And the Band Plays On... Unfortunately I had an interesting meeting with a "band" member in the library the other day. This meeting dispelled two myths. One, I do know where the library is. Two, there are members of the band who look normal. And as the football season mercifully winds down, and the "band" mercifully plays on, there are three questions I feel compelled to ask: One, does 'pass on first down' ring a bell? Two, is there is a play in the offense that at least has the capability of going for more than 10 yards? And three, why doesn't the administration do something about the "band?" I would like to address this question in further detail. The self-proclaimed cleverest "band" in the world, the Columbia University Marching "Band," is one big contradiction. But my disdain for the "band" is not a matter of semantics. We all know they aren't a marching "band," and it is painfully obvious that they aren't clever. It's a lot more than that. I have been to all but two of the football games this season, and each and every time the "band" steps on the field, I cringe. I've said it once, I'll say it as many times as is necessary: the "band" is an embarrassment to every single person affiliated with this University. When the "band" plays each Saturday, at home or on the road, not only do they represent themselves, but they represent the student body. Would these "band" members go to a job interview dressed as they are for football games? Would they have sent pictures in to the Admissions Committee as they look on the football field? No, probably not. All I ask for is a little cohesion. Every band in America has a uniform. Is that too much to ask for? Simply put, the "band" is a permanent Halloween party. There's the guy who dresses like a cow for every performance. No, that isn't funny. It's a football game, not a Ben and Jerry's commercial. And at Penn, one male member wore a dress. And we can't leave out the guy who dressed up like a robot. Is this kind of attire necessary to play music? Must every member be as poorly dressed and as slovenly as possible? Let me try to put myself inside the head of a "band" member and see if I can understand how they come up with their skit every week. So we want to be as funny as we can. First, let's round up all the derelicts on Columbia's campus. Then, instead of practicing, we'll just run around in circles and think of witty things to say at half- time. Well, let's forget being witty. We'll just run around. Then, we'll not only embarrass ourselves, but we'll embarrass anyone who ever had a connection to Columbia. Oh, and let's call ourselves clever, and maybe someone will believe it. Then, we'll make lots of inside jokes, and call ourselves a marching band. And then, since we are forced to play music, we'll play the three songs we know. Let's turn back to the administration. I find it very hard to believe that the University is actively involved in changing the image of the "band." What is the threshold for what is considered inappropriate? The "Band" routinely mocks the administration, yet it seems as if the University pretends not to hear. The University doesn't owe the "band" anything. The "band" has no inherent right [sic] make fools of themselves and the student body at half-time. Since the "band" is supposed to play music, let me indulge you in my opinion of their musical skills. It will only take three words. They have none. My tone-deaf dog can play the national anthem better than the "band" did last week. And if I'm a football player, I'm really pissed off at what happened last week at the Princeton game. As the captains walked on the field for the coin toss, the "band" was still involved in its' per-game [sic] debacle. I'm sure that's exactly what Chris Tillotson, Paul Roland, Bert Bondi, and game -captain Jim Armstrong needed to get them pumped up. It is high time the University ended this "rich tradition" of the marching "band." No one cares how long they've been doing what they do, or if this is common practice for an Ivy League football game. The "band" is a complete and utter embarrassment. As long as they are allowed to perform at athletic events, you will find a permanent cloud hanging over Columbia athletics and the University.
Responses on November 9:
To the Editor: Dan Gati's unflattering review of the Columbia band [DG's Place, Nov. 5] and his clarion call for administration intervention signifies that Columbia sports is succeeding in becoming respectable. People are now watching. Too bad the band is not upholding its tradition. Allow me to reminisce. Back in the 70's, the band was populated by musicians, relying on the music and simple sight gags for humor. Costumes? Anathema. One half-time show consisted of band members assembling in the middle of the field in two circles, playing their repertoire, and calling it a tribute to women. Sophomoric? No doubt. Clever? Well, perhaps . . . but really, who cares? The band (and teams) deserved a thumbs-up for performing on a shoestring, especially compared to the bountiful music (and athletic) budgets of their opponents that would make Midas envious. Anyway, who would the band offend? Columbia students? It didn't matter, the teams uniformly stank and the band usually outnumbered the CU fans in attendance. (I am quick to point out that when the basketball team was competitive in the late 70's, the band was a visible presence in the packed Levien Gym and no one ever complained.) Opposing fans? Please, we had no respect for other Ivy or local schools. Read some of the old Spectator articles that routinely trashed them. At least the band has never been as tasteless as the "mascot" of the Atlanta Braves of the 70's & 80's, named Chief Noc-A-Homa (I kid you not), leading cheers from his teepee along the foul line. Maybe the band, like Saturday Night Live, is past its prime, the price paid for athletic respectability, but I won't give up on them yet. If it's machine-like precision and proper behavior you want, journey up the Hudson to West Point; they'll oblige you. Anthony M. Vassallo CC '80 Nov. 6, 1998 To the Editor: I would just like to tell Dan Gati that his article is wrong about what the student body feels [DG's Place, Nov. 5] and how we want to be represented. I was more embarassed by the performance (or lack thereof) of the football team against Princeton this weekend than I was by the band. And I preferred what our band wore over the hideous orange and black jackets of the Princeton band. Would anyone wear that jacket to an interview? The summer before I came to Columbia I saw the band on David Letterman. They marched through the studio, playing their hearts out, the cow suit was even there and you know what? I was so excited to go to a school that encouraged such creativity, individualism, and flambouancy; I didn't feel embarassed at all. Rachel Wiseman CC '99 Nov. 6, 1998