One of the awesome things about Black college football is that the football battle on the field is matched by a battle between the two bands in the stands. This is especially true when the bands are two of the best in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), such as Grambling’s World-Famed Marching Band and Pine Bluff’s Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South. Not only did the bands battle back and forth during the course of the afternoon, but the various instrumental sections did as well, particularly Grambling’s Chocolate Thunder drumline and Pine Bluff’s K.R.A.N.K. drumline. The weather was beautiful as well, and Grambling’s much-improved football team had no trouble demolishing Pine Bluff, no small feat considering that last year’s Grambling team did not win a game.
On Grambling Homecoming weekend, the wooded area near Robinson Stadium is filled with tailgaters from all over the country. Some are just simple tents that have been set up with barbecue grills, while others are elaborate motor homes, and some large tailgate parties have DJ’s playing the latest soul, blues or occasionally rap. The smell of barbecuing meat drifts all over the area, even to the stadium.
Despite Memphis’ well-deserved basketball reputation, Memphis is also traditionally a strong football town, particularly at the prep level. People turn out to see both the ball game, and also the battle between the bands and drumlins as well, and certain stadiums are historic locations for Memphis Black high school football, such as Booker T. Washington Stadium in South Memphis or Melrose Stadium in the center of Orange Mound. On Friday, September 19, 2014, I went out to the latter stadium to see the game between Whitehaven High School and the Melrose High School Golden Wildcats. Both schools brought their marching bands to the game, which isn’t always the case in Memphis these days, but Melrose seems to have declined in numbers in recent years, and its band, though it sounded good, was far smaller than I remembered in the past. Whitehaven, on the other hand, is one of the city’s premier high schools, academically, athletically and musically. Its band marches more than 100 members, and looks and sounds better than many colleges. The football game was a runaway for Whitehaven, but the band battle was more evenly matched, although I would have to give Whitehaven the advantage there too. Both bands pleased the crowd by playing a number of current hits, including Memphian Snootie Wild’s “Yayo”.
On Sunday evening, January 20, the buses took us to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for dinner. While some of our group went to Phillips Seafood, I decided to go to the Cheesecake Factory, which has always been one of my favorite restaurants. Upstairs, Uno’s Chicago Pizza had the Ravens game on, and I walked upstairs to watch it just as Tom Brady threw an interception that helped seal the game for the Ravens. Within a minute after the end of the game, horns starting honking all over the downtown area, and cars began racing down Pratt Street with heads sticking out of sunroofs and Ravens banners waving. Revelers in Ravens gear also began to appear on the street, and one vehicle had a paper-mache Ravens player on their car roof!. The police soon arrived as well and started pulling some of the more excessive partiers over and writing them tickets. We had by this point gotten back on the bus for the ride back to our hotel.
Our hotel was about 18 miles from downtown Baltimore, but fortunately, there was a large shopping mall across the street called Hunt Valley Town Center. There were quite a few restaurants, a coffee bar, an Italian dessert cafe, a specialty book and gift shop where I found a Ray Lewis shirt for my best friend who’s a Ravens fan, and a cool burger joint called Boardwalk Burgers and Fries, where I grabbed a late lunch before the restaurant closed early due to the Ravens/Patriots playoff game. Actually, all around the shopping center were evidences of Ravens mania. Not only were many of the customers wearing Ravens shirts, but the shopping center had placed Ravens gear on the two decorative statues of horses in the central park of the center.
As the battle between the Star Steppers Drumline and Bellevue Drumline developed, the Iowa State drumline which had been warming up across the street, marched over to where we were and played one of their cadences, Liberty Bowl Parade, Memphis TN, 12/30/12
I suppose that there has been a Liberty Bowl Parade each year, but this is the first year I heard about it, so I rode downtown Sunday to check it out. This year’s teams in the Liberty Bowl are Iowa State and the University of Tulsa, and from the looks of Beale Street Sunday, Iowa State brought a lot more fans into the city than Tulsa did. The parade route was short, pretty much just the length of Beale Street, but riders on floats threw Mardi-Gras-style beads, and there were marching bands, mostly from the Midwest. Although the weather was chilly, the Beale Street sidewalks were standing room only.
The Alabama A & M University campus at Normal, Alabama near Huntsville is known as “The Hill”, for reasons that are obvious when you visit there, 11/03/12