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Home > Articles > CIS Football > Decision to bar Queen's Bands from Carleton game misguided

Decision to bar Queen's Bands from Carleton game misguided

Posted: October 25th, 2014 @ 1:31am

It used to drive coach Doug Hargreaves nuts.

It seemed like every time the Queen's Golden Gaels went on the road in the old Ontario-Quebec conference, it would be the other team's Homecoming game. Queen's would often play against the other team's biggest, most exuberant crowd of the year.

It was, Hargreaves was convinced, because none of the other schools had a marching band or cheerleaders. Essentially, when those teams hosted Queen's, they weren't just getting an opponent, they were importing the college atmosphere they couldn't provide for themselves: Instant festivities.

As disgruntled as it might have made the Queen's folk, it was pretty shrewd on the part of those other OQIFC teams, one of which was the Carleton Ravens.

It seems that 20 years out of football has led the athletic brain trust at Carleton to forget that.

A program that professes to be struggling to establish tradition has banished one of the oldest customs in all of Canadian sport from the Ravens' game Saturday against Queen's. After the Queen's Bands bought-yes, bought-their 80 tickets for the game this week, they were told they would not be allowed into the stadium with their instruments.

It's the first time in 110 years of following the football team across the country that anyone has told the Queen's Bands they weren't welcome.

In an excellent piece on his Eh Game blog on Yahoo! Sports Queen's Journal alum Neate Sager explains that among the reasons Carleton cites for the outrageous demand are (a) the Ravens coaches don't want the band there (b) Carleton has its own fledgling band and they don't want it to be intimidated by the experienced Queen's Bands and (c) Carleton wants to establish its own atmosphere, free of interference from interlopers.

Well, let's see.

If there's any truth to the coaching staff-a staff that, in this case, includes ex-Gael Ryan Bechmanis, by the way-spending more than 10 seconds worrying about the other school's band as they prepare for their team's most important game of the year, well, shame on them. Frankly, I can't see it but apparently either it's true or the Carleton athletics department threw its coaching staff under the bus when that was proffered as a reason to bar the Bands. If it is true, those coaches are badly shortchanging their players by not devoting all their time to things that actually matter.
With regard to the second point, why would Carleton so badly demean its own group of aspiring musicians by assuming they would be intimidated by the Queen's Bands? And if you're working from that premise-that the Queen's Bands can have such impact on a game or a crowd that they need to be silenced-couldn't you just as easily see this as an opportunity for your rookie band to learn from the masters?
That's terrific that Carleton wants to establish its own traditions, but traditions can't be manufactured, they have to evolve. Tearing down those of others does nothing to foster your own. Carleton's own biggest tradition, the Panda Game, is proof of that. Let's face it, in its previous incarnation Carleton was traditionally one of those places where Queen's alumni and parents outnumbered those supporting the home team. Typically at Keith Harris Stadium, if not for the Queen's crowd, there'd have been no crowd at all.

Evidently the bands approached Ontario University Athletics for some relief on the matter and got a cold shoulder. There's a surprise. A number of years ago, at a game in western Ontario where the recorded music was playing so loudly it was almost impossible to have a conversation at field level-and the band had no opportunity to play-I complained to an OUA staffer about it and wondered, if Notre Dame and Michigan could establish a protocol whereby the home school would allow the visiting band to play at designated times, why couldn't the OUA do the same?

That staffer, Bryan Crawford-yes, the former Queen's running back who now is the OUA's director of operations-essentially replied that just because the NCAA did it was no reason for the OUA to do it, and each team should be allowed to present whatever entertainment it thought appropriate.

No matter how lame, apparently; no matter how disrespectful it was to one of the game's oldest institutions.

The main difference, of course, is the NCAA values tradition and is wildly successful. In Canada, traditions are largely shunned, lest we make those that don't have any feel bad. How feebly Canadian.

(It's the same kind of weak thinking that leads people to hate Laval for its football success, rather than strive to emulate what it does to achieve that success.)

Schools with bands-Queen's, Western, RMC; are there any others?-should curry no special favor for that fact; but neither should they be excluded. One of the great stories of the 1989 Churchill Bowl in Saskatoon, where Queen's played the University of Saskatchewan, was the experience of the band, which got on school buses on Wednesday, travelled nonstop from Kingston, arrived at about 8 a.m. Saturday, played at the game that afternoon-was the halftime entertainment, in fact-and got back on the buses immediately after the game for the trip home.

It may be that the folks at Carleton don't understand that's the sort of dedication they're denigrating here, but it seems there's lots the deep thinkers on Ravens Drive haven't considered, not the least of which is that if you're trying to attract crowds, you shouldn't schedule your home games on the same day Ottawa U plays at home (which will happen for the second time this year on Saturday, not counting the day they played each other).

Undoubtedly they also don't grasp the notion that the worst thing anybody can do to Queen's students is tell them they can't do something (see: Homecoming, Aberdeen Street). Not only will that only make them want to do it more, you've now given them the requisite motivation to figure out a way around the prohibition.

To that end someone among the Bands discovered that while musical instruments may be banned, vuvuzelas are permitted in stadiums in Ontario. You may recall the vuvuzela as a plastic horn, about two feet long, so popular in South Africa that annoyed people around the world to no end at the 2010 World Cup of soccer.

So essentially what the Carleton wunderkinds have done is removed a band, that knows when it is allowed to play and when it isn't, and replaced it with 80-pissed off musicians from a school where the students are known for their sense of entitlement and armed them with irritating noisemakers they can blow whenever they want.

Good thinking.

Now that word of the silly ban has gotten out, ex-bandsies and those loyal to the football team in Ottawa have been working the phones and social media all night long to mobilize Queen's Nation and get its legions out to the game. Instead of letting that sleeping dog collectively take a pass on attending an otherwise meaningless game, the Carletoids have, to paraphrase Yamamoto, awakened Canada's sleeping giant of football-loyal alumni and filled it with a terrible resolve.

There are plenty of tickets left for Saturday's game, and you can bet they will be snapped up the moment the gates open by angry Queen's folk, and the anti-home team atmosphere the Carleton gang feared from the presence of a band will look downright sedate beside the throng of riled Gaels' faithful they're likely going to get instead.

Without question, this whole issue is a tempest in a Tricolour teapot. Whether there are bands playing at football games is not a terribly important part of the Canadian sport mosaic, but that is precisely the point.

Never mind that, as decisions go, this one was needless. Never mind that it was clearly ill considered. The essential question is: Why would you even bother?

Regardless of whether Queen's wins or loses, let us hope the Gaels at least score a touchdown. I simply can't wait to hear Oil Thigh played on 80 vuvuzelas.





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