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And The Band Fought On

Oct. 05, 1998
Oct. 05, 1998

Table of Contents
Oct. 5, 1998

And The Band Fought On

Look at college football. Players tearing each other's uniforms
off. Squads crushing each other bloody. Fights that send people
to hospitals.

This is an article from the Oct. 5, 1998 issue Original Layout

And that's just between the bands.

Take, for instance, Prairie View A&M versus Southern on Sept.
19. Halftime. Packed house. Nobody cared about the game. Are you
serious? Prairie View hadn't won a football game in nine years.
No, everybody was there to see the bands, two of the nation's
slickest. High steppers. Wicked formations. Crisp cuts. Fliers
that were circulated before the game even hyped it as THE BATTLE
OF THE BANDS.

They got that right.

Southern was coming off the field after eight boffo minutes.
Prairie View was waiting to go on. The tension was high. Prairie
View's band had just been ranked No. 1 in a Web site poll on the
Internet, over, uh-huh, No. 2 Southern. There was some
trash-talking. "I don't want to go into what was said," says
Prairie View's band director, George Edwards.

Band smack?

Yo, John Philip Sousa called. He wants his uniform back.

Southern's band director, Isaac Greggs, says members of the
Prairie View band blocked Southern's exit march to the sideline.
Prairie View band members say Southern came high-kneeing through
them in a flying wedge, sabotaging their formation.

For whatever reason, Southern says its drum major, Terrell
Jackson, got whacked with a pair of brass instruments, twice in
the side of the head and once in the nose. As a music man he
knows all about bridges, and he says his is still a little
swollen.

Right about then the two bands started dotting each other's
eyes. Drumsticks started flying. Trombones started sliding.
Everybody was doing the big-band swing. A woman from Prairie
View went to the hospital after she took some kind of wind
instrument to the face. I hope it wasn't a flugelhorn. Guarantee
you what, you don't want to catch the business end of a
flugelhorn.

It was musical mayhem, the spats spat of all time. We're talking
370 marchers total. Guys got beat up in three-quarter time.
People got good and drummed. It was the kind of day when you
hoped your band had a really good concussion section. "It was
like a big firecracker went off," says Chris Gulstad, a
sportswriter for the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise, who saw it all
at Lamar's Cardinal Stadium, the neutral corner for the game.
"It was a full-on, 100-percent street brawl."

All these years mothers have made their sons go out for band
because it's safe. Pah! Everybody went postal--except the light
wind instruments. They backed off. I've always said this: I love
the piccolo, and I want you to love the piccolo, too.

The fracas went on for almost 20 minutes. It was like a scene
from Stomp, with each side grabbing the other's instruments,
throwing them down and jumping on them. Three Prairie View
sousaphones were ruined at $6,500 each. That's almost $20,000,
blown.

Greggs says he has never seen anything like it in 30 years as
Southern's band director. "I got some F-horns all bent up," he
said, looking over the F-carnage. "I got some trombones dinged,
some baritones [instruments, not singers] dinged up. We lost some
hats and capes, too. I know because one of their guys was showing
it off in the stands afterward, wearing it."

The ultimate indignity: another man wearing your cape.

But out of all this, something amazing happened. Maybe the
Prairie View football team figured that pretty soon its band was
going to beat the spit valve out of it. Or maybe the Panthers'
coach, Greg Johnson, signed a few guys from the horn section,
but guess what? Prairie View went out and won its next game!

After 80 straight losses, the longest losing streak this side of
Wile E. Coyote's, Prairie View beat Langston 14-12 last Saturday
in Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, the Prairie View band didn't
get to see it. Both fighting bands were banned from appearing
anywhere for two weeks, and the commissioner of the Southwestern
Athletic Conference is demanding a full report from each school
to see who might be to blame.

Oh, and the Stanford band wants a piece of the winner.

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA [Rick Reilly]
It was musical mayhem, the spats spat of all time. Guys got beat
up in three-quarter time.