Sunday, September 16, 2007

Listening To the 2005 Penn State Game

Let's turn back the clock to 2005 for a lesson on how to lose embarrassingly in Michigan Stadium.

Imagine you're in the Blue Band drumline. Michigan is looking the worst they've looked since the 1980s and PSU is rolling in 6-0. They're tied 3-3 at halftime, and your director had you use flip folders for your Hindemith show. Granted, it's a hard show, but, flip folders.

You watch Michigan and Penn State trade blows in the second half. JoePa argues with the refs to get two seconds put back on the clock with 3:28 left. Finally it's the end of the game, you're up four points, and all you have to do is stop the worst Michigan team in twenty years from scoring a touchdown on the last play of the game. What could go wrong?

Well, for starters, your corners could cover the Massaquoi/Breaston cross which frees up Manningham underneath the safety, and Henne could thread the needle between the linebacker and the corner moving the other way. Your undefeated season is lost. So what do you do?

Listen closely for the two booming crashes right after Brad Nessler yells "touchdown Manningham," and again after "Michigan wins." Apparently, what you do is you bang your bass drum in frustration so hard it's audible on the broadcast above the crowd noise. Twice.

My friend Steve and I watched this video a few (dozen) times the week after that game and figured out what that bashing noise is. Draw a vertical line up from where the goal line meets the far sideline. There, on the edge of the PSU band, is what we assume to be the guilty drummer. He brings his arm up and thrusts it down almost exactly in time with the noise on the broadcast (TV stations like to put mics on the drumline). This is illustrated in the crude replay below.

Such an overreaction is explained by the heat of the moment, but it's generally unacceptable for any marching band member to play out of turn like that or to take out his frustration on his instrument. Penn State and their band could benefit from playing a game like Notre Dame played this weekend: Losing disastrously, throughout the course of the afternoon. Saving it for the very last play only invites undue heartbreak that leads to poor decisions.

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