A young man asked recently if I would write a letter on his behalf, recommending him to the University of Georgia. That was an easy request. The lad is as bright as a newly-minted penny and I have no doubts that if UGA remains his first choice, he will excel there as he has done in one of the more academically-demanding private schools in our state.
I advised him that beyond his good grades, the fact that he was a leader in his school’s marching band could be a plus. With all else being equal, that would indicate to admissions officials that he is not only smart, but a leader as well.
"I wish you would tell that to our football team," he said, "They think we are a bunch of nerds."
I am sure that isn’t the attitude of all the players, but I am equally sure he didn’t make that up and that he has heard that from some jocks. That’s unfortunate. (By the way, the last time I checked, his school’s football team isn’t doing too well right now. They might want to concentrate on blocking and tackling instead of offering their assessment of the band. At this point, they aren’t good enough to take shots at anybody’s performance.)
When one of my grandsons was running cross country in high school, he said his team, the football team and the marching band would all begin practice about the same time after school. The band would be rehearsing after he and his teammates had warmed up and left for a long training run. When they returned, they would hit the locker room about the same time as the football team. The band was still rehearsing.
The athletes on both teams would shower, dress and leave. The band was still rehearsing. Assuming the band members are as smart as the athletes, could it be that playing in the band took more time because it is like — well — harder?
I can’t play the kazoo, but even if I could I don’t think I could play it while marching three steps to the left, four steps to the right and then two steps back, all without missing a step or hitting a sour note. Given my inability to walk and chew gum at the same time, I would be downright dangerous in a marching band. I admit I am no expert, but it looks to me as if what the bands do at halftime takes as much precision as a flea flicker pass play; plus, it has to be in the right key.
I love football as much as anyone and I admire the dedication of the coaches and athletes, but I must admit it is a little off-putting to see a high school cornerback hold a press conference just so he can grace us with the knowledge of where he intends to play college football. Shouldn’t the school hold a similar event so that a band member could announce where he or she will be tootling the flute in college? Why not? They’ve put in as much time and effort in their job as the athlete has in his.
So to my young friend, please be assured that I will proudly write a letter on your behalf to my alma mater and I will take pains to point out your involvement in your high school band. And to all the other members of his band and to the kids in every high school marching band in the state — along with the band directors and the mommas and daddies who have spent their weekends in an endless procession of car washes, bake sales and car pools — you deserve our thanks. Sometimes we fail to appreciate your dedication and all the hard work you have put forth to make Friday nights in the fall a little more enjoyable for us.
And to the football players: Give your classmates in the band a little respect. You are all a part of the same team. Also, it might be helpful for you to remember that there will be times when the band plays better than you do.
Dick Yarbrough is a North Georgia resident whose column appears Saturdays and on gainesvilletimes.com, visit his Web site.