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, 80minutesofregulation.blogspot.com 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 CollegeMarching.com early on, and I've long been connected with the founder of the5thquarter.com. 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!