Letter to the editor: #ImWithTheBand; are you?

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#ImWithTheBand, are you? 

The Lehigh football game experience wouldn’t be complete without some key staples: linemen battling for position on the field, tailgaters jostling for beers off the field and mobs of neon-clad cocktail enthusiasts heading for the exits during the first quarter.

You don’t even need to make it past the parking lot, though, to catch another, as a spirited bunch of part-time fight-song-singers and full-time musicians known as the Lehigh Marching 97 take the streets, the field, the stands and everywhere in between.

Yet with the university set to celebrate its most historic game streak and all of its traditions, another will soon come to an abrupt end.

For 130 years, our school’s football team has faced off against rival Lafayette, and for 107 of them, the Marching 97 has stood alongside them, cheering them on through victory and defeat, singing their hearts out from the stands and giving hope to each and every play.

But at the 150th anniversary game, the band will not be marching at halftime.

Instead, they’ve been relegated to doing a five-minute pregame show and a marching-less joint halftime performance with the Lafayette quasi-band, along with a slew of other groups that have never before shown any interest in performing at Lehigh football games.

The difference may seem trivial to some, but as a former band member, I completely understand the anger and frustration felt by many current (and other past) 97 members.

Halftime marching performances are what marching bands do. It’s their lifeblood, their very reason for being, and taking that away during the biggest game in school history feels like a slap in the face. It feels like punishment – for what, I simply don’t know.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who the main villain in this story is. The Lafayette “park and blow” pep band and its accomplices have repeatedly gone a mile out of their way to strip the 97 of its playing time during rivalry games.

I’ve experienced this firsthand. My freshman year with the Marching 97, the Lafayette pseudo-band went five minutes over its allotted field time, causing us to slash our show in half. As they walked off the field smirking with their striped maroon t-shirts and knitted caps, I kept thinking, “We found Waldo. He stole our show.”

But this time’s even worse.

You’d think that, during such a historic moment for both schools, we’d be able to show one another at least an ounce of sportsmanship and respect, but that went out the window the second they unveiled this year’s performance schedule. So much for staying classy, Lafayette.

But the truly saddest part is how little our own university, our administration, our athletics department and our music department have done to fight for the band. It’s hard to imagine that, out of a two-hour pregame show, they couldn’t have gotten more than five minutes for the band.

The Marching 97 doesn’t ask for much – and they’re no strangers to sharing. They share their minimal meeting and storage space with whatever sports team commandeers the Rauch Fieldhouse loft. They share their cruddy practice space with Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas, as a car parking lot is all they’ve ever been given.

And I’m guessing they would’ve been fine just sharing the halftime show, even if it’s with groups that have no tradition with Lehigh football. But to be knocked down on your most vital performance after a hundred years of dedication just plain stinks. It’s like never missing a day of class only to be kicked out of your graduation.

But in spite of any bitterness or anger, the band’s going to make it – and they’ll make it their own, too.

They’ll put every fiber of their being into those pregame and halftime performances and they will leave their hearts on the field. It may not be the exact performances they wanted, but they’ll do them with the 97’s trademark passion, enthusiasm and psyche.

And it won’t stop there. The Marching 97 will be the ones singing louder and cheering harder then everyone in the stadium, embodying the school spirit we should all strive for.

Marching halftime shows may be what marching bands do, but showing outrageous amounts of Lehigh pride and having a blast while doing it? Well, that’s what the Marching 97 does.

Now it might be too late to change the fate of this year’s performance schedule, but it’s never too late to show support for the band. If you feel like me, then tell everyone: #ImWithTheBand. Let’s give the Marching 97 the respect and recognition they deserve.

– Cristiano Lima, ’13

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9 Comments

  1. I think it’s sad to eliminate the band’s regular show!! Can’t the powers that be reconsider? I love the band’s part at the game-especially when they form “Lehigh” on the field. What a slap in the face to such a hard-working group of young men!

    • Gene (72) goldfeder on

      hey band. marching lehigh and the eagles cshould be the pregame music -carried right into the stands without stopping until someone -probably a tape plays the national anthem. at that time you restart and play play play. We alums will do the singing.

      Everyone at the game wear your dink!!!

  2. Football hasn’t been around for 149 years, we have played football 149 times against Lafayette. Fourth paragraph is not well researched.

    We call it an anniversary game because we now only play Lafayette once per year on roughly the same date.

  3. Unpopular Lehigh Opinion on

    