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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.
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