly, they're small enough that I'm only truly beholden to myself. My discipline is decent but not infallible. Truthfully, if I hadn't set myself a deadline (and already written a date dependent opening) y'all might not have gotten this on time.

So what's to come for 80 Minutes of Regulation? Simply put, I don't see it going away, perhaps ever.  For all of the what, how, and when I've gone through, I may have glossed over the why. In all seriousness, I'm obsessed. I'm a sports fan, I'm a band nerd, and in fact I'm a sports fan because I'm a band nerd. I do it because I love it, and if I weren't actively writing here, I'd probably be throwing the same stuff onto Twitter, Facebook, or social media to be named later. I do it because I can't NOT do it. It's how I'm wired, it's how my brain works, and it will always be a part of me. It's never been my goal or even fantasy to go pro in this (though if could pay for some game or show tickets here or there, I'd welcome it) but it's great to have a platform to put something out into the world. Here's to the next ten seasons!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Perfect Ten

This month, Halftime Magazine is celebrating its tenth anniversary. In preparation for the occasion, they invited readers to write in with stories and well wishes. When the issue arrived in the mail yesterday, I was lucky enough to once again fond myself within the pages of this done publication. My letter was well summarized, but here, in full, is my love note for a publication as integral to the inception of this space as anything else.
*          *          *

Dear Halftime Magazine,

 Without you, there would be no me.

It may seem a romantic, even dramatic notion, but it's true - Halftime Magazine is directly responsible for the existence of 80 Minutes of Regulation. I was excited about Halftime as soon as I learned of your founding, and subscribed shortly thereafter. More than simply a print magazine, one of the things I found most valuable about Halftime was the opportunity to engage. Due in no small part, I'm sure, to the then-recent rise of Facebook, Halftime's online presence included a social aspect, and among its features was a blog where participants were invited to discuss all manners of topics within the marching arts. Thus spawned a big part of what would ultimately become 80 Minutes of Regulation. It was in that sphere that I began blogging about marching/athletic music, and a similar feature available on ESPN led me to combine it with sports content to create the presence I have today. Thank you.

But this isn't about me; it's about you. For the past decade I've been a regular reader, faithful subscriber (except for that one time it lapsed... whoops!), and occasional contributor to the product you've built, and I've loved it every step of the way. You've been the go-to in marching media in your time in the space, and in that time, you've covered the marching arts with a breadth and depth none can match. The magazine is at once for the student and teacher; the fan and the practitioner; the novice and the expert. You transition from DCI to HBCU bands deftly, and are at ease talking colorguard or drumline technique. While none can claim to be everything to everyone, Halftime does it as well as anyone in the marching arts, and I'm certain you have inspired others as you have me.

I've also attached a photo. At some of the professional conferences I attend, it is tradition to adorn one's nametag lanyard with pins. Halftime Magazine always makes an appearance on mine!

Thanks for everything,

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Music of the Night

A record crowd of over 10,000 enjoys NightBEAT 2017.
My case for NightBEAT - Carolina Crown's home show and Tour of Champions event in Winston-Salem, NC - has been pretty well documented. But this year's edition was just about everything a fan could have asked for.

For starters, we got an upsized show this year, thanks in part to Atlanta being between stadiums. In addition to all seven Tour of Champions corps, we got seven more in The Academy, Boston Crusaders, Colts, Crossmen, Madison Scouts, Mandarins, and Troopers. netting us ten of last year's top 12. This made for a longer than usual show, starting at 5pm. This runs the risk of being beastly in the south in late July, but all was well because...

The weather was amazing. Last year, rain curtailed the show. The year before was as hot as one might expect. But this year was perfect - so much so, in fact, that I reversed course on the plan not to tailgate and packed the grill and the cooler after all.

With two kids - a six year old and a three year old - I've shied away from tailgating the past couple of years. Both time in the heat and attention span being considerations, it didn't make sense to spend time in the lot and then head into an open stadium that would offer no respite. But with the agreeable weather, we headed out that way with a friend who was traveling with us. We even had DCI Twitter luminary Momma DCI and her husband, who were down from Wisconsin for the show, stop by.

