MediaStrike Banner

Monday, December 31, 2018


A khaki, canvas bucket hat. It's too small, if I'm honest with myself, especially if I'm in need of a haircut. But every now any again, it comes out. It's one of the few physical keepsakes I have, along with a couple of lapel pins and a watch that stopped keeping time long ago.

Twenty years ago, I marched in the Rose Parade, a senior drummer in my high school marching band. It was the third of five trips the Alexis I. duPont High School Tiger Marching Band made, meaning if you were a four year member of the band from anywhere between 1990  and 2008, you probably made the trip to Pasadena. Along with the tradition of excellence, it's probably one of the things that binds generations of Tiger Band members. Even 20 and 15 years later, my brother and I - he marched in the 2004 parade - still connect over it. And along with the Rose Parade's own tradition, it's the reason I hold it - and by extension the Rose Bowl - at a reverence often reserved for Big Ten or Pac 12 fans.

The 2019 Rose Bowl will return to its traditional roots, pitting the champions of those two conferences against one another. In doing so, Ohio State will make the first trip to the bowl since 2010 (and the first and only with Urban Meyer as head coach), while Washington will return for the first time since 2001. While both schools started (and one ended) the season with their sights aimed higher, it's hard to consider the Granddaddy of 'em All a consolation prize.

Both the Alabama State Mighty Marching Hornets and FAMU Marching 100, adding a pair of HBCUs and another Sudler Trophy winner (FAMU being both) to the parade. In conjunction with American Honda's 60th anniversary, they have put together a 60 member drumline featuring drummers from HBCUs. This is notable because Honda is the title sponsor for both the Rose Parade and, of course, the eponymous Honda Battle of the Bands. The Honda won't take place in 2019 with the Super Bowl taking place in Atlanta, so I appreciate that Honda still kept HBCU bands at the forefront.

Ohio State's band is wrapping up quite the auspicious season. Their own merit got them to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, while their football team's performance got them to the Rose Bowl, putting them in two of the nation's highest profile parades within about five weeks of each other.

Finally, the two Sudler Trophy winners - Ohio State and FAMU - both hit a milestone this season that we'll get to see multiplied in this year's Rose Parade. Both bands welcomed their first Black woman to the drum major ranks: Ohio State's Morgan Davis, and FAMU's Cori Bostic. Bostic is the first woman to hold the role within the Marching 100, while Davis is TBDBITL's fourth woman in the post.

As always, I'll be parked in front of the TV for the 2019 Rose Parade.

Bowl Bands: 2018 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

A pair of land grant, agricultural schools meet in this year's Gator Bowl. Texas A&M once again sees itself matched up with a North Carolina ACC school after having played Wake Forest in last year's Belk Bowl.

NC State:

Texas A&M:

Bowl Bands: 2018 SDCCU Holiday Bowl

It's not always that championship games track so closely with one another, but Northwestern and Utah, runners up of the Big Ten and Pac 12, respectively, bring a sort of bizarro Rose Bowl to the Holiday Bowl.



Bowl Bands: 2018 Autozone Liberty Bowl

Bowl games have a way of rekindling old relationships, as it will here with Mizzou catching old Big 12 conferencemate Oklahoma State.


Oklahoma State:

Bowl Bands: 2018 Redbox Bowl

Michigan State and Oregon are two of the programs who have participated in the College Football Playoff. It's coincidental that they'll meet in the home of this year's national championship in Santa Clara.

Michigan State:


Bowl Bands: 2018 Hyundai Sun Bowl

The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band is well known for their "unorthodox" look in bucket hats and blazers, but it wasn't always spats and shakos for Pitt, who donned derbys and sweaters in their early days.



Bowl Bands: 2018 Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman

With the Armed Forces Bowl taking Army, the only bowl eligible service academy, the Military Bowl went with the next available option: One of the two senior military colleges to play FBS football, Virginia Tech. In Cincinnati, they'll meet one of the schools they just missed in the Big East after departing for the ACC.


Virginia Tech:

Sunday, December 30, 2018

New New Year Tradition

The College Football Playoff has gotten it right.

Not necessarily the selection, or the number of teams in the playoff, but in allowing the Sugar and Rose Bowls to wag to dog and camp on New Year's Day, the Playoff did the next best thing with the semifinals in years that they aren't hosted by those two bowls:

They made Saturday great again.

There were missteps along the way. New Year's Eve games that took place on a Thursday when many had to work. Saturday fell into their lap in 2016, but the committee was wise to keep the day traditionally reserved for college football holy. Sure it makes for a slight hiccup in the steady crescendo that bowl season becomes with New Year's Day games, and it leads to a lax interpretation of New Year's Six, but a Saturday full of football - the last we'll have until next season begins - that culminates in two games with national title implications sure does feel good.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Bowl Bands: CFB Playoff Semifinal - 2018 Capital One Orange Bowl

While the Cotton Bowl may have loved a traditional Big 12/SEC matchup, #1 Alabama gets this one in south Florida so as to move it out of #4 Oklahoma's backyard. This all-Crimson affair is also a dual Sudler matchup, and shouldn't lack for offensive firepower either. The Orange Bowl's tradition of a pop act will keep both bands off the field during halftime.



Bowl Bands: CFB Playoff Semifinal - 2018 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Notre Dame's scheduling arrangement with the ACC means these two will see a good deal more of each other in the coming years. Their last meeting was in a veritable monsoon in Clemson during the 2015 season, a game that ended in a Tigers victory.

Notre Dame:


Bowl Bands: 2018 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl

The wolves will howl in Arizona as the Red Wolves take on the Wolf Pack. The two meet in the last game of the year to feature a pair of Group of Five teams, and one of the few televised off of the ESPN family of networks.

Arkansas State:


Bowl Bands: 2018 Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl

These two teams will end 2018 as they began 2016, playing one another. They met in the Citrus Bowl that year, and Michigan prevailed, as they had in the three previous meetings. The Peach Bowl will host a pair of Sudler Trophy winners for the second time in three years.



Bowl Bands: 2018 Belk Bowl

It was in Charlotte that Mary Oates Spratt Van Landingham referred to North Carolina as a valley of humility between two mountains of conceit. Those mountains? South Carolina and Virginia.

On a personal note: I'll be at this year's Belk Bowl, catching a fan's eye view of the game and the bands. Be sure to follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

South Carolina:


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Bowl Bands: Valero Alamo Bowl

When Washington State hosted College Gameday this season, they were plucked from the ever waning list of schools that have not hosted the Saturday morning program. At present, Iowa State still sits on that list.

Iowa State:

Washington State:

Bowl Bands: Camping World Bowl

West Virginia and Syracuse are old Big East rivals, though neither currently inhabits the league or its successor. As with the last time they met - the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl - the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy will not be on the line.

