Jim Rome and respect for the arts

I’ve not made a big deal of linking to Jim Rome’s band tweet and the articles about it. The dude is a “shock” celebrity, so this kind of press is what he thrives on. Though in this specific case, he got a bit more than he expected.

Still, I have thought a bit about it. For reference, here’s Jim’s tweet:

“Is there anyone not in a marching band who thinks those dorks running around with their instruments are cool?”

To anyone, and I mean anyone, who has been in a marching band or the arts in school, this attitude is NOT new. Aside from name calling people geeks or dorks, there is a definite class idea here. In high school I remember the perplexed discussion with a football player that I had a letter (for music) on my letterman. Even if it was in a different color from the sports-based letters, he thought that I shouldn’t have it. Sports are superior to things like music, dance and visual arts, you see.

Most of the responses to Jim focused on being called a “dork” or “not cool.” And also at the implied triviality of band. A few responses also referenced the implied idea that band was less work or effort than sports. Because, in certain contexts, marching band is just as hard as sports. To anyone who thinks that sentence is insane, here’s a warmup from the 2007 Phantom Regiment as an example:

I think they are stepping 5-to-5 (a one-yard stride) at the speed you would sprint at. And they’re playing the final chords from the Firebird Suite there, the loudest/strongest part of their show. And at the end, the instructor has them turn around to do it again. They are doing a drill any football player knows: windsprints. And they’re doing it carrying instruments, in formation, and while playing.

But I think making this discussion into “band is as tough as a sport” is wrong. They’re two different things, and turning this into a “we’re tougher than you” argument is silly. Band can be tough, yes. But that’s not the argument here.

Here’s Jim’s no-pology that he issued once his twitter stream exploded:

“Band nation – I hear you. I was out of line. I apologize. I do not condone bullying of any kind and that was not my intent.”

Do you notice that Jim is trying to re-frame the discussion? Thankfully the brevity of twitter makes it obvious. He’s saying this is about “bullying” now. We can talk about how “bullying” is wrong and move on, right?

This tweet bothered me way more than the original one. And I was trying to figure out why. Was it the blatant attempt at manipulation? Or is it because I’ve heard a million variations on the first one and ignore it?

(And I have heard the “band geek” stuff a ton. Maybe there is just something in that drunk-bro-mentality of football that makes it ok for the fan to insult the band. I recall one Marshall University game where a drunk fan bellowed to us – the visiting team’s band – to “Look! Our color guard is coming on the field! Now you’ll know why we’re called the thundering herd.” – misogyny at the top of your lungs about your own band? It got a laugh from other Marshall fans.)

I realized this morning that it wasn’t either of these. It was who Jim was. More specifically, what he does as a profession, that bothered me. He doesn’t get to re-frame this discussion as bullying. His first tweet was a deliberate dig for reaction. This is about using the bully-pulpit for profit, not bullying between jocks and geeks.

And it’s that bully-pulpit, that is, his profession, that is where the focus should be:

Let’s take the band for a moment as Jim frames it: A bunch of geeks and dorks filling out half-time while the players rest. And making noise for the fans during the down times. Peeling back his offensive language, that is what he is saying: A band can contribute to a football game, but aren’t core to it. They’re like the overpriced beer, the cold weather, the bench seats, and the drunken fans yelling at the teams: they are part of the event. They are ambiance for fans in the stadium.

Ok. Got that, Jim. But what are you?

Jim is a sports commentator. Not a stadium announcer. Not a sportscaster calling the game on radio. His job is to be an offensive smart-ass to help provide commentary on the game. Even in the harshest framing Jim might give a marching band, it is contributing more to the event than he is. I have never heard of anyone talk about how good the sports commentary of a game was. I know of no-one who tunes in to see a game because of the sports-commentary. I know a LOT of people, myself included, that wishes the commentators would get the hell off the screen, shut up, and get out of the way of the telecast of the game. You and your job, at best, is to fill dead-air and/or be a pest in the way of watching a good football game.

Jim: Is there anyone not in TV broadcasting that thinks these dorks hired to fill the dead TV air are cool?

So, I’ll be over here with my band geeks and dorks, who tend to be cool people and successful from the lessons they learned in music. Oh. And here’s Phantom Regiment playing that passage in performance. And yes, they are basically running the whole time, and this is at the end of 15 minutes or so of this. The insanity starts at 1:30, it’s impressive:

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