Once inside the stadium, the mild temperatures meant it was no burden to be outside of the welcome shade of the press box. Because the show's original function was as a Tour of Champions show, the mid-majors took the first half, pre-INT. Before the first notes were sounded, however, we were treated to a parachute team, because the CrownEVENTS crew always brings their A game.

While I knew of many of this season's uniform changes, seeing them in person was its own experience. Phantom in black, Troop in cream, and Madison and Boston looking far from what we expect. Uniform watch aside, this year has its share of enjoyable shows. Unfortunately, no one in our party was able to weigh in fully on the Bay Area battle that's been brewing all season - my wife missed Santa Clara immediately after intermission, and I took the kids to the restroom during Blue Devils. Still, catching 13 out of 14 shows wasn't bad, and NightBEAT in Winston-Salem continues to impress.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


This is one part open letter, one part hat tip, and perhaps a bit more fanboying that I'm typically comfortable with. But as the Solid Verbal commemorates the start of their 10th season (and did so with an origin story retrospective) I feel inclined to give them their due.

The Solid Verbal Podcast came into being right around the same time 80 Minutes of Regulation did, though I didn't know of their existence until a few years later. Hosts Dan Rubenstein and Ty Hildenbrandt are also around my age (slightly younger and older than me, respectively), so the show has always felt right in my wheelhouse. The two hosts met - only virtually for the beginning of their relationship - as both were in different facets of Sports Illustrated's college football media. From there, they created, cultivated, and grew a podcast that is a source of enjoyment, news, and humor for many of us.

I remember my exact point of entry: The guest was Mark Ennis, then of SB Nation's Big East Coast Bias. I looked up the Solid Verbal to check out Mark, a Louisville guy who was the citizen-commissioner of Big East Twitter (#weallwegot). I loaded the show up on my clickwheel iPod prior to a trip up to Ocean City to visit family. What I recall is being immediately impressed with the quality of both the audio and the hosting. I don't remember exactly where my familiarity with podcasts was at the time - they may have been my first indie podcast - but for two self-described random guys from the internet, they had it. I listened to the podcast and a few more, and despite heavy leaning on an Animal Planet show called Whale Wars I had never heard of (in their defense, it was the offseason) they became part of the rotation.

Years later, they aren't just part of the rotation, they start it. Despite subscribing to more podcasts than my weekly commute has time for, a new Solid Verbal episode gets the immediate bump to the top of the stack. Dan and Ty's knowledge is formidable, their guests are excellent, and they're just damn enjoyable to listen to. What I once considered non sequitur diversions like Whale Wars I now recognize as part of the show's charm, and there are far more hits than misses with me in terms of familiarity. They digress into and back out of pop culture seamlessly as one might when chatting with friends about football and whatever else. And while it's weird to say "I've watched them grow up" of a couple of guys my age, it's been cool to see a few key life changes - Dan's move to the East Coast and employment with SB Nation, the show taking on sponsors, distribution, and strategic partnerships, increasingly bigger guests and events, and both hosts getting married - the last of which has manifested in a "window of opportunity" report for us married folk who can't post up in front of football all Saturday, much as we would like to.

We operate in different media, and do things differently - one a helluva lot more successfully than the other - so I wouldn't first be inclined to say they inspire me or keep me going. But they definitely add a lot of enjoyment, which is to say nothing of the wealth of information they bring with a delivery method I favor over some other folks in the space. I listen to quite a few of their competitors - and to be clear, as Dan and Ty are, while other podcasts are in the same space doing the same thing, they're brothers in arms more than anything else. Their grind is absolutely admirable, at a clip of one to two shows a week for over nine years, and Dan spoke of a love for creating things no matter how many people are listening. It is from there I draw my inspiration, and it was a pleasure hearing them talk through the process of creating and sustaining what is, as far as I'm concerned, an institution. Thanks guys, stay solid.
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