West Virginia:


Bowl Bands: Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

The dual Sudler matchups this bowl season have been all but quarantined in the New Years Six, but Purdue and Auburn give us the one outlier, fittingly, in the Music City Bowl.



Bowl Bands: Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl

School namesakes R.E.B. Baylor and Cornelius Vanderbilt may have been contemporaries, but their respective football programs haven't met in more than six decades. Gold will be the common thread as the Golden Wave Band meets the Spirit of Gold.



Bowl Bands: New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Miami and Wisconsin met in far warmer climes in last year's Orange Bowl. While both the ACC and Big Ten stake their claim on the Big Apple, this is one of the geographically most disparate options.



Bowl Bands: Walk On's Independence Bowl

While hearing these two schools paired may conjure up images of an late '80s/early '90s showdown between Coach K and John Chaney (1988 East Regional final, for the trivia nerds) these two have never met on the gridiron.



Bowl Bands: Cheez-It Bowl

Both TCU and Cal have been to the Valley of the Sun for bowl trips before. Cal has played before in what was then Bank One Ballpark, while TCU's trips have been to Glendale and Tempe.



Bowl Bands: Quick Lane Bowl

As a pair of programs that have coexisted since Georgia Tech's program began in 1892, these two have never crossed paths. While both Minnesota and Georgia Tech hail from metros with indoor stadiums, neither currently play there, though they'll play indoors in Detroit.


Georgia Tech:

Bowl Bands: SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

For much of the recent past, these two have been in inversion - that is, Boston College has been mid-tier as best as a Power Five program, while Boise State has been the class of the Group of Five and the iconic BCS buster. The two have only met once before, in the MPC Computers Bowl in 2005.

Boston College:

Boise State:

Bowl Bands: 2018 SoFi Hawai'i Bowl

As is often their bowl fate, the University of Hawaii gets to stay home on Oahu. And while Hawaii is close to nothing, it is halfway home for Louisiana Tech's Aussie punter Davan Dyer.


Louisiana Tech:

Bowl Bands: 2018 Dollar General Bowl

The Men of Troy are no stranger to the 170 mile drive to Mobile - In addition to their second bowl game trip in three years, their "Battle for the Belt" rivals South Alabama call Mobile home. Covnersely, Mobile Bay sits quite a ways from the shores of Lake Erie.



Bowl Bands: 2018 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

If Houston and Army get together, they may build rapport trading war stories about beating Navy - Army's chief rival and brothers-in-arms, and Houston's American Athletic Conference West divisionmates.



Bowl Bands: 2018 Jared Birmingham Bowl

Despite neighboring states, it's a long stretch of I-40 that separates the Piedmont Triad and the Mid-South. Memphis has spent the last two seasons facing a team in black and gold for a conference championship, so in that respect, playing Wake Forest may feel familiar.


Wake Forest:

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Bowl Bands: 2018 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl

The Bahamas Bowl's a trip for anyone no matter how you slice it, but you can't get much closer than FIU. Toledo, on the other hand, gets to leave Ohio for the tropics, fittingly, on the first day of winter.



Bowl Bands: 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

While a different herd of Broncos may feel at home on the smurf turf, it seems the Western Michigan Bronco Marching Band won't all get to make the trip to Boise. It will hopefully be an easier travel for BYU, who also has a campus in Idaho.

Western Michigan:


Bowl Bands: 2018 Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

There will be quite a bit of green and gold in the stands at the Herd of Thunder and Thundering Herd meet. It a city that boasts the Lightning, perhaps this much Thunder is fitting. For South Florida, they'll be marching out of the same tunnel they always do as they play this one at home in Raymond James Stadium.



Bow Bands: 2018 DXL Frisco Bowl

With all due respect to both the Marching Aztecs and Marching 110, the game they'll play at may very well be the undercard in Frisco - the stadium will host the Division I Football Championship in a few weeks.

San Diego State:


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Bowl Bands: 2018 Boca Raton Bowl

While the Marching Blazers never left, UAB is in just its second year back from a two year hiatus following the program's cancellation. Winning Conference USA is not too shabby of a way to come back. They'll face the MAC champion Northern Illinois.



Sunday, December 16, 2018

Bowl Bands: 2018 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

In the pre-colonial days, Middle Tennessee-App State would have been an instrastate (or intraprovince, I suppose) matchup. The states' shared fate continued on into the American Revolution's Overmountain Men, and the two cities' namesakes of the same era: Daniel Boone and Hardy Murfree.

Middle Tennessee:

Appalachian State:

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Bowl Bands: 2018 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

It's an all-Eagle affair in Montgomery! After seeing Appalachian State as the Sun Belt representative for two of the past three years, fellow recent FCS callup Georgia Southern gets the call this year, while the MAC takes back its representation in the form of Eastern Michigan.

Georgia Southern:

Eastern Michigan:

Bowl Bands: 2018 Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

It's the Group of Five team, Fresno State, that enters the Las Vegas Bowl ranked, but in its first year with potential CFB wild card Herm Edwards at the helm, Arizona State found themselves with a winning record as well.

Fresno State:

Arizona State:

Bowl Bands: 2018 New Mexico Bowl

The New Mexico Bowl draws upon two of the state's borders for this year's matchup. To its east, the University of North Texas, and from its northwest Four Corners-mate, Utah State.

North Texas:

Utah State:

Bowl Bands: 2018 AutoNation Cure Bowl

Orlandeaux? Tulane and Louisiana are bringing the Bayou to Camping World Stadium as a pair of programs separated by less than 150 miles take the show on the road.



Bowl Bands: 2018 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

In the Celebration Bowl's fourth year of existence it sees its first rematch: A&T and Alcorn State played in the inaugural matchup in the Georgia Dome and will meet again, this time in Mercedes Benz Stadium. The Aggies have been the MEAC's representative in two of the three previous matchups, and seek a third championship.

North Carolina A&T:

Alcorn State:

Sunday, November 25, 2018

What A Sport

Oh, college football, you strange, magnificent, maddening, amazing creature.

A critical mass of fans just got done watching a game that went seven overtimes, with 91 points scored after the ultimately losing coach was doused in Gatorade prematurely.  In the stadium, Collin put it best:

Lacking the SEC Network, both in general and here in my hotel room in Baltimore, I "watched" via ESPN Gamecast and Twitter updates, hanging on every refresh. Nothing captivates like college football.

The sport is not without its idiosyncrasies. Unlike any other sport, nearly half of the teams will end their season with a win, thanks to the one-off nature of nearly every bowl game. And unlike any other sport, nearly half of the teams have no viable path to a championship, regardless of their own performance. The former fact is kinda cool. The latter is a travesty.

