Spirit of Troy
The sun was quickly setting over the Southern Cal campus and cast long shadows from the light standards that lit up the track and field stadium. Down on the field, the 100 or so members of the USC marching band--the best band in the history of the universe--and boy, did they look tired.
Up high in the stands, band director Dr. Arthur Bartner was prowling around the top rows of bleachers, blowing a whistle and yelling commands and pointing out errors.
"You! There in the white shirt!" he yelled into a microphone--his voice was already quite horse. "Face me! Face me! Don't turn the other way!"
He started the number again, but only a few seconds passed before he was puffing into his whistle, stopping the band again and yelling at more sections to get their moves right. The only ones who seemed to nail it every time that night were the trombones--well, the entire left side of the band, in fact. The right side couldn't catch a break. They turned right when there was a left turn. They faced the stands when they were supposed to face the opposite way. Their music was off.
"You guys have got to memorize the music," Bartner implored. "You can't fake this! Again!"
There was a very real reason that this practice was so intense. Coming up Saturday was the last game of the season--last home game, in fact--and a game with definite post-season implications. If USC wins, it's a Rose Bowl berth. If they don't--well, no one is quite thinking about that yet. Oh, and there's more on the line. The Trojans are looking to avenge last year's loss to cross-town rival UCLA and successfully recapture the bragging rights that have eluded them for an entire year.
"You lose this game, you hear about it everywhere you go," many of the band members told us after practice, referring to last year as only "the unfortunate incident." So this year they are determined to win not only the game, but also prove themselves the superior marching band. And that means marching harder, with more physically demanding steps, great music, high energy and intensity and a good dance routine.
Wait--a dance routine? In a marching band?
Apparently the crowd loves it--and it's something UCLA doesn't have. And it's currently causing some less than fleet-footed trombones and trumpets a few problems. But no panic yet. Game day is still three whole days away, and after practice ended and many members had left, a small group met in the corner of the field to go over the steps.
You can't let the intensity drop--not when so much is on the line.