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In Which Matt The Badass' Badassery Cannot Be Contained In Just One Post

Many times a Drum Major is an Assistant Drum Major before stepping into the #1 spot.  That is the route Josh Halter took.  But it's not a guarantee and it's not a requirement of the position.  The way these tryouts work, there is no such thing as Prince Regents or held-over job openings.  As long as you've served a year on D-Row, you're eligible to take a seat in the gunner's chair, and seniority means exactly as much as that papery plastic crap left behind on a Teflon pot after the spaghetti is overboiled.  The field is utterly levelled.  The contestants are scattered over the audition field like strutting pick-up sticks; one is left standing, and the first body on top of the pile of the vanquished is deemed the Assistant. Everybody else gets to have a nice evening snack of wound-licking with a backwash of bile.

This is what our Jason faces in May:  All those D-Row students he has been training?  He has been training them to snatch away the position he's set his sights on since he was in middle school.  If he's done his job correctly, they will force him into a fight for it, pistols and swords.  It's horrible and raw-nerved and one of the most gloriously Paul Anka-approved tests of integrity I have ever seen.  But then, you have seen the results for yourself.

I told you:  We are a long, loooooooooong way from Miss Loretta's SparkleTwirl Dance Rainbow Movement Academy with this shiznit.

Stew The Kind of Big Deal leapt into the position right over the sitting Drum Major and his assistant-- as a freshman, the first to do so.  Jason The Young was also a frosh at the time he grabbed the World's Most Uncomfortable Hat.  But he did so in somewhat less dramatic circumstances:  Josh The Supposedly Subdued had maxed out his two-year term with the rising-in-the-ranks Matt as his assistant, and it.  Was.  On.  But in each phase of a tryout in which the contestants are almost never perfect, Jason... that night... was.  No drops.  Matt The Badass, a rising senior, was named the assistant to a 19-year-old who had swung himself up from the bottom of the D-Row ladder to the highest platform in all of college bandom.

I have seen footage of the annoucement.  I watched it in the earliest days of the project--Day 3 or so, just before I began horribly mistaking Sun Dried Tomato Wheat Thins as something edible -- and all the contestants are standing in a line, and Matt The Badass... he knows.  It is Jason's Great Big Moment with rasberry sauce and I can't tear my eyes from the man he beat.  Because Matt stands there, and hears his name called as the assistant, and then he smiles and accepts congratulations from the band director, and then has to go back in the line and stand there and smile some more and applaud the member of D-Row who had just earned a job which, in just about any other structure in just about any other band, might well have been his. 

Then he has to join in singing Ohio State's alma mater.

It was a world-class Festival of Awkward and this, kids, this is where Matt The Badass comes by his badassery.  There is marching on after a cut on the side of the head, and then there is marching on after a cut in the chest from which the still-beating heart has been yanked out.  But what he did in the next ten minutes crystallized his own character, Jason's successful year in staving off interbrass warfare, and the stability of the band itself:  He walked over to his new boss. Shook his hand.  Invited him to dinner with his family.  And later that night they sat and talked about what The Ohio State University Marching Band should be over the next twelve months.

If Jason The Young had been born just one year younger... if Josh had been a single year older... well.  Other, lesser mortals would likely marinate within a football season's worth of resentment and unspoken snark.  That is why they don't get 1500 words and counting in this space; Matt is a badass, but he is outwardly so happy to be who he is and where he is that you'd never guess that he was ever disappointed by a single thing in life, ever

When we met, Jason stood me before D-Row, that they might better know this person so as to more efficently assist the CIA in future months, and before I even had a chance to hide behind my host, Matt leapt up from his seat on the floor, hand extended.  "I'm Matt," he said.

"I know," I said.  "The Badass."  And even though I felt like I knew him a little after the videos and the newspaper articles and the twirling and the bleeding, I didn't.  Not really.

Stay tuned for Part II.  I gots papers to grade and I don't want to grade them but seriously, writing about Matt The Badass is like mainlining the Crack of Awesome.  Gotta pace. 

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