College football also provides the greatest opportunity for a financial disincentive for winning. Hypothetically, Texas A&M could have cost its conference millions by winning the game, likely knocking a now three loss, previously seventh ranked LSU down in the rankings. Realistically, they could still catch a New Year's Six spot, the void could be filled by a conferencemate like Florida, and even if not, the SEC is flush with cash anyhow. But consider: A week from now, Texas could end any hopes for a Big 12 spot in the Playoff by defeating Oklahoma. Or worse, Memphis could beat UCF, dropping them not only from the playoff spot they've got no chance at, but from the New Year's Six entirely, as the Mountain West champ would then likely be the highest ranked Group of Five champion. More than a decade ago, Pitt defeated West Virginia in the now-defunct Backyard Brawl to cost the Mountaineers a spot in the BCS championship game and the Big East the millions that came with that appearance and the only possibility for an appearance for the conference following the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech. In no other sport can one so directly work against their own self interest.

This sport, man.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Greatest

The Greatest Homecoming On Earth just got greater.

Earlier this month, North Carolina A&T's homecoming added a new element. Dubbed "The Battle and the Blowout," the Friday night slot typically reserved for the step show became a combined step show/battle of the bands, featuring A&T's Blue and Gold Marching Machine, and their homecoming opponent Norfolk State's Spartan Legion. While there was never a question as to whether I would attend, I was intrigued by how exactly they planned to combine the two.

For those who don't know, by day I'm a fraternity and sorority life advisor, and for far longer, I've been a fan of the art of stepping, so I was there for the combo. Still, it was clear from stepping into the arena that no one, myself included, was there for the step show portion. And if that was the sentiment throughout the arena, it was twice that where I sat - the "Heathen Section," with The 5th Quarter's co-founder Christy and many more 5th denizens.

After entrances, A&T began the opening salvo in a move that seemed counterintuitive but well planned. By playing first, the Aggies let Spartan Legion call their shot in the first volley, and the green and gold definitely brought it. The set up for the round was two volleys, so with a A&T/Norfolk/Norfolk/A&T format, BGMM ensured they'd use their home field advantage to bat last.

Then there was a commercial break, or rather step performance. The bandheads took it as exactly that, so much as hitting the concession stands and freshening up drinks. We would receive just three such impositions - Phi Beta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Rho competing, and Kappa Alpha Psi in exhibition.

To A&T's credit, they were committed to the seamless integration of bands and stepping, and planned their programming accordingly. In the section battles, both Golden Delight (auxiliary) and Cold Steel (drumline) put together programs that followed a step show style format, with Golden Delight using a NASCAR theme and including video as so many step shows do these days. Spartan Legion either didn't get the memo or chose not to play along, instead bringing what they would to any matchup.

To the Greensboro (and bandhead) crowd, Blue and Gold Marching Machine was a known commodity, but I think the consensus was pleased and even pleasantly surprised with what Spartan Legion brought to the table, both in that event and throughout the weekend. One of my favorite renditions from them was of Lucid Dreams, which got some burn in the media, social and otherwise:

While there's no doubt A&T's homecoming game will always feature a battle of the bands as long as there's another band in the stands, a format that brings it to a standalone (or mostly alone) ought to remain a GHOE mainstay.

Monday, November 12, 2018


Last night, The Philadelphia Eagles played the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Living in the market of another NFC team, it was one of the few times I could be sure I could catch the Birds in action, and again Dallas, no less.

Not only did I not watch, I checked the score with the Eagles down a score in the 4th quarter, and couldn't be bothered to turn it on or check the final score, not knowing of the loss until this morning.

I spent last season without the NFL, before predictably backsliding once my team made, and ultimately won, the Super Bowl. As this season began, I casually lifted what had been an out-and-out ban of the league, wearing apparel once more and catching pieces of the occasional game. I don't have a solid reason why I let the league back in. Perhaps the time off wasn't sustainable. Maybe it's because Kap's getting paid, even if not by them. Maybe it's because for all of the NFL's ills, my team's all right. But the shift had already occurred. An already well-worn path had calcified. I spend my Saturdays focused on college football, and spend my Sundays also focused on college football, further aided by Solid Verbal and Best Week Ever episodes that air Sunday recaps. So while the NFL is not completely gone, it's been significantly deemphasized.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Look

Back when USF unveiled their new Adidas uniforms this summer, there was one look that caught my eye. A look so wrong, yet so right. The Bulls wore it in game for the first time this past weekend at Homecoming.

Most of my uniform nerd sensibilities should lead me to hate this combo. It's black for black's sake. It contains shades of our colors that aren't actually ours. Some would be inclined to call it gawdy, and frankly they wouldn't be wrong.

Yet somehow, I love it.

It's flashy, and uses its bright colors in a way that look downright sharp. It was probably designed to go over well with "the kids," and while I'm decidedly not them, it's got me hooked. So while I prefer seeing us in the proper green an gold most of the time, this one can stay.

Here's what can't.

Apparently, it's rebrand season. My employer, UNC Greensboro, just underwent a rebrand - excuse me, "brand refresh" of both the athletic and institutional logos prior to the start of this school year. UMBC sent out a survey to alumni and stakeholders back in late August asking us to weigh in on a few options for an update to the institutional logo. And just recently, USF released - and quickly began pushing something fierce - a new institutional logo. It has been pretty unilaterally rejected by those of us with ties to the university - myself included.

Upon seeing just the logo,  a few things struck me. First, as many have noted, it immediately evokes the Merrill Lynch logo. I've been inclined to point out Johnson C. Smith as well. The bull used departs from our history as Brahmans (though admittedly, that ship sailed long ago). And while I just praised the mismatch for an alternate uniform above, it strays from our school colors, opting instead for green and "USF Horizon" - a shade of yellow that hearkens back to a previous colorway. I've admittedly been loud wrong being curmudgeonly and protesting a brand change before, but I remain unconvinced there was a need to stray from the previous institutional logo. Moreover, there's no need to incorporate the athletic mascot into the imagery of the institutional logo. If there was a change to be made, this ain't it, fam.

But if we whiffed on the logo, we doubled down on the messaging.

The website for our "new era" offers a hamfisted justification for the change. Our old brand "lacked awareness," citing meager numbers of parents and students who recognized the institutional brand. The one that literally  says "USF" and "University of South Florida" on it. A strawman argument that our brand lacked a consistent look presents a mosaic of identities including secondary and tertiary athletic marks (which will remain unchanged), division, unit, and student organization logos. In fact, that particular visual piece actually does a better job of showing how effectively the previous institutional logo shines through when used  for system campuses and academic units. It speaks of the story that's gone untold - again, unchanged by the institutional logo, but part of the brand packaging - and offers the backronym United we Shape the Future. Perhaps most egregiously, it positions as our primary belief "Ambition over Tradition." I wasn't alone in seeing that as a slap in the face to the many traditions myself and thousands of other proud alumni had the opportunity to help shape. It's not that I don't understand what they're going for: USF was founded more than a century after the state institutions we strive to emulate. The attempt is akin to that which Iota Phi Theta articulates far better with "Building a tradition, not just resting upon one". But to position ambition over tradition, rather than highlight our tradition of ambition, is a huge misstep in the eyes of many.

