Accent on Living

“And that white part of the stands is the famous card section of Berserk University, and you can be sure they’ll have a good many surprises for us this afternoon here at beautiful Jones Memorial Stadium, where the Berserk Baboons and the Wingding Woodchucks renew their traditional rivalry. . . .”

The TV camera roves around the stadium, coming to focus on a large section of the opposite stands, where some thousands of Berserk students are holding white cards in such a manner as to hide all else. Enough of the cards are turned, suddenly, to spell in huge letters the two words, “Welcome Woodchucks.” Delirious applause and cheering greet this phenomenon. Berserk cheerleaders turn handsprings, cartwheels, and leap in delight.

“Well, there’s real sportsmanship for you,” the announcer exclaims. “Whoever thought that one up cer’nly knows the traditional American spirit of fair play, off the field and on. Now let’s pick up that Berserk band for a minute.” Music lovers can identify at this point, by a stretch of the imagination, the strains of Finlandia, and we hear the voice of the announcer, reverently hushed and obviously reading from a note just handed to him by his Berserk prompter, “That’s the Wingding anthem they’re playing, All Hail, Wingding School of Mines.” How much further could sportsmanship possibly go? Was ever a visiting team, the archenemy, so generously received? The announcer seems overwhelmed by these amenities. At half time, he predicts, what with the card section of Berserk and Wingding’s equally famous marching band, will come pageantry that we shall all remember for the rest of our lives.

With the present-day emphasis on the marching band, one is bound to wonder if there is any longer a band that doesn’t march. A nonmarching band, presumably, would deploy on a stage or in a bandstand in the park, and the day for that sort of thing is long past. So all bands march, and at half time they march in every conceivable formation. They zigzag, they go backwards, they become a vast wheel with spokes of marching, tooting bandsmen. The college or university has its own marching band, for better or worse, but the professional football games procure their marching bands from high schools all over the country, achieving thereby a much wider variety of uniforms and maneuvers than the colleges can bring out.

It is hard to imagine what becomes of the college bandsmen after graduation. In the case of the high school players, the road ahead is plain: they go to college and join the marching band. But after that? As a hobby, playing in a marching band would be a bit cumbersome for the head of an ordinary household. How could he round up enough fellow marchers of an evening to avoid getting rusty on the more intricate formations? The neighbors would surely think it odd if he went out on his own, uniform and all, highstepping around the block while tooting a trombone part of the Washington Post March.

The voice of the announcer recalls us to half time in beautiful Jones Memorial Stadium. “And now coming on the field is the famous Wingding marching band. Look — they’re forming two big letters out there in front of the Berserk stands. Yes, it’s B.U., for Berserk University, and they’re playing the Berserk song, Berserk, Fairest of Them All. That is cer’nly a fine, sportsmanlike tribute.”

Let us attend them sympathetically during their short life as a marching band, men for whom there is no tomorrow.