Thursday, November 22, 2012

That Other Thanksgiving Tradition: Football!

Now please understand that I really don't care for football all that much. There were those four years in high school and three years in college that I attended every single home game, and many, many away games. This was not because of a love of the game, but because I was in the marching band. I played clarinet, then saxophone, and then clarinet again, and during those years learned some very important life lessons which I'll tell you about later. First some pics...

The Steinert Spartan pressbox
The Hamilton Hornet
We arrived early enough to score seats between the 50- and 45-yard lines and relatively high up so that we could get a good look at the bands. The Thanksgiving Day football game is an important tradition. The rivalry between Hamilton High West (near where I live now) and Hamilton High East (more commonly known as Steinert) goes back into the 1960s when there were only two high schools in the township. A third high school, Nottingham, or North, was refashioned from a middle school in the mid-eighties. (Just to confuse things, this building had originally been a high school, called Steinert.) Nottingham does not get involved with the Hamilton-Steinert Thanksgiving rivalry. I kind of feel bad for them. The rivalry is fun even though Hamilton usually beats Steinert. Steinert's band is usually better (and I'm not just saying that because I went there). I will give Hamilton the prize for best mascot because Steinert doesn't have one and because their Hornet is cute.

Hamilton's band performed a pre-game show based on Gypsy melodies including some themes form the opera Carmen. The band directors from my era worked this out so that both bands would have ample time to perform: the visiting band would do the pre-game and the home band gets the halftime show. Here's the Hamilton band performing in front of some of their Gypsy scenery.

Hamilton's percussionists get to wear Gypsy costumes.

Then there was football. The crowd was enthusiastic when Steinert scored first, and Hamilton then scored more. The ball was kicked and passed, guys ran this way and that, and frequently collided. No, I don't know much about this game, but I understand that there are a certain amount of attempts allowed each team to get the ball past the goal. When this happens, the refs throw both arms in the air and the crowd goes wild. I'm not going to describe the game any further since there are few folks alive, at least in the United States, who understand or appreciate this game less than me. Fred, the person I dragged to this sporting contest with me today, is one of those people. He may understand it more, but he probably appreciates it less. I am glad he went with me today, and I think he did enjoy the bands. OH! There's another band to talk about!

Steinert's band took the field at halftime, and to my delight performed a tribute to big in Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman and the like. There is no kind of music I like more on the football field than some good swing music. Steinert didn't disappoint, and even selected my favorite Benny Goodman, "Sing, Sing, Sing." The ladies of the band front displayed some Jitterbug dancing, and the whole show was over too soon.
Here they come!

SHS in action!
 So I promised you those lessons I learned in marching band that actually translate to real life.

1. See those clarinet players over there? Well, I started on clarinet and switched to tenor saxophone for some of high school. Clarinet was always my best instrument, though, and it was my main instrument as a Music major in college. But, I was never, ever the best clarinet player. That's not me being humble, that's me being truthful. From my very first lesson in fifth grade all the way through high school, I was in the shadow of a gifted classmate. That's just the way it was and I got used to it. It didn't spoil my enthusiasm for band and music in general. I took my mom's advice and just worried about Margie, and I had a great time. (I actually remind myself, "You just worry about Margie!" quite a lot.)

2. I was pretty good at clarinet and tenor saxophone, and I loved playing in all the bands. I never made Regional Band, though, but that other girl did! I auditioned in junior and senior year, and I even enjoyed that experience. Here's  the thing, though: it doesn't matter how well you've prepared your audition piece, it matters who else is at the audition! (Or, who else applied for the job.)

3. See those drum majors over there? I never was drum major. I could have auditioned, but I didn't want to, even when my beloved band director encouraged me. See, I knew back then that I would not enjoy having all those eyes on me in that white outfit as much as I would enjoy marching around the field with my saxophone and my buddies in a green and black band uniform. I did not perceive the drum major position as the culmination of my high school music career. (This translates to the working world, too.)

Ahhh, marching band. I wonder if I would have liked it as much if I had realized it was teaching me life lessons! 

No, we didn't "Swat those Hornets" today. We lost 16-10.

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