by Fred Olin, DCW staff
A couple of years ago I submitted another column with the same title, “DrumCorpsMudgeon,” and, much to my surprise, it was published. Here’s the dictionary definition of the original word, “curmudgeon” from Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition: “A cantankerous fellow.” That’s me, today, on a gray, rainy day when I can’t seem to find anything useful to do. Let’s see, what should I grumble about?
Let’s start with the decision by the powers that be to discontinue awarding caption trophies at DCI Finals. I know all of the mantras: “It’s about being the best you can be.” “It’s all for the kids.” “It’s not about competition.” They go on forever.
Publisher’s note: DCI reversed the decision in January.
There is a bit of truth in some of them, but one thing is evident every August: everyone wants to win. The marching members want to win . . . they get a medal, maybe a ring, maybe a patch, and the satisfaction of knowing that they beat those sorry b******* in the corps next to them on the field at finale. The instructional staff wants to win: it proves that they do it better and it looks good on their resumés when they go looking for the next pot of gold.
And the individual sections, that have been spending so much time together, working and worrying as a team, want to be recognized as the best color guard, drum line, horn line or whatever. There is value in recognition. This is a sport, of sorts, and, despite all of the blather about the insignificance of winning versus “doing your best,” who beats whom matters. I know, when the recaps are published, every one will know, but that isn’t public recognition. There is no cheering for a recap sheet.
I understand that it is difficult to find stadiums for finals in locations where there are adequate facilities for the participating drum corps, sufficient hotel rooms and adequate transportation for fans to get there and all the rest. I also understand that money talks. But, after going to finals in Buffalo, College Park, Denver, Foxboro, Kansas City and Madison over the years, I certainly hope that we never go to Orlando again. The wretched Citrus Bowl (with even worse parking), the awful climate and the general unfriendliness of the city to the activity make me wonder why any of us show up.
I have missed only one finals since 1979 and that was Miami in 1983. (I don’t go to Miami on purpose for anyone.) My wife has already told me that if finals are in Orlando again, she isn’t going to accompany me if I decide to go. Now, I know that each of those places I listed above has one sort of problem or another, but their advantages outweigh their disadvantages.
Take Madison for instance: there is absolutely inadequate parking near the stadium, but there are efficient busses and shuttle services. The seating is benches, but the town loves drum corps.
Getting there by air can be difficult and expensive, but once there, it’s a town where one can have a good time without spending a fortune or driving somewhere else. “Strike Orlando from the list” says I.
Next, let’s do away with solo dancers on the field, particularly the ones who think that delicate finger positions and soulful looks on their faces are helping to express the corps’ emotional response to the drill and music. I’m not one of those dinosaurs who wants to go back to strict military-style drill, rigid symmetrical forms and nothing but Sousa marches, but a soggy football field is not the place for ethereal balletic dancing. When the Cadets did “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” it was wonderful. A slim fellow or cadaverous girl doing pliés is inappropriate.
How about the lack of publicity in the cities where regionals and finals take place? We live in San Antonio, where the DCI Southwestern Regional occurs, and we usually get to finals, wherever it happens to be, a few days early. We read the local papers and watch the local TV stations. It is rare, anywhere but Madison, to see more than a cursory mention in the local print media and even rarer for the local news shows to feature DCI.
It seems to me that a much bigger effort should be made to publicize these shows, to offer to send representatives to the TV stations, bombard them and the papers with releases and even video clips and photos on DVDs to use as news. Even filler on page 31 can be effective.
Now, just so you won’t think I am unable to say something positive, I sort of like the idea of doing away with the finale at smaller shows. I understand the reasoning behind it and agree that letting the other corps get on the road makes sense. Finales are wonderful at the regionals and finals, and, considering the size of the crowds which they attract and the presence of many of the big corps, as well as the price of the tickets, I believe that they should be continued. We want to give the fans value for their money.
Enough for now. I feel better. But by the end of the season, I’m sure I’ll have built up a few more gripes. See you in San Antonio or Foxboro.
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Publisher’s note: This article originally appeared in the April 2005 edition of Drum Corps World, Volume 34, Number 1.