Marching Band

Husker Hot Takes – 9/26/2014

Turn on a fan, because I have more Husker Hot Takes:

The Boyd is Back in Town. 
Pioneering Strength & Conditioning coach Boyd Epley has returned to the Nebraska athletic department as the Assistant Athletic Director for Strength and Conditioning.  The reaction I saw was all very positive.  Of course, Husker fans have a strong affinity for bringing back people that they associate with the pre-Callahan glory years.  Epley certainly fits the bill.

Frankly, I’m not real sure what to make of this.  On one hand, I certainly know and appreciate the many innovations Epley is responsible for, as well as the physical advantages the Huskers had over most of their opponents during his 35 year tenure.  Yet, I also heard rumblings from many outlets about a drop-off towards the end of his first run in 2004.  Additionally, the rash of athletic pubalgia injuries in that time was concerning.  I guess I’m in wait and see mode on what Epley’s day-to-day role will be – and how it will translate to results on the field and court.

The important caveat in this hire is that Epley will oversee all sports – except football.  This has the detractors of current S&C coach Tim Dobson (who apparently is responsible for every ACL injury in Lancaster County since 2010) plotting for Epley’s triumphant return to football – possibly in time for his 70th birthday later this year.

Tim Miles Lands Another Big-Time Recruit
This week, highly touted basketball recruit Ed Morrow, Jr. gave his verbal commitment to play for Nebraska.  Now, I know even less about basketball recruiting than I do about football (read:  absolutely nothing), but the hype metrics (four stars, #62 in the nation per ESPN ) are very impressive.  Obviously, Tim Miles and his staff are doing an excellent job on the recruiting trail, as Nebraska is poised to have it’s best hoops class ever.

But let’s also give credit to an unlikely figure in Nebraska’s hoops revival:  Tom Osborne.  It was Osborne who worked to get the world-class Hendricks practice center built.  It was Osborne who helped broker a deal to get Nebraska into the Pinnacle Bank Arena, and you better believe that Osborne’s support played a role in the arena ballot initiative getting approved by Lincoln’s voters.  And finally, Osborne gets credit for firing the ultimate nice guy, Doc Sadler, and for finding/hiring Tim Miles.

And since Morrow is a basketball recruit, let’s give a big assist to the 91,000 fans who attended the Nebraska – Miami football game last Saturday.  The atmosphere and fan support in Memorial Stadium was impressive.  It is very easy to imagine Miles telling Morrow that it gets just as crazy inside The Vault.  A great game day atmosphere pays dividends for all Nebraska sports.

Ameer Abdullah offers some tough love for Jameis Winston
After Monday’s press conference, Ameer Abdullah was asked about Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who sat out last week’s game for yelling something inappropriate in the middle of Florida State’s campus.  As is Abdullah’s style, he was honest, yet measured in his comments:

“Great reward brings great responsibility, and he needs to mature and understand that every decision I make has dire consequences, not only to myself but my family, team, coaching staff and university. And before I act, I need to make sure I represent myself in the right way.”

On the surface, this is rather odd.  I mean, when is the last time you saw an athlete from one school discuss an athlete from another school / conference – especially in a negative light?  But both Abdullah and Winston are from the Birmingham, AL area and have known each other for many years.

Regardless, I find it fascinating to see Abdullah offering such advice publicly.  Had Ameer said something to the effect of “Yeah, I’ve reached out to him to share my thoughts and opinions, but I’d prefer to keep it between us” nobody would have batted an eye.

Was Ameer out of line with his comments?  I don’t think so.  As we discussed last time, Abdullah is a natural leader who is not afraid to call it like he sees it.  And given Winston’s off-field exploits in the last year, he’d be wise to listen to his old friend Ameer.  Abdullah clearly has his life pointed in the right direction, and the sky is the limit for what he can accomplish.

The Cornhusker Marching Band will #FearAmeer. 
On Wednesday, the Director of the Cornhusker Marching Band tweeted that the band will spell out “Fear Ameer” during their halftime performance of the Illinois game.

*Side note:  I bet that software that created this image is fun to play around with.  I’d have those pixelated performers going in all sorts of crazy formations.  Hell, I’d write this entire section in marching band formations if I was smart enough.

In the past, I have been critical of the band for halftime shows that many fans find uninspiring.  Therefore, I love that the band is doing unique and potentially viral – I guarantee national outlets like ESPN, Deadspin, Bleacher Report, and others will show it.  Embrace the star player, get him (and your band) some hype.  That is the definition of “win/win” in the social media age.  My question is will this a one time deal, or will the Pride of All Nebraska continue to step out a little more?  Maybe they don’t go full Ohio State viral video mode, but I still believe there is room for improvement in their halftime shows*.