After the reveal of a logo they undoubtedly paid a marketing firm a whole lot of money to develop, they've been trying to make fetch happen in every venue, despite immense negative feedback from alumni and other stakeholders.

I am among them.

Monday, October 22, 2018

My Mind's Playing Tricks On Me

Or perhaps our record is.

If the title brought the Geto Boys' top single to mind, it's by design. This weekend, USF travels' to their hometown of Houston to take on the Coogs. I know I'm not the only USF fan who fears this is where we get exposed as fraudulent on the scoreboard.

I'd say USF has enjoyed an undefeated season to this point, but the degree to which that's been "enjoyed" varies from Bull to Bull. At 7-0, our record defies our acumen, where the good guys needed every last second to eke out a win against Tulsa and not much less against UConn, neither of which has an FBS win against anyone other than each other since this time last year. USF playing the role of cardiac cattle doesn't leave me with high hopes against a hard charging Houston team.

A loss to Houston in the final weekend of October (that game a hurricane reschedule) is what dropped the Bulls from the ranks of the unbeaten last year. Here's hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

Want far better reporting on all things USF and the Undefeated Blues? Check out The Daily Stampede.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Let the Band Play

In a post that's gotten significant attention from bandheads, Tennessee State Assistant Director of Bands James Sexton shared the game script from their game vs. Austin Peay. Of note: The schedule is filled to the hilt with announcements and commercials. Conspicuously absent: Opportunities for the band to play.

My immediate thought is curiosity about how often road bands face this, and if the Aristocrat of Bands finds itself at a particular disadvantage playing in the Ohio Valley Conference. Prior to Hampton's conference move this year, Tennessee State was the only Division I HBCU not playing in either the MEAC or the SWAC. As such, they share a conference with schools that simply don't care as much about the band as they do. As the SEC says about their football: It Just Means More.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Band on the Road Game of the Week - 2018 Week 8

Sometimes, dreams do come true.

This weekend, College Game Day will be at Washington State University. For the past fifteen years, a cadre of Washington State alumni and fans have ensured that ol' Crimson flies over each College Game Day set - 216 shows and counting. Now it's coming home in the show's first trip to Pullman, where the Pac-12 North's two best records will square off as Oregon comes to town.

With all of that excitement, it's almost an undercard that the Oregon Marching Band will also make the trip, a nearly eight hour trek out to the Palouse that's been on the schedule since Band on the Road was compiled this summer. Their presence will only add to the electricity of gameday at Washington State.

High Notes - 2018 Week 7

It's that weekend.

Homecoming has a high notes slot pretty much every year. How could it not? By function of my role, it's always going to dominate one college football Saturday. But just as importantly, it's always going to be a a high note.

My love for my two alma maters is well documented. But this year, I came to a realization: Homecoming at UNC Greensboro (which, full disclosure, I help plan) may hold a bigger place in my heart than either one of them. Plotting my hierarchy in allegiance is easy for me: Undergrad > Grad > Employer. But my longevity here gives me a much wider base of returning alumni than either alma mater would. After all, I've interacted with 13 years of students here, vs. four at UMBC and two at USF. I'm certain to see a few of my contemporaries when I return for homecoming (and I've not been to either since 2006  and 2007, respectively) but every homecoming at UNCG brings back scores of former students who I am genuinely excited to see. This year was no different.

Amazing Happens Every Saturday

But here's the thing: Amazing happens every Saturday on football fields throughout the country, and a lot of it happens when the game clock isn't running. Amazing happens in a variety of marching styles, with a variety of musical offerings, and it happens largely out of the view of television cameras, and sadly, also out of the view of live spectators who take the opportunity to grab a beer instead of watching what's going on on the field. October 11, 2011

It's been a long time since a viral rundown, but this past weekend of college football was made for it. A number of halftime shows jumped off their usual bandhead circuits and into the mainstream.

First was Ohio State's Dance, Dance, Dance show which once again made art of stick figure art

I'll be honest, as father to a seven year old, I didn't know quite how mainstream this dance was for anyone over the age of, say, 15, but clearly a stadium full of Buckeyes knew what was up. See the full show here.

More took place in Ames this weekend than just an upset of previously undefeated West Virginia. You might not expect a herd of T-Rexes to take an unsuspecting football field in Iowa, but I'm told life finds a way.

SBNation wrote up the feat and its origin here.

You may know that North Carolina A&T State University has been at the forefront of activism and social issues since their founding, and the Blue and Gold Marching Machine is no exception. This past week's show, This Is America, highlighted various vignettes of America as we know it (or perhaps try not to know it) culminating in an arrangement of the eponymous This Is America with the Star-Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and God Bless America.

Stay woke.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Paradox of Rivalry

The greatest trick the College Football Playoff ever pulled was forcing me to cape for C.Florida. -December 2017

As Memphis was driving in an attempt to snap UCF's tenuous lead - and with it, the nation's longest winning streak - an interesting thing was afoot. I, as a USF alumnus, didn't know what I wanted to happen.

This is the paradox of rivalry:Wanting your biggest rival to come into their game with your team undefeated so that you and you alone may break their spirit, while at once wanting them to lose every game.

This Saturday's mood was a bit more nuanced. USF - ourselves 6-0 - won on Friday night against Tulsa, a last second field goal to lead for the only two seconds of the game that mattered against a team with one win. Had Memphis, an actual formidable foe for UCF, won in similar fashion after leading for much of the game, there may have been a poetic irony in the symmetry. Still, the Knights prevailed, and I didn't hate it.

These days, UCF takes on a different mantle. Should they go undefeated again - and to be clear, I don't want this, both for Black Friday and C.Florida crowing - they will increase the intensity on the spotlight they've shone on a system that will not - indeed, cannot - reward a team from outside of college football's power structure. Those who defend it will note that the playoff rewards this year only. this is correct on its face, but does nothing to acknowledge that somehow, the equity of name recognition, conference affiliation, and budget, all years if not decades in the making, all get to play a role. Likely undefeated ACC champion Clemson will waltz in unquestioned, despite their conference tying in out of conference action against the American (with Hurricane Florence mercifully sparing UNC from the ACC's fourth loss) Sure enough, the Knights will once again be on the outside looking in, a clear reminder that there is no access to a championship of any sort for a sizable portion of FBS teams. This illumination won't change a thing, of course, and the system will keep plugging along - after all, it's not broken if it does exactly what it was intended to - consolidate power in the hands of the haves.

But hey, if C Dot can cruise through again, maybe the can claim a national title defense.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Band on the Road Game of the Week, 2018 Week 7

Since Notre Dame's situationship with the ACC began, several schools have taken the opportunity to make a band trip to South Bend. It's close enough to loop in a trip to Chicago, and the campus and stadium are living college football history.

