When Four “i”s Get Dotted

IMG_3114I took a friend to his first-ever game at the Ohio Stadium today.  He got to see the Buckeyes beat up on a hapless Kent State team, 66-0, and was introduced to all of the great traditions that surround Ohio State football.

Although he was impressed by the football team’s score, what really blew him away was The Best Damn Band In The Land.  It was alumni band weekend, and 800 of the former members of TBDBITL returned for a chance to march and play on hallowed ground once more.  When they marched in before the start of the game, the alumni bandies covered the entire field.  And whew!  What a massive, colossal sound when about a thousand brass instruments and drums start to play I Want To Go Back To Ohio State in unison!

The band’s show ended with the quadruple Script Ohio — three of which were performed by alumni band members.  When the 4 “i”s got dotted and the sousaphone players bowed to the crowd, the place went up for grabs.

Here’s a sign of how much Ohio State fans like their band.  At halftime, people actually stay in their seats to watch the band’s show.  It’s only in the few minutes between the end of the band’s show and the start of the second half that there’s a mad stampede for the bathrooms.

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A Heartfelt Message From “Donk”

The fallout continues from the discharge of Jonathan Waters, the Director of the Ohio State University Marching Band.

IMG_1898Jocelyn Smallwood, whose TDBITL nickname was “Donk” and whose nickname was prominently featured in the report that precipitated the dismissal, has written a lengthy letter to the new President of the Ohio State University.  It’s a great letter, and it helps to flesh out the range of emotions and reactions to the report and the dismissal.

Band members, band alumni, band parents and friends, and members of Buckeye Nation feel passionately about The Best Damn Band In The Land.  It’s one of the things that separates TBDBITL from the run of the mill college bands and makes it an elite institution.  It shouldn’t be a surprise to OSU administration that the dismissal has provoked strong reactions.

One Band Member’s View

Every Ohio State graduate I know is proud of the Ohio State University Marching Band — which any true Buckeye knows as The Best Damn Band In The Land.  That’s why the recent report about TBDBITL, and the dismissal of band director Jonathan Waters, is very hard news to take for the members of Buckeye Nation.

One of my friends is father to a daughter, Jocelyn Smallwood, who played Sousaphone in TBDBITL and dotted the i in Script Ohio during the Michigan game — an incredible accomplishment I wrote about in this blog several years ago.  She loves the band and respects Mr. Waters — and she also happens to be mentioned in the report because her band nickname is “Donk.”

Jocelyn offers a different view on the recent report and the dismissal decision.  If you’re interested in seeing what one band member has to say about the issues, you can find Jocelyn’s thoughts here.

Cool Band

The Fifth Floor Band Dad advises that TBDBITL — that is, the Ohio State University Marching Band — will be performing at the Purdue game today, and his daughter will be “dotting the i” on Script Ohio, just as she did last year at the Michigan game.

Watching The Best Damn Band In The Land is always a treat, but this year the band has been breaking new ground with their marching routines, which create cowboys, dinosaurs, and other moving figures that correspond to the musical themes of their halftime shows.  The terrific show where the band depicted Michael Jackson “moon-walking” — complete with white glove — gives you a good sense of how TBDBITL is, once again, absolutely living up to that name.

TBDBOTW

Those of us in Ohio have always known that The Ohio State University Marching Band is the Best Damn Band In The Land.  Now, thanks to the Bus Riding Conservative and this video showing the band skimming across the waters of Lake Erie on their way to a celebration of the War of 1812 at Put-in-Bay, we know that TBDBITL is also TBDBOTW.

Let’s Go, Buckeyes!

Let’s go, Buckeyes!  It’s time to win The Game and kick some Maize and Blue butt!  (And enjoy Jocelyn Smallwood dotting the i in Script Ohio.)

Edited to add:  It’s cold here in Columbus on Game Day, with a brisk wind and a few snowflakes drifting down.  Perfect football weather!

Dotting The i At “The Game”

If you are a Sousaphone player in Ohio, you have one overriding dream:  to one day dot the i in Script Ohio.

Script Ohio is one of the most revered traditions of the Ohio State University Marching Band — commonly known, without exaggeration, as The Best Damn Band In The Land.  In fact, Script Ohio may be the most famous band maneuver in the world.  Starting from the form of a square, the band plays “Le Regiment” and follows the drum major in order to spell out “Ohio” in cursive letters, as if the word were being written by a giant hand.  The climax comes when the drum major leads one of the senior Sousaphone player out to dot the i.  The Sousaphone player high steps out, removes his or her hat, and does a deep bow to make the dot as Ohio Stadium roars its approval.

