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An Open Letter to Jim Rome

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Don't mess with the Band.

Boston College football players raise their helmets in celebration with the BC Marching Band, probably while thinking about how not cool the Band is.
Boston College football players raise their helmets in celebration with the BC Marching Band, probably while thinking about how not cool the Band is.
BC Athletics

Dear Jim Rome,

You don’t know me. Honestly, up until a few days ago, I didn’t know who you were, either. But then you took a crack at college marching bands, and boy, did that get my dander up:

To my dismay, I learned that your January 1 tweet was not an isolated incident. In July 2014, in response to the OSU Marching Band scandal, you wrote that the OSU band should be given a lifetime ban for their intimidation and hazing practices. A strong reaction, sure, but not necessarily out of turn considering what went down there. However, you also felt the need to claim—apropos of basically nothing—that "NOBODY watches the marching band except for a few of the parents and a couple alums who used to play in it."

You’re wrong, and I can prove it.

Go to any Boston College football game, and watch the Superfan section. During one of our defensive shorts, Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi, you can see Superfans crashing imaginary cymbals along with the percussion section. Tell me again how the fans don’t watch the Band? Consider also the "Eagles first down" cheer and hand motion of years past. What you might not know is that the Boston College Marching Band started that cheer back in 2007. In recent years, after the Superfans began to add profanity to the cheer, the Band stopped doing "Eagles first down"…and now no one does that cheer anymore. How would fans know to do it (and not to do it!) if they weren’t watching the Band?

It’s an indisputable fact: college marching bands create the atmosphere at football games. It’s not the cheerleaders, it’s not the team, and it’s certainly not the fans themselves, who—enthusiastic though they may be—would be lost without direction from the marching band.

You called us dorks. That’s fine; many of us would self-identify as such anyway. But your implication was clearly that we "dorks," who just "run around with our instruments," are somehow lesser than the athletes we support. Let me ask you: have you ever carried a 40-pound silver-plated sousaphone on your shoulders while you marched several miles in a wool uniform and unsupportive shoes and (oh yeah) were also playing said sousaphone? I have. Marching band is an athletic activity just like football, or basketball, or softball, or any other sport you could think of. I’ve played softball, I was on my high school swim team, and I danced for the large majority of my life, and none of these sports were as taxing—mentally and physically—as marching band. Many other athletes I know—runners, swimmers, dancers, football players, baseball players—who were also in the BCMB would undoubtedly agree.

During band camp (insert lame "this one time, at band camp" joke here), members of the BCMB rehearse for an average of 9 hours every day. We often rehearse on the field during the hottest part of the afternoon; it’s not unheard of for temperatures to reach over 110 degrees on Alumni Field. Throughout the season, the Band rehearses (and performs) in extreme heat, frigid cold, sleet, snow, and pouring-down rain—including during Hurricane Irene. We drill, over and over again, until we perfect our pregame show, our parade formation, our field show, and our stands music. We do it for the team, for our school, and for the fans, even ones like you, who are determined to erase our hard work by claiming that no one watches us. (Which is just patently untrue.)

You asked if we thought we were cool. Well, I don’t know. Is it cool to be invited to play at the Heisman Ceremony in New York City to honor Doug Flutie? Is it cool to play a halftime show for the Montreal Alouettes three years in a row? How about marching in Barack Obama’s 2013 inaugural parade, playing the National Anthem at Fenway Park, or performing on stage with the Dropkick Murphys three times—including on St. Patrick’s Day at the House of Blues? I mean, I don’t know. You tell me.

But honestly, what’s really troubling me, Mr. Rome, is your "apology":

If you don’t support bullying, and it wasn’t your intent, I frankly have to wonder: what was your intent? Personally, I agree with Brian Wis of Teaching and Music that your intent was simply this:

"…it was brute alpha dog behavior aimed squarely at anyone who isn't an athlete, in this case the band kids; past, present, and future. Athletes are cool, musicians are dorks. Cute show, but don't forget the pecking order. Don't forget that what you dorks do pales in comparison to what the cool people do. Why are you even here? And all that stuff that was said (or done) to you back in the day? It lives on, and while the words may be hurtful to you they are hysterical to me and my buddies. That's the message he intended to send."

Well, Mr. Rome, that’s just fine. Because you know what? In marching band, we accept people for who they are. We bond over our love for the craft and our love for our teams and our love for our school. We bond over sunburns and sore feet and sorer shoulders. We bond over the amazing experiences that being part of a marching band has afforded us. If you want to bond with your meathead buddies over making fun of the band, go ahead; we can’t stop you. But I’d like for you to imagine—just for a moment—that your sons are members of the marching bands you are so eager to belittle, and ask yourself if this is the kind of treatment to which you would subject your own children.

Because, Mr. Rome, I can go on all day about how awesome marching band is, and how positively it impacted my college years, and I’m sure it will all fall on deaf ears. But you should always remember that those "dorks" you so openly disparage are kids, kids like your sons, who just want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Your words have consequences. I hope you remember that the next time you think it’s a good idea to tweet about what "dorks" we are.