I learned the value of a band at an athletic event at a young age.
One of the first major sporting events I can remember attending was Wisconsin vs. Iowa at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.
Not to date myself, but my childhood came long before Barry Alvarez became Wisconsin's coach in 1990 and resurrected the program.
My youth transpired in the 1970s and '80s, when the Badgers appeared in just three bowl games.
All I can remember of the Iowa game is Hawkeyes cheerleaders doing a ton of pushups. More than amazed by the feats of strength and endurance on the football field, the fans were amazed by the Iowa cheerleaders duly doing calisthenics to match points after each uncontested touchdown.
Even at that young age, I began to wonder why so many Wisconsin fans were sticking around through the blowout, especially when beer sales were cut short before the end of the game.
Then came the vaunted "Fifth Quarter," when 40,000 to 50,000 fans stay put for an hour to watch the marching band give a rollicking performance. And by rollicking, I mean the concrete upper deck of Camp Randall bucks and sways along with the crowd.
Since then, I have always viewed a band as an indispensable part of high school and college athletics.
In Alaska, bands are a rarity at high school sporting events. PA systems with rap and rock rule. Once, when the Skyview band was at a basketball game, I can remember the band actually getting cut off because a team wanted to take the floor to PA music.
This is sad. Bands give more students a chance to participate in basketball and football games, and give the students a chance to showcase their musical skills to the community.
When the school band plays, as at Kenai last Friday night, the atmosphere is more genuine and exciting. When the drum corps performs, as on Friday, fans get a scintillating sonic wave that is worth the price of admission.
I'll take bands in any form. Even the three-piece rock 'n' roll band that performed at Skyview earlier this year in a volleyball match against Soldotna fired up the crowd more than PA music ever could. Things got so raucous after one game that both teams had to head into the locker room just so they could hear the coaches speak.
Former Homer boys basketball coach Billy Day is the only coach I've talked to on the peninsula that regularly thanked the school band for coming to basketball games. Day's attitude, and school-band performances at big sporting events, should be more commonplace.
When I was covering the Kenai-Skyview basketball games Tuesday, a group of four teens sitting in front of me caught my attention.
Two girls, sitting on a lower bleacher level, were facing a boy and girl above them. The four were talking, laughing, doing anything but focusing on the game. Basically, acting like high school kids.
Then the cell phones came out.
One of the girls plugged a set of headphones into her phone -- it looked like a Blackberry but I can't be sure. She popped one earphone into her ear and the girl beside her did the same.
The two shared the headset for quite some time, but my attention was drawn to the third female in the group as she texted away. With her phone turned sideways, she flipped the top to reveal a keyboard, and her thumbs went to work.
Plenty of kids had cell phones when I was in high school six years ago. Probably a majority by the time I was a senior. But no one was cruising the Web, downloading music and Twitter didn't exist, thankfully.
It's amazing how far technology has come in such a short time.
But then why go to the game?
Yes, because everyone will be there. So why not talk to them?
I never knew social situations would get so antisocial.
Though I'm sure the kids in front of me didn't know the scores of the games the next day, at least I'm being paid to tell those that missed it what happened, even if they were present at the game, physically anyway. They can just pick up the Clarion and check the scores. Or better yet, read them online via cell phone.
Mike Nesper and Jeff Helminiak work in the sports department at the Peninsula Clarion. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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