Pittsburgh is hardly a stranger to playing Notre Dame - the two programs are in their 70th meeting, with games dating back more than a century. Still, the Pitt Band is making the trip this weekend as the Panthers take on the Irish.

High Notes - 2018 Week 6

I watched no football last weekend.

I spent the weekend on the road, heading up to the DC urrea or my cousin's wedding reception. With my kids in tow, I spent much of the time listening to top 40 radio, but I did sneak in a good chunk of the second half of the Florida-LSU game on the radio, the only football I got to consume that weekend. And while I'll always choose television if available, I was reminded how thorough a picture a good announce team can paint of the action on the field. With succinct, information-rich descriptions, a talented play-by-play announcer can give a clear visual of the action you're not seeing. For that reason, not simply because it was the only football I experienced, football on radio gets my high notes of the week.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Band on the Road Game of the Week 2018 Week 6

I'd say it's not fair, but it is, quite literally.

I'm out of town for what may very well be my very college football confluence.

There's usually one Wake Forest game each year - two, if they're lucky, which falls during the Dixie Classic Fair. The Dixie Classic is sort of State Fair lite - not as daunting as the main event in Raleigh, but still an all around good time. The Dixie Classic Fairgrounds sit adjacent to BB&T Field, so if you catch it on one of those games, the pairing is amazing. I've gotten to fairgate in previous years, and if I weren't headed out of town this weekend, I'd certainly be back.

This year ups the ante for my particular interests significantly. Wake is playing the highest ranked team that will visit this season (though it's notable that this year's home slate also included Notre Dame. Hope they're making bank at BB&T) in the #4 Clemson Tigers. What's more, the Band that Shakes the Southland is also making the trip. Add that two bands will be packed into the smallest stadium in the Power 5, and one could frankly enjoy the experience without spending the $51 that the game is up to now on the secondary market. Somebody get to Winston, getchua corn dog, and pour one out for the homies that ain't there - like me.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

2018 Week 5

From a Band on the Road perspective, Week 5 came and went without incident. Band on the Road notched minimal traveling bands this week.

The game of the week from the perspective of many (including College Gameday and College Marching) was Ohio State at Penn State. While it would have been great to see the Ohio State University Marching Band travel, they were home hosting their own festival in Columbus. Lucky for us, the Blue Band is no one's warmup act. The folks at College Marching were there to capture so much of the goodness.


Remember that little thing I wrote about whether Nick Saban should keep playing Jalen Hurts or sit him after the 4th game, allowing him to retain his redshirt?

Uh, pretend I said Kelly Bryant.

While the situation at Bama was a non-story, there was more to be said at their perennial playoffmate Clemson, where head coach Dabo Swinney named freshman Trevor Lawrence the starter following the fourth game, putting the ball in Kelly Bryant's court. Bryant made the decision at that point to leave the team, preserving another year of eligibility upon his transfer after his graduation this year.

Many view the move to name Lawrence the starter at that time a coup de grace from the generally well-regarded Swinney. Playing in another game could have cost Bryant the opportunity ever to start a college game again, barring injury or otherwise to Lawrence.

...Which is precisely what happened.

No sooner had Bryant left the team than Lawrence left the Syracuse game with an injury. Third-turned-second string QB Chase Brice performed admirably, but the internet -and I'm sure the orange clad in the stadium - clamored for Bryant in that moment. But he was already gone, baby, gone.

While Swinney's decision to give Bryant dominion over his own future was lauded, it should be noted it was no different than what Saban had already done. Bryant wasn't cut from the team, nor was he handed a promise that he wouldn't be played. He was simply given a clear picture of the lay of the land and given the opportunity to make his own choice. Jalen Hurts had already been given a similarly prospectus as Tua Tagovailoa had taken every start to date for Bama. He could have made a decision similar to Bryant's if he saw fit.

But the fact is, the two men's futures are not identical. Hurts had at least a year of eligibility ahead of him regardless of this year's outcome; retaining a redshirt would have simply meant two. In contrast, Bryant remaining a Tiger would have meant playing out his days - or not, depending - in the South Carolina upstate.

This is the first year of the new redshirt rule, and it's led to some foreseeable and possibly less foreseeable outcomes. One thing is for sure: This won't be the last we hear of it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Championship Chatter

There have a been a few story lines in the past week or two with championship implications, or at least the illusion thereof.

First: Last week, when Boise State lost to Oklahoma State, more than one Worldwide Leader commentator noted that it was the end of the Group of Five's chances at the College Football Playoff.

Stop it.

It's revisionist history. No such access ever existed. An undefeated Boise State would have been on the outside looking in just like an undefeated C. was last year. The system would not have granted access. It's not designed for that. So while it makes for a convenient talking point after the fact of "what could have been," it never would have been.

In other news, there's a storyline I realize was only entertained by those operating in theory, not practice. As most know, national champion quarterback Tua Tagovailoa usurped national champion quarterback Jalen Hurts for the starting position at Alabama. Like many, I weighed the romanticism that Coach Nick Saban's grace stroke would be to play Hurts in fewer than four games, allowing him to retain an additional year of eligibility. Hurts, who will graduate this year, will likely transfer at the end of the year and could play two years elsewhere if his redshirt were retained. It was an idea I found romantic - Saban looking out for his former starting quarterback, even if his extra year would be spent elsewhere.

It was a fool's errand.

The fact is, what I had romanticized was a college system that would have Hurts continue to play for well below market value. Another year in college would be another year not getting paid. The fact is, there's a good chance Hurts has a professional future in some capacity, and even at a league minimum and a cup of coffee in the league, he'd be making more than he would be in college. It may take whatever play he gets for the remainder of this year, and even his bonus year elsewhere to put his best foot forward, but expecting him to capitalize on two more years is simply asking him to give up another year for free. Hurts would do well to be a part of this year's Alabama team - possibly even earning another ring - and either try his hand at the upcoming draft or pick another school at which to shine.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

High Notes - 2018 Week 4

As the Carolinas continue to recover from the impact of Hurricane Florence the earned last week's commemoration, ECU has put the states on their back - and on their helmet. Spending the past week in Orlando as the campus recovered (classes resumed this past Wednesday) the Pirates expounded upon one of college sports' great logos and included the state to their south to represent One Carolina. Well done, ECU.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Band on the Road Game of the Week - 2018 Week 4

You actually won't find this week's matchup on the Band on the Road spreadsheet. After all, it features an FCS program and Group of Five school. Still, the pairing has some significance.

Texas Southern's Ocean of Soul will be traveling the mere mile to Houston's TDECU Stadium to take on the Spirit of Houston. Given the proximity of the two schools, the Ocean of Soul is forgoing bus contracts and getting there the best way they know how - by marching.

