The Locker Room

The Best Darn Band In The Land Needed To Do Better

Posted by Lori Schmidt July 25, 2014 0 Comments
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The Ohio State marching band needed Super Man. What they got instead was Clark Kent.

Clark Kent, as anyone who read the university’s investigative report released this week can tell you, was Jon Waters nickname when he was a member of TBDBITL. He is also, as anyone allowed within ten miles of Comic Con can tell you, the kindly alter ego of a hero.

That hero was powered by the sun. However, there was little sunlight where the OSU band was concerned. It was a very insular culture. In their defense, that’s probably true of most marching bands. In high school, the band is more than an organization; it’s a clique. That continues in college, where even more time and effort is demanded of participants, drawing them even closer together. A band as successful and talented as Ohio State’s and thus with every right to be proud? Well, that pride sometimes is the mortar of a wall that keeps outside perspectives out.

Which brings us to the second lesson Waters could have learned from Super Man. He was able to juggle two perspectives. He lived as someone immersed in the American Way, and he was able to view things as a Kryptonian outsider. If Waters could have stepped outside his experience as a member of TBDBITL and seen how some of the group’s “traditions” would be viewed by someone less attached to the heritage, he might still be band’s director.

There will be some who point out that Waters did take steps in that direction. Not enough. Not for a school whose Title IX policies are under review by the Department of Education.

There will also be some who argue that the raunchy atmosphere was just a part of being a band member or being a college student. It shouldn’t have to be. If sex was intrinsic to playing an instrument, playing an instrument would be a prerequisite to joining a club of swingers.

There will also be those who claim none of the more modest band members were subjected to anything. However, what are the odds that every squeamish band member was bestowed an appropriately conservative nickname? It certainly wasn’t just the less prudish who witnessed the simulated sex act on a bus ride last year. And it wasn’t just the bawdy band members who were asked to “create and draw a sex position for fat people” as part of their rookie midterm. (If that was the case, investigators probably would not have ended up with a copy of that exam.)

The end result is a report that reads like “50 Shades of Scarlet and Grey.”

It’s a shame. Waters is, by most accounts, a very nice guy. He’s undoubtedly raised the profile of what was already a highly regarded marching band. He may be a super man.

But Ohio State needed a Super Man.