The Pride of the Southland Marching Band Descent into the Awful
I am oldish. Not too old but old enough to remember the ‘glory days’ of Tennessee football and all that came with it. The 1990s were the pinnacle of every vol fan’s sports existence. The hits were harder. The smokey dogs were beefier. The air was crisper. And the Pride of the Southland Marching Band was rivaled only by Van Halen and Guns and Roses for electric show stopping performances. People came from Memphis to Mountain City, arriving early, to see the band ‘form the power T’. Opposing fans were so enthralled with the band’s ability they would demand their athletic department donate huge amounts of money to Tennessee just so they could hear the band play their fight song. Like a world class piano bar, the PotSMB would play your request but it’s going to cost you. (great contract negotiations by cutthroat Vol AD Doug Dickey have kept these schools locked in for decades)
Ask anyone who was in the POTSMB in the 1980s and 90s and they will shower you with tales of sex, drugs and mobile musical precision. Pride members ran through coeds like Chuck Webb through the Auburn defense. For most Pride members it was as simple as “My name is Gary. I play the Tuba. I don’t use condoms and I won’t call you back” *Girl rips off pants*
Peyton Manning was a rock star, a god of the gridiron. But just below him on the campus celebrity hierarchy was the current Vol Drum Major. General Neyland was the Tennessee legend whose name adorned the stadium, but band director Dr. Julian was the man who made it rock. It was a magical time........
That was then.
This is now
No one quite knows when it happened. You can’t pinpoint an exact day or even an exact year. It’s tough to even formulate a timeline of how it happened. It’s not like when Sammy Hagar replaced David Lee Roth or that Asian guy replaced Steve Perry in Journey. No, the decline of The Pride was far more subtle. More reminiscent of Aerosmith where one day you woke up, heard one of their songs and were like ‘Holy shit! This blows.” Much like Tennessee football, the Pride’s fall from grace happened without any of us realizing what was going on until it was too late.
What we have now is not the Pride of the Southland. It’s not the pride of anything. The creativity is gone. The passion is gone. The glamor is gone. All of that has been replaced by half-assed recycled sorority anthems and marching routines whose organization and structure resembles Japanese citizens fleeing from Godzilla. Newsflash: No one wants to hear Living on Prayer. Not only is it one of the worst songs of all time but it sends the message that our only hope at victory is pleading for intervention from an omnipotent being. (I understand this has been true of late but the point stands)
The only thing more sad than regurgitating the same set list from 1987 game-after-game is when, once a season, the Pride attempts to get creative. When this happens you end up with shit like this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idWnlcxjf4I) or this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHf5I_a37Vg) That’s right. Someone sat down and decided that for this game we are going to reenact the Wizard of Oz in 4 minutes. Are you telling me not one person in a 200 person band stood up and said “um this is retarded” ???
So when a routine like the aforementioned ‘Wizard of Oz’ or ‘Superheros’ elicits boos, tears, laughter, nausea or any other reaction other than the intended jubilee those in charge of The Pride revert right back to the old comfort zone of AC/DC, Bon Jovi and Led Zeppelin. Oh sure they might fool a younger man than I when they trot out the ‘dangerous’ circle drill for the 15,000th time but for the rest of us this shit is not going to cut it.