The two bands have actually shared a pretty high profile stage before. During Super Bowl XXXVIII, which took place in Houston's [then] Reliant Stadium, the two bands teamed up to step off the halftime show. Their performance was overshadowed by the Justin Timberlake-Janet Jackson controversy.

Friday, September 21, 2018

High Notes - 2018 Week 3

I'm going to use Week 3's high notes to instead put a spotlight on the state of North Carolina. Here in Greensboro, I spent from last Wednesday through the weekend in some state of hurricane preparation or readiness. From a standpoint so unimportant that it wouldn't warrant a mention if it weren't the point of this site, every college football game after Wake Forest-Boston College on Thursday evening was canceled. While we were thankfully spared the full brunt of the initial forecast, the weather we did get, and Florence's offensive woes and inability to advance left her dumping a reported eight trillion gallons of water onto the Old North State. It will take a long time for points east of here to recover.

If you wish to donate to the hurricane relief efforts, you may do so here.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Band on the Road Game of the Week - 2018 Week 3

If this week were going as planned, we might see West Virginia playing in North Carolina take the honor yet again. the Pride of West Virginia was scheduled to play at NC State, but that game, and all other in the Carolinas, was cancelled due to Hurricane Florence. Gone too is the Down East Viking Classic, which would have pit Winston Salem State against Elizabeth City State.

Of the games that remain, this weekend I'm flagging Temple's Diamond Band, as they travel down to College Park to meet the Mighty Sound of Maryland in a Cresap's War redux. The two bands will join forces to celebrate the life of Leonard Bernstein, who spent time in Philadelphia at the Curtis Institute; his work opened the Kennedy Center in DC.

High Notes - 2018 Week 2

I decided a few year ago I'm opening the playbook on High Notes beyond just the week's marching band action.

This past weekend, I attended the North Carolina Folk Festival. Greensboro was home to the National Folk Festival for a triennium, and when its stint was over, the city saw fit to keep the party going in the form of the NC Folk Festival. An annual scheduling conflict kept me from experiencing the National Folk Festival much when it was here, but with that out of the way, I was pleased to take in a couple of days of the NC Folk Festival this year.

The NC Folk Festival was headlined and curated by Rhiannon Giddens, a Greensboro native MacArthur "Genius" fellow, and talented folk, bluegrass, and old-time musician. I've had the pleasure to see her perform numerous times over the past few years, and caught her twice during the folk festival. Should you see her on a bill near you, I urge you to seize the opportunity.

That said, a quick on-brand note as it relates to the folk festival: Just as I've opened the playbook for High Notes, so too has the folk festival in the past, describing folk as music with authentic national/ethnic roots and casting its net such that Grandmaster Flash headlined the national festival a few years ago. To that end, I'll note that as the American college marching band in general, and the HBCU marching band specifically, is a uniquely American institution, there's no reason we shouldn't see Greensboro's own Blue and Gold Marching Machine from North Carolina A&T State University at future festivals.

Modern Southern Style

Ask a college football fan about regular season neutral site games, and you're likely to get mixed reaction. Nearly everyone respects the mainstays: Texas-Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout in Dallas, or  Florida-Georgia in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville (neither of which like being called that). But be it ever so humble, there's no place like home, and many would prefer to see the often high-profile matchups that are reserved for neutral site games observed as home-and-homes, where the cadence of gameday literally marches through campus.

I can understand this - if only in theory. I went to USF, where all of our home games are played in an NFL stadium, so I don't have the same attachment to campus on fall Saturdays. Lacking that nostalgia, I find the season kickoff neutral site games exciting. The bowl game/classic atmosphere is almost always a two band affair, with plenty of festivities surrounding it. Several of the major indoor stadiums - Atlanta, Arlington, and Houston - have been hosting for years. Charlotte joined the fray a few years ago, as did Orlando, with a pair of games that don't seem to be going anywhere, and I'm here for them.

During 2018's opening weekend, I headed to to Charlotte to soak in the festivities of the Belk College Kickoff. This year, the game pitted Tennessee against West Virginia. They couldn't have asked for a better matchup.

Charlotte sits at the crossroads of the Carolinas, with Bank of America Stadium sitting a scant dozen miles from the South Carolina border. The Belk Kickoff formula to this point has been an interstate matchup, with South Carolina taking on UNC and NC State. Of the scheduled games to come, seven of the eight teams will hail from the Carolinas, with Notre Dame being the outlier. I don't know what made them stray from this formula, but it was a strong move and one they ought to go back to. Both teams and fanbases, and especially the combination thereof, made for a great gameday atmosphere.

Despite numerous geographic and cultural similarities, Tennessee and West Virginia had never met before this season's matchup. Charlotte provided the venue that brought the two together. Country Roads vs. Rocky Top. Two football and tailgating crazed fanbases descended on every corner of the city in a game I'm sure was lucrative for all involved. The gate showed it - 15,000 more spectators than the next closest game. Because they weren't making quick day trips from Columbia, Chapel Hill, or Raleigh, I'm sure they sold hotel rooms as well. And I'd wager the NASCAR Hall of Fame made out alright that weekend.

True enough, Charlotte's not one of the shiny new domed stadiums the NFL boasts; nor is it a subtropical location and perennial bowl destination with the Happiest Place on Earth down the street. But in my opinion, the city's been selling itself short by sticking to Carolina matchups. Charlotte's got a lot (its Convention and Visitor's Bureau would commend me for saying) and if they're not otherwise seeing themselves as a destination, they should be. Loyalty to the bi-state region you call home is one thing, but it's also convenient to the entire South Atlantic. With that in mind, I've been trying to think of other matchups with a similar cache for a Charlotte matchup. Anyone want to try UGA-Virginia Tech on for size in a future year? I think it would do damage.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Band on the Road Game of the Week - 2018 Week 2

In a rivalry that sat dormant for more than a decade and a half after the turn of the century, Penn State and Pitt are back at it. This year, the game is in Pittsburgh, and the Blue Band will make the 135 mile drive for a spats on spats matchup with their in-state rival/not rival in Pitt's Varsity Marching Band.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

High Notes - 2018 Week 1

As with the Game of the Week, seeing it in person has its privileges. This week's High Notes goes to the Pride of West Virginia.

I actually caught the Pride about 30 minutes to my west, at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem. Mount Tabor's principal is a West Virginia alumnus (and an unconfirmed overhearing in the stands led me to believe they couldn't get enough hotel rooms down in Charlotte the night before the Belk Kickoff Classic) and WVU performed at halftime of their game, bringing me to my first high school football game in a decade. WVU performed from their spy show, as well as some of their spirit mainstays, including Country Roads. This wasn't my first time seeing them - I caught them on their home turf (a USF victory, I'm obligated to point out) back in 2006. Once again, they did not disappoint.