*Case in point:  The theme from last week’s Miami game was songs to commemorate the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.  Seriously?  No disrespect to the talented musicians in the band, but I have no desire to watch that.  With the 1994 National Championship team being honored at the Miami game, the theme “Songs of 1994” (featuring Ace of Base, Salt-N-Pepa, Tag Team, and Snoop Dogg) should have been an absolute no-brainer.  It would have been a fun performance for fans to watch, and I’m guessing more enjoyable for the band members to play.

Environmentalist’s Idea Goes Over Like A Lead Balloon
Benjamin Vogt, an English professor at UNL, has started an online petition to have Nebraska halt the traditional practice of releasing red balloons after the first touchdown.  He calls the practice “mass littering” and claims the balloons are not bio-degradable (he buried one in his yard to back his claim) and potentially harmful to animals.  A quote from Vogt in the story Deena Winter of wrote this week:

“The reality is that while the balloons may indeed shatter, the pieces are not impossible for animals to eat…In fact, the fringe of shattered latex balloons mimics the shape of jellyfish, a favorite meal for many ocean animals.”


I realize that I only minored in English, but my dad was a biologist with the Fisheries Division of the Nebraska Game & Parks for many years.  So I know that, yes, there ARE jellyfish in Nebraska (really).  But I also know that the only ocean animals within the borders of the Cornhusker state reside in fish tanks, aquariums, and the Henry Doorly Zoo.  While it is possible that a fragment of a balloon released from Memorial Stadium could find its way into the aquarium at your dentist’s office (Shark bait!  Hoo ha ha!), I’d like to see the wildlife casualty numbers before we scrap this beloved tradition.

Regardless, should the balloons go away, I am prepared.  Back in 2012, when there were concerns over helium supplies, I made a list of alternate methods to celebrate the first touchdown.  I think many of them still apply today.

Cornhusker Marching Bland

Regular readers will know that I love Nebraska football, and pretty much everything related to the game day experience at Memorial Stadium:  the Sea of Red, the Tunnel Walk, the sights, sounds, and smells that even the greatest HDTV cannot replicate.  Having been to football games at a dozen other campuses – including some legendary programs – I will put Nebraska up there with the best of the best in almost every aspect.

But there is one area where the Nebraska game day experience is significantly lacking:  Halftime.

Halftime at Nebraska means a presentation by the Cornhusker Marching Band.  The band may call themselves the “Pride of All Nebraska”, but their halftime shows are not something that fans can take pride in.

Pretty much everything about their halftime shows – the themes (“The music of Earth, Wind, & Fire” seems to pop up every couple of years), the songs, and the formations are bland and uninspiring.  The band seems quite content to live a static life inside of a very conservative box.  I’ve come to accept that the halftime shows are going to be bland, boring, or downright painful to endure.*

*In fairness, I will freely admit that I have not witnessed too many halftime performances in the last five years.  I prefer to spend halftime down in the concourse where I can use the restroom, get a hotdog, and discuss the first half with some friends.  Having watched many a halftime show over the years, I know I’m not missing much.  And since I’ve been skipping halftime, I have never returned to my seat to have somebody tell me “you missed a great halftime show.”

So when I read an article like this from Slate, which describes the ongoing battle for marching band supremacy between Ohio State and Ohio University, I am filled with a mix of shock (marching band performances can be entertaining and fun to watch?  With current songs that I recognize?) and jealousy.  Why can’t we have that?

Nebraska fans got a close up look at Ohio State’s marching prowess during the Huskers’ recent game in Columbus.  The OSU band presented a tribute to video games that features recognizable songs, fun formations, and lots of movement.  The video of that show (as of this post) is closing in on 14 million views.  For comparison, the Cornhusker Marching Band’s most viral halftime show is a 2010 show where they performed songs from “Glee”.  It has 3,610 views.

Let me be clear – I am not referring to the band’s “pregame spectacular” featuring a selection of fight songs, marches, and songs that has remained essentially unchanged for 20+ years.  I love the drumline’s cadence, singing along to “No Place Like Nebraska”, enjoying the “majestic strains of ‘March Grandioso'”, the second verse of “Hail Varsity”, when the band spells out “HUSKERS” on the field – all of it.  It is one of my favorite parts of the game day atmosphere and I hope it never changes

I just wish that Nebraska’s marching band – a collection of talented and passionate musicians, under excellent leadership – could elevate their game.  While I doubt they would every go into a full tribute of LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem, (as awesome as that would be) I truly believe they are capable of a fun, whimsical, and musically entertaining performance – say like Hawaii’s football kicker performance.

But until any sort of buzz around the halftime show appears, I (and thousands of other fans) will be heading for the aisle when the second quarter ends.


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