As great as it is to dot the i, the real cherry is to dot the i in Script Ohio during The Game — Ohio State’s annual grudge match against the Michigan Wolverines. I’ve actually met the Sousaphonist who will have that tremendous honor, and the nationally televised thrill of a lifetime, during Saturday’s Big Game.  Her name is Jocelyn Smallwood, and her parents are Carl and Connie Smallwood.  TBDBITL is a strict meritocracy, and Jocelyn has worked hard to earn the acclamation that will come with dotting the i at the Michigan game.  Among the more than 100,000 screaming fans will be many members of the extended Smallwood clan, cheering Jocelyn on as she prances out to Sousaphone immortality.

Congratulations, Jocelyn!  (And Beat Michigan!)

Winning, And Saluting Our Soldiers

Yesterday the Ohio State Buckeyes manhandled the Fighting Illini, 52-22, in a game that really wasn’t that close.  Ohio State ran the ball at will, completed long pass plays, and throttled the Illinois offense as they moved to 10-0.

It also was a good example of why attending a game is a different experience than watching it on TV.  Before the game, at halftime, and during all those timeouts when TV viewers are forced to watch commercials about cars and beer, Ohio Stadium was saluting our military.

When timeouts came, recorded greetings from Buckeyes serving abroad were played on the big scoreboard, and students in the ROTC were introduced down on the field.  Before the game military members unfurled a huge flag as The Best Damn Band In The Land played the National Anthem, and then two fighter jets screamed by overhead.  And at halftime, TBDBITL played a series of songs from military movies while the band members marched into patriotic shapes and Old Glory was displayed again, at the center of a star.

TBDBITL is always wonderful, and yesterday’s show and general salute to the members of our military, presented just a few days before Veterans’ Day, was well timed for another reason — at the end of a long and sometimes bitter presidential campaign, it was nice to see something that everyone in attendance, regardless of party affiliation, could cheer wholeheartedly.

Buckeye Swag Is Sweet

Ohio State football is full of tradition, but that doesn’t mean new traditions can’t be added.  After Saturday’s thrilling overtime win against Purdue I had my first exposure to Buckeye Swag, a very cool song The Best Damn Band In The Land plays while the players dance, people sing “Ooooooooooo . . . HI . . . ooooooooO” and the fans cheer a home field victory.  It looked like the players had a riot dancing to the song and celebrating their win, and the Band did, too.  This YouTube video captures a portion of the fun.

I’ll get behind any Ohio State football tradition that involves TBDBITL, a win, and college students getting to act like exuberant college students.

Drum Major Dreams

My friend and partner Carl Smallwood and his wife, Connie, are just about the biggest band boosters you can imagine.  It’s no surprise, really.  Their daughter, Jocelyn, is a Sousaphone player in the Ohio State University Marching Band — The Best Damn Band In The Land — and their son, Nate, is the talented drum major for the Upper Arlington High School Marching Band.

Carl’s dream, I think, would be for Nate to become the drum major for TBDBITL next year and lead Jocelyn out to dot the “i” when the Band performs Script Ohio in the home game against Michigan next year.  How cool would that be?

It’s not an impossible dream, either.  Jocelyn is already on target to be the i-dotter for next year’s Michigan game and — as this YouTube video of Nate’s performance at a recent OSU Marching Band Skull Session indicates — he’s got the ability to make Carl’s dream a reality.

A Double Script Ohio In The Twin Cities

Friend and faithful blog reader Mike N. went to the Windy Cities last night and sent along this classic picture of The Best Damn Band In The Land performing a double Script Ohio at last night’s game.  It’s always great to see TBDBITL do Script Ohio in Ohio Stadium; it’s even more of a treat to see the Band perform their signature piece on the road.

It would be interesting to see what the Buckeyes’ record is for Big Ten games when the Band is in attendance.  I imagine it is pretty good — the Band always seem to give the football team a lift.

A Good Start

The cheerleaders and team rush the field to start the 2010 season

Richard, Cath, Brittany and I went to the Ohio State-Marshall game tonight.  We sat in Section 28A, Row 32 of a packed Horseshoe on a hot and muggy evening and watched as the Buckeyes rolled, 45-7.  It was a convincing win, and it was one of those games where there were many more positives than negatives — but still some kinks to work on.

Terrelle Pryor threw the ball a lot and threw the ball well.  Although there were a few plays where he seemed locked in on one receiver, for the most part he appeared to see the field and went through his check-offs when primary receivers were covered.  His protection was excellent, he spread the ball around to lots of different receivers — including making liberal use of the tight end and his running backs — and threw some balls with great touch.  The long touchdown pass to Dane Sanzenbacher was one of Pryor’s fine throws, but there were many others where he floated the ball over the hands of defenders.

TBDBITL welcomes Marshall to the 'Shoe

The running game does not seem to be as ready for prime time as the passing game.  Brandon Saine broke some nice long runs, as did some of the other backs, but the Buckeyes weren’t very consistent.  At the same time, the run play-calling seemed pretty vanilla and was largely between the tackles.  Ohio State may have been saving some of the flourishes for the Miami game, which is up next.