And in true old band nerd fashion, I left after halftime.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Band on the Road Game of the Week 2018 Week 1

Joe Cahn, self-proclaimed Commissioner of Tailgating, has been known to say the best tailgate is the one you're at. It is in that spirit that I resume the Band on the Road Game of the Week. This weekend, I'm headed to Charlotte as Tennessee takes on West Virginia in the Belk College Kickoff. Schedule won't allow me to catch the game, but I expect I'll get a good deal of the cadence of gameday from the lot and pre-events, not the least of which is SEC Gameday on the SEC Network. I'm sure there will be spirited debates on musket toting, mountain worship, moonshining, and circle drills.

What's more: As the Pride of West Virginia makes their way south, they're making a pit stop to perform a high school football halftime at Mount Tabor High School in nearby Winston-Salem, so I'm headed over to catch them under the Friday Night Lights as well.

Finally, since I didn't herald it except for updating the link from the main site, Band on the Road 2018 is up! As always, editing is not only allowed, but encouraged. If there are trips you know are taking place, let us all know!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Making the Brand

I can't remember exactly when the name came to be. It was probably at some point when I decided my sports blog and band blog would become one that the concept was born. In lieu of any actual design skills, the logo - a digital display reading 80:00 - was born, and has endured, with only minor modifications, for over ten years.

A good deal more recently, I decided I wanted something done by someone who knows what they're doing. The fact of the matter is, 80 Minutes of Regulation is here to stay, and I'm not against spending a few bucks on something professionally done. Fiverr seller techstrocity was the talent that brought a vague concept to life in a way I couldn't have imagined - a bass drum head with jersey numbers is about as on-brand as it gets. Here's to entering the site's second decade in style.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Laundry Day

As I prepare to head to NightBEAT, there's little question what I'll wear: A Carolina Crown shirt. Specifically, my most recently purchased piece of Crown merchandise, which is purple, one of the corps' historic colors.

I tend to approach my drum corps fandom much as I do my sports fandom, an environment in which, as Jerry Seinfeld famously quipped, we root for laundry. There are a couple of major disconnects with this as it relates to the DCI sphere, though. The first is the ever-changing nature of DCI uniforms. If I showed up in red and green in support of Santa Clara Vanguard, for example, it would be at odds with their current look. Same for Crown's purple or cream, and even the Bluecoats ditched their eponymous color and won a championship in spite of it.

The other is that as much as DCI touts itself a Marching Music's Major League, it operates differently. As an association, DCI probably more closely mirrors the craft beer and RV industries. The first fight they face is the value proposition. Stone's opposition isn't Dogfish Head; both of them are competing with Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. Likewise, the goal of the RV industry is to get you to choose that mode of vacationing over hotels or other means; whether you choose a Jayco or Coleman comes secondary. In sports, some of the smaller leagues like Major League Lacrosse and the WNBA benefit from cultivating fans of the sport. In drum corps, the primary objective is getting new fans into shows and choosing the experience.

Drum corps fans also behave markedly differently than sports fans. Booing, for example, is frowned upon. There's a mutual respect between not only the competitors, but the fans. And what's perhaps the most incongruent: As a subjectively objective, arts-based activity, there can be acknowledgment that you like another team better than your own. As a sports fan, that's virtually unheard of, at least in a head-to-head setting. But there have been years where I simply haven't liked "my" corps' show as much as a competitor's. There are those who would throw the whole competitive system away and just observe excellence. For my money, I love the competition, but as long as corps are putting great shows on the field, we're all winning.

Marching Orders

"From the world's most famous beach, Daytona Beach, Florida, please welcome the Marching Wildcats of Bethune Cookman University - the PRIDE!"

On August 3, Marching Orders, chronicling Bethune Cookman's Marching Wildcats through their auditions, will debut on Netflix. The series will be the latest to bring marching/athletic music to the small screen. Bama State Style featured the Mighty Marching Hornets of Alabama State in 2015, and more recently, Clash of the Corps focused on DCI. The Marching Wildcats themselves were previously the subject of their own YouTube series, Beyond the Fifty. Expect a bandhead influx on Netflix this coming Friday.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Popcorn's Ready

There's no love lost between me and Terrell Owens. As you know, I'm an Eagles fan, so as you can imagine, my mood on him soured rapidly circa 2005, given his controversy with my own team, and the gall to go to a hated rival. Still, with the soothing salves of time and a Lombardi Trophy, I don't hold much of a grudge, and even when he was persona non grata, I could never deny his talent.

TO was selected to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the class of 2018. It's an honor that frankly, I believe is overdue. He agrees. But as he did in his playing days, Owens is doing it his way: He has chosen to boycott the enshrinement festivities in Canton, opting instead to celebrate at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In turn, the Hall's ceremony will not individually honor Owens, though he will still be enshrined.

For his decision to skip the ceremony, TO cites players - "past, present and the future" - whose skills should have made them first ballot selections but whose dreams were deferred. This applies to any number of players, of course, but I can't help noticing Owens himself fits the description.

I'm not knocking TO's decision to boycott NFL activities - indeed, I've been known to do the same myself. I actually like how he's planning to incorporate his alma mater, an otherwise unheralded FCS program that gave the now-Hall of Famer a shot. But amid his protest, there's one other factor to consider, that if it wasn't part of the decision making, may at least be a welcome side effect.

One of Owens' classmates is Brian Dawkins, arguably the most beloved former Eagle of the modern era. Eagles fans will travel to Canton by the thousands, and it's not unreasonable to believe the reception for TO's enshrinement may fall short of unconditional positive regard. While it would take quite a set of unsavory folks to boo a guy during his Hall of Fame induction, Philly fans would be just those people, if for no other reason than to keep up the brand. And even if there's love in those boos, it's not something you should have to endure during what should be the pinnacle of your legacy. TO saves himself from that potential by celebrating his favorite thing - himself - in a place where everyone's there to do the same.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Occidentally Overlooked

Courtesy of GeoMidpoint and Google Maps
I'm well aware of East Coast bias. Frankly, I've got it in spades. I've been known to call western North Carolina "out west" and disregard any state that wasn't one of the 13 colonies. but I don't think I realized how much the Pac-12 is isolated from the rest of the Power Five teams until I saw it mapped out.

While I tend to equate the Pac-12 with their West Coast roots, the conference actually has all of the P5 schools in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. They've got every school west of the Rockies, of the Continental Divide, and save for Texas Tech, the entire western half of the country, as divided by the continental US' geographic midpoint. In addition to fighting the media trust in New York, Atlanta, and Chicago, they're just plain far from the rest of the schools in the Power 5.

