• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
  • Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Random House Trade Paperbacks
This area does not yet contain any content.
« Will The Small Child Nephew Tests Out of Self-Esteem Acutalization Training | Main | Possible Heart Cookie Fail »

"I, For One, Welcome Blonde Champagne's New Twirling Overlord."

Thoroughbred racing, as I may have mentioned, is a seductive balance of opposites-- reduction-wasted jockeys controlling half-ton horses; multimillion-dollar broodmares bursting to the finish line to make winners of people in chaw-stained tee shirts; delicately bred steeds carrying gorgeously vibrant riders as an ambulance trundles behind.  The twain shouldn't meet, but it does, and it is cold fusion on a stretch of hard-packed dirt.

I'm finding similar parallels as I continue to work on what one of The Readers has phlegmatically christened "Notre Dame vs. Ohio State: The Reckoning."  As an '80's baby, I grew up as baton twirling lessons were enjoying one final, firey spin as a rite of feminine passage on Cincinnati's West Side.  I didn't enjoy this particular Get In Shape, Girl! condition of suburban life myself, as my parents, who had met me, realized that the combination of their youngest daughter, the requirement of some semblance of coordination, and the hurling of a pointy steel object might well speed the birth of the Antichrist. They put me on the back of a quarter horse and shipped me into the deepest parts of Pike National Forest instead. 

So I passed thirty happy years assuming that unless you were the extremely talented Keith Lockhart conducting the Boston Pops, if you were pitching a baton up in the air, you were likely to have a uterus.  I know better now, of course; the OSU Band is mostly male, there have only been two female head Drum Majors, and ain't nothin exclusively gynecological about covering an entire football field, both endzones included, in approximately the same amount of time it takes me to have a panic attack upon hearing Taylor Swift's Autotuned demon voice.

It's a stunner, seeing Masculine Feats of Strength applied to a physical activity I'd previously associated with-- okay-- this.  It is one of many living contradictions which are quite honestly sending me into the infomercial hours of the night, forcing many laps around my little writing desk as the paeans to the Slap Chop blaring from the TV mingle with the tinny strains of "Fight the Team Across the Field" from my laptop speakers. 

It is a band beloved for representing an enormous school, and yet I can already sense a wary resistance from some members in allowing me to penetrate one emotional millimeter past the heavy uniforms.

The most powerful evidence that these are some of the best collegiate musicians in the nation come in moments of silence and rest; once I had to pause a stadium entrance video to take a call, and when I returned to it, I saw that the footage had stopped with row upon row of members mid-step-- heels in the air, toes pointed, and not one single electron where it should not be. 

And Script Ohio looks like something any Catholic grade school class well-accustomed to forming lines can knock out in about a weekend, but this is no simple matter of trotting mindlessly at the back edges of the trumpet before you-- and in this sense, the band is its own worst PR enemy, making it look too easy and too effortlessly graceful for too long.  Like the boyfriend who arrives precisely each Saturday at 6 PM to provide escort to a moderately priced chain restaurant, it is easily taken for granted.

And why can't I, who shies and kicks away when faced with anything resembling a 90 degree angle in this world, leave any of this alone. ("I, for one, welcome Blonde Champagne's new twirling overlord," one The Reader informed me.)

On that note, Im'a turn down the lights and deliver my one-slide PowerPoint:

This is not our new friend Jason The Drum Major, by the way.  This is Matt The Drum Major, who has served as the assistant drum major for the past two years.  As we see here in Figure 1-A, Matt The Drum Major will kick.  Your.  Ass.

However, I have no freaking idea what brought him to this point.  For the eight minutes or so I was in journalism, I worked on "cutlines," the text beneath photo which tells the viewer what he happens to be looking at.  Cutlines are not supposed to leave you hangin'.  Cutlines are traditionally expected to communicate a bit more context than the one which appeared beneath this photo, which was:

"The drum major bleeds from the head after an incident during the performance."

I would have lightly tinkered with an adjective here or there:

"Matt The Drum Major suffers some sort of trauma to the head which has since been classified as a part of Pentagon weapons research intelligence, and proceeds to bleed like a frickin' center defender on the Red Wings, and yet the mofo keeps on marchin' because apparently that is how drum majors ROLL."

Because... "incident?"  DUDE IS BLEEDING--like streams of blood, from his head.  He did not mash a hangnail during a session of extreme napping.  What happened?  Was the field overrun by rabid wombats?  Was there a Drum Major Fight Club-based rumble on the mean streets of Westerville, the kind of brutal marching band violence which claims so many of our young men in this evil era?  Was there some sort of baton-related tragedy so horrific that it must go unnamed?  Did the USC Trojan try to shit-stir, and Matt had to smack a bitch? 

In any case, next week I will observe Jason and Matt as they train high school drum major hopefuls on campus.  Originally, I was professionally interested and vaguely eager to see how Padawan drum majors are made, and Jason The Drum Major and Matt The Drum Major, they both seem like very nice people.  So I was initially under the impression that these sessions would involve good clean Presidential Fitness Test-style gymnasium fun, in-depth seminars on how to ensure that the sousaphones don't try to systematically destroy the trumpets, the occasional group hug-- but this business of bleeding from the head changes everything.  I now officially cannot wait to see this.  I anticipate the equivalent of training camp for Full Metal Jacket drill instructors tag-team run by Chuck Norris and this guy, only slightly less gentle and empathetic.

Given Matt's astronomic March of Gore across the field of battle, which shall surely be told of for generations yet unborn, I truly hope this resembles Special Ops boot camp, replete with screaming, crying, beatings, sleep deprivation, Metallica music, wailing, and any possible manner of anguish, all unfurling before me as I sip my Frappuccino and take notes the likes of "Does this panorama of human misery make my butt look big?"

At minimum, this has got to involve the swinging of sacks of nails upside peoples' heads: "WHY ARE YOU CRYING?  AND STAGGERING?!  YOU HAVE ANOTHER CEREBRAL HEMISPHERE!  MARCH IT OFF!"

Or maybe they mostly march back and forth, backbend here and there, and twirl.  Tha'd be cool too.

EmailEmail Article to Friend