On defense, the Buckeyes looked good, but not dominating.  The front seven controlled the line of scrimmage early on, and when Marshall fell well behind they pretty much resorted to a spread passing offense to try to get back in the game.  When that happened the defensive line got some pressure, but frankly not quite as much as I expected.  Brian Rolle’s interception return for a touchdown was an excellent athletic play, and the Buckeyes made some big hits to force fumbles and drops.  I got the sense that the Ohio State coaches also were holding back a bit on defense.  Other than the Tyler Moeller sprint blitz, the Buckeyes didn’t appear to use any of their blitz packages.

Ohio State’s special teams, which typically are a strength, were the weakest link for the team in this game.  Marshall had one long kickoff return, there was a blocked field goal and a partially blocked extra point, and the Thundering Herd returned a blocked field goal for their only score.  Ohio State’s punting was average, and most of the kickoffs did not reach the end zone.  The special teams coaches will have things to work on between now and next Saturday when the Hurricanes come to town.

Richard, Cath, and Brit tailgating

For all of that, it was fun to tailgate again (thanks, KW!), fun to see old friends, fun to don the Buckeye regalia once more, and fun to sit in the Horseshoe, eat a hot dog, and watch the Buckeyes play.  The Best Damn Band In The Land performed up to their customary level, and the alumni band made its appearance and assisted in the now traditional performance of a quadruple Script Ohio.

The college football season is here, and it is off to a good start!

A Nailbiter At The ‘Shoe

Just back from the Navy game, which was more exciting than we would have wished. The Buckeyes came away with a victory, which means something when a game comes down to the wire, and the team will have a lot of things to work on before USC comes to town. To the extent any Ohio State players were overconfident before this game, they’ve had that knocked out of them — which could be a good thing, too.

UJ, Aunt Bebe and I got to the Stadium early and went to the skull session, which was a lot of fun as always. St. John Arena was packed to the rafters; I think every seat was filled at the start of the session. We heard from The Best Damn Band In The Land, the Alumni Band, and the Navy Fife & Bugle Corps. John Glenn, who dotted the “i” in Script Ohio at halftime, spoke a few words, Navy personnel were everywhere in their bright white uniforms, and patriotism was in the air. We were treated to Stars & Stripes Forever, Anchors Aweigh, and the Navy Hymn, as well as classic TBDBITL fare like Le Regiment and the Buckeye Battle Cry. Properly fortified for the game, we walked over to the Stadium, walked up the steps to our seats in the closed end, and settled in for some college football.

Ohio State looked good at times and very young and inexperienced — which they are — at other times, including on some crucial plays in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes went out to a 20-7 halftime lead then started to make some mistakes, with penalties and dropped passes. In the meantime, Navy’s triple option/cut blocking offense gave the Ohio State defense fits. Still, the Men of the Scarlet and Gray had the game under control, ahead 29-14 with a 4th and 2 on about the Navy 20 yard line. They went for it (in a very unTressel-like move), didn’t make it, and Navy promptly threw an 85-yard touchdown pass. An interception and another Navy up-the-gut touchdown later, and Ohio State was up two with Navy trying for a two-point conversion. Fortunately for the Buckeyes Navy tried to convert through the air rather than on the ground, and one of the OSU linebackers picked off the pass and ran it back for two points. An unsuccessful on-side kick later, Ohio State had the ball and was able to run out the clock, and Buckeye Nation heaved a collective sigh of relief.

This was the first game, and one against a gutty team that runs an unusual offense with great success. Still, it seems obvious that Ohio State’s offensive line needs a lot of work. It was largely unable to move Navy off the line of scrimmage and didn’t provide much pass protection for Terrelle Pryor. The defensive line, which was supposed to be a real strength, looked pretty ordinary and had a tough time making plays against Navy’s line. Navy seemed to have an easy time making yardage right up the middle, including two touchdowns in which their quarterback raced untouched into the end zone after faking a handoff to the fullback. I firmly believe that football games are won on the line of scrimmage, and if Ohio State hopes to compete with teams like USC it will need to figure out how to improve its line play pronto.

Still, the season is young, and the Buckeyes can put one in the win column. I also give great credit to Navy’s players and coaching staff. They run a tough offense to defense and do it very well, and their players don’t quit. Best of luck to the Midshipmen in the rest of the season!

Ramp Entrance

We’re less than two months away from the kickoff of another Ohio State football season.  In this summer of discontent for the Cleveland sports fan, OSU football is about all we have to anticipate.

So, I invite you to place yourself in some good seats at the Horseshoe on a crisp and clear fall afternoon.  You’ve just come from a fine tailgating experience near French Field House, and the Stadium is full of scarlet and gray-clad fans.  There is a high buzz of excitement, and then all the hubbub dies down as members of the drum section of the Ohio State University Marching Band — The Best Damn Band In The Land — begin to silently, but oh so precisely, march quickly down the ramp and out onto the fabled field.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Ramp Entrance and Buckeye Battle Cry!  Let’s get ready for some football!