There are a few other markers that hammer home this point. The geographic center of the Power 5 schools is in Argyle, MO; about an hour from Mizzou and 100 miles as the crow flies from the mean center of US population. Without factoring in the Pac-12, that marker moves about 300 miles east to Morgantown, KY. The Pac-12's geographic midpoint is in Austin, NV; the next closest conference midpoint is the Big 12 in Broken Arrow, OK, which sits on virtually the same meridian as the midpoint of the the Power 5's east-west midpoint (Wahpeton, ND, with Oregon and Boston College being the extremes). In short, the Pac-12 is far from everything and everyone else, and while they haven't always done themselves favors in scheduling, the map does tip pretty solidly away from them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Earning Their Stripes

photo via @USFFootball
photo via @USFFootball
USF's switch from Under Armour to Adidas as a uniform supplier became official on July 1, and like many, I awaited the release of the new threads. This weekend they dropped what I assume is the primary home look on Twitter. A few things stand out to me:
-Instead of the USF or BULLS wordmarks, we opted for South Florida. This is notable because there was a time when we were style guide sticklers for USF like our neighbors to the east, despite literally spelling South Florida in our fight song. While I fell in lockstep with the university branding for years, I welcome South Florida, especially since it will hopefully stave off some of the "UCF-I mean, USF" we get now.
-We went with metallic gold instead of the university color gold (khaki). There's a thin line between lame and lamé, but I think I like it, especially with the helmet.
 -Gold/Green/Green has always been my favorite home look.

All in all, the look is solid. In our history, USF uniforms haven't been too up or two down (with perhaps a notable abomination or two) and I don't think this changes that. There's some unnecessary textured/scaly bits because Adidas gonna Adidas, but overall, I'm for it. Can't wait to see what else we've got!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Takin' It to the Street

I was never much of a console gamer.

An arcade denizen, sure. But the first console the graced the Tarver household was a Nintendo 64, contraband smuggled in by my younger brother and played furtively in the precious hours of parental absence until we were found out.

Fast forward several years. It was the summer before senior year of college, my summer job on campus netted me more money than I've ever made at one time, and in true nouveau riche fashion, I splurged on what was then a next-gen game system. Because of that 64 - most specifically, The WWF/E games Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy - I stuck with Nintendo as a platform, hoping THQ and AKI would recreate that magic on GameCube. They didn't.

A couple of weeks ago, while sidelined from doing much else, I hopped back on the GameCube, which is hooked up to a small LCD TV that doubles as my laptop's second screen. I popped in NBA Street Vol. 2 and instantly got reacquainted with an old friend.

The NBA Street franchise is the second series to begin under the EA Sports BIG label, and the first focused on a "Big Four" sport. The series used its NBA license to put familiar faces into a streetball context, pitting 3 on 3 teams against one another in game that defaulted to 21. The games debuted at the height of the NBA's hip hop era, a time when the league's image was virtually and controversially indistinguishable from the rap music of the day. Objectively and subjectively, Allen Iverson was one of the faces of the league, advancing to the NBA Finals on a 76ers team that literally had a mascot named Hip Hop. Elsewhere in the sports/entertainment world, the And1 Mixtape Tour was putting a 21st century spin on the Harlem Globetrotters, and the WWF/E was in the transition from the Attitude Era to the rise of John Cena.

Volume 2 tends to be my go-to of the series, living in the sweet spot of the franchise's advancements and fun, exciting, but relatively easy gameplay. The players in the Street series play above the rim - cartoonishly so, in fact - with exciting gravity-defying dunks, otherworldly handles, and fast gameplay. In true streetball fashion standard games are to 21 (win by two). Volume 1 set the foundation and earned the series the clout that allowed Volume 2 to level up. A generic hip hop soundtrack was replaced by licensed music, and playground color commentary was replaced by legendary hip hop host Bobbito Garcia. Of the latter, Bobbito laid down a vocal track so prolific, you could get several games in and swear he was still freestyling. Like in its predecessor, tricks and combos would charge a meter towards a gamebreaker, a nearly unstoppable shot or dunk that results in bonus points, and subtracts from your opponent. Only Volume 2 featured the second-level gamebreaker, executed through a cutscene that involves the whole team. A decade and a half ago, the game begat battles with friends and family in what was for me the waning days of college. A GQ piece dubbed it the greatest basketball video game of all time, and I can't say I disagree.

Not that I didn't love the third installment as well. If Vol. 2 reminisced on the childhood playground days (and indeed, its main theme was Pete Rock and CL Smooth's They Reminisce Over You), NBA Street V3 was the basketball court as high art. Common's voice waxed poetic on homecourts through the US, Canada, and the UK; Kanye's The College Dropout had dropped the year before, Def Poetry Jam was airing on HBO, and hip hop's conscious phase served as a foil to the crunk era, also in full swing. Here, the dunkers were artists, affixing authentic signatures to above the rim Rembrandts. Bobbito's voice talent returned, and the game was more customizable than ever - you could create whole courts (I've made one for every city, state, or metro I've ever lived in), or send your created ballers to the barber shop or get their kick game right. V3 also added a dunk contest, and gave players the opportunity to control the action during gamebreakers.

The series would advance once more, to NBA Street Homecourt, but by then it had left and platform I had - the same inertia that got me a Gamecube years before stuck me with a Wii in the generation where Homecourt debuted on PS3 and XBox 360. Still, I'm led to believe that the series had already peaked and already had the best it had to offer.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

In The Beginning

UMBC Down and Dirty Dawg Band, Homecoming 2002
UMBC doesn't have a marching band.

It's never needed one, at least not for the traditional reason, as we have no football team. But a simple plan to make us mobile over a decade and a half ago has grown in a big way.

Sixteen years ago, I was entering my senior year at UMBC. I had been given the go-ahead by Athletics to purchase some field drums, allowing the usually stationary pep band to move. Typically bound to a drumset, the then-less than five year old Down and Dirty Dawg Band was increasingly called into action for university events - sports beyond just basketball, pep rallies (usually for the chess team) and other activities. We started with a bass drum, two snares, a set of quads, and a pair of cymbals, if memory serves me correctly. Living on campus that summer, I had the pleasure of unboxing them and putting them into play for the first time.

In our first year, they were put to good use. The entire pep band marched in the inaugural Homecoming parade. An ad-hoc drumline performed at FunkFest, a collaborative program put on by many of UMBC's black student organizations. In the years that followed, the drumline has grown, bother in size and stature. They perform, both independently and with the pep band, at UMBC games and have become an integral part of the gameday experience. Mobile gigs and parade, including Catonsville's 4th of July parade, are now standard.

Timeline of UMBC's NCAA Tournament run,
UMBC Magazine, Spring 2018
As UMBC made history in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, the UMBC contingent in Charlotte got to add to their (admittedly unexpected) extended stay by marching in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Never in my wildest dreams could I have anticipated that a modest move to get us in motion would have led us to capitalizing on the biggest victory in men's NCAA Tournament history in such a cool way.

Proudly we hail to thee.

discussion by