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At halftime, bring back the marching bands

By Susan DeBow / February 4, 2005



MAINEVILLE, OHIO

Last year Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction during the Super Bowl halftime show. This year during the Orange Bowl, Kelly Clarkson had a microphone malfunction and Ashlee "Lipsync" Simpson obviously had a voice malfunction. She wailed and screeched, causing a crowd of over 70,000 to boo and hiss. And, although the camera didn't show it, I have a strong sense that by the time the show was over, the crowd did a collective head shake.

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Much is thrown at us in the name of entertainment. Big-bosomed teenage girls are thrown in our faces, as if skanky behavior is much more important than talent. Ancient rock 'n' rollers also are selected to reincarnate their younger years on the makeshift stages at halftimes of major sporting events.

In an attempt to make these performances appear bigger than life, lasers do whackadoo dances across the sky. Young Britney Spears clones run around the field shaking their pompoms, dressed as if their first stop after the show is a local bar.

And all the while I am saying to myself, where are the marching bands? What I wouldn't give to hear those big tubas and see the precision marching coming down the field with the thunder of a musically adept herd of buffalos. What a thrill it would be to hear a group of talented musicians who have practiced perhaps as much as the football teams who are playing.

Doesn't it make much more sense in a stadium with 70,000 people, with a stage the size of a football field, to fill that field, to create an actual thrill and spectacle that could be seen and heard from the farthest reaches of the stadium? Wouldn't it be grand to be able to band together as a family and watch the entertainment, not having to worry about an errant breast appearing? I would love to be entertained by someone whose appearance and talent (or lack of it) doesn't insult our intelligence. And I have to believe I am not alone.

I used to enjoy watching college football games. Not because I am a football fan, but because I enjoyed the halftime shows. I would get a thrill seeing the band march onto the field like a well-trained army. Disciplined. Into their game. Proud. I wished I could play an instrument as well as they could. As a former baton twirler, I would drop everything to watch a fellow majorette. I was wowed when they would twirl two and three batons, throwing them skyward, I held my breath until they caught them.

Then they were gone. Poof. Replaced by sports talking heads who must be paid by the word, scores of games that I cared nothing about, and commercials for beer that I have seen 19,000 times.

I've felt badly for the band members. It's as if they've been cheated out of the large audience they deserve. It's sad that these musicians, who sit in the rain, march in the snow, and play with fingers frozen to their trumpets - who have a vested interest in their teams - are not given their due. Instead, in the moment of glory, they are replaced by lackluster wannabes, faking their singing, screeching at the top of their lungs, and exposing the worst side of themselves.

It's time for a battle of the bands. Let them play. Let them compete. Let them ring. And let us see them!

Susan DeBow is a freelance writer who has just finished her first novel.

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