I looked in horror at some pictures from the latest USC home game. As an alumnus of TGMBITHOTU (aka the USC Trojan Marching Band) we’ve long cried about some of our greatest traditions that have been fouled over the years by the march of political correctness. The “Old Band” as it is often called was never politically correct and made a point not to be so. Think of it as a precursor to Reddit or Something Awful.
This photo was the last straw; the one that’s made me stop cursing under my breath in silence. It was the appearance of Band Parent t-shirts.
A little over 24 years ago I stepped off a shuttle from LAX with all the earthly possessions I could carry at the doorsteps to the USC campus on Figueroa. I had never been there before.
Despite hating standardized tests I did alright and got the customary shower of college pamphlets. When I was young I had designs on the Air Force Academy but that changed to the University of Illinois before too long. That was before I got an amazing brochure from USC. The Trojan Marching Band made a marked appearance and I spent hours with that brochure looking at this fascinating place in Los Angeles, a place I had never been. “Trojans” I said to myself, “that sounds really cool.”
At a godforsaken hell hole of a boarding school in Ojai, California, I earned my right to be a part of the Trojan Marching Band at Band Camp 1990. A lot of freshman washed out, some on the first day.
The weather was blistering, the practice sessions were intense but none of that matched the intensity from the veteran band members. At our first section rehearsal, when we were divvying up parts, I made a reference about “nobody wants to play that high shit” and I was instantly lauded by the 3rd Trombones and scorned by the 1st Trombones at the same time (2nd Bones don’t really care about anything). I became a 3rd Bone on the spot.
While the pressure was intense it only made me want it more. It made me want to perform better. It made me not want to disappoint my squad leader who was also our section leader. I worked hard memorizing music for the first time in my life and I went to EVERYTHING. Volleyball, basketball, baseball, men’s, women’s, campus gigs and 10 pieces it didn’t matter; I made the time and I was there. When a bunch of cowering freshmen filled Bovard Auditorium for freshman orientation I was there, but I was on the stage playing for them. My constant attendance at events earned me a spot on the 1991 NCAA Basketball Tournament Band (and there was plenty of complaining about a freshman going).
Fine, Flounder, you did all this in the TMB, what does that have to do with band parents? I’ll tell you – it has EVERYTHING to do with it.
Being a Trojan is about doing it on your own, when it counts and when it matters. Being a member of the TMB? THAT is a Trojan on steroids, it’s pure, unadulterated Trojan zealotry and a zealotry that is legendary and has earned the band quite a reputation. We love it. We love when people hate us. When they hate us we only love it more because it shows we’re doing our job supporting the team. I remember an embattled Larry Smith huddling up the TMB during a terrible 1991 season, “You guys are the only ones who support us,” he said. “We need you.”
The lessons I learned as a member of the TMB are countless and I won’t recount them here. We did a lot of crazy stuff, some stuff I’m not sure the statute of limitations has expired on yet. But we did it TOGETHER, we did it for each other and there sure as hell wasn’t a parent around to hover over us or protect anyone. This is where I learned what being a Trojan was and they’re memories I carry in my heart to this day. It makes me a determined, persistent pain in the butt to a lot of people, I got a heavy dose of that in the TMB.
So, to the parents of current members of the TMB I can only ask you one thing – disappear! Let your child have the same experience that I had and learn on his/her own what being a Trojan and a member of the TMB is all about.
Band parent chotchkies are nothing new – IN HIGH SCHOOL. They don’t belong at a university and definitely not at the University of Southern California. I understand and respect your desire to support your child but please, LET THEM GO. I was lucky, my separation from my parents was forced by 2,000 miles.
Show up on Parents Weekend and catch a rehearsal or two, take them out for lunch or dinner (they’re definitely hungry), otherwise, leave them alone! Stop ruining it for them!
He/she will be fine (we take care of each other) and you will get a far finer son or daughter out of the process than you had going in, full of the memories of a lifetime – memories they can’t relish if they aren’t their own and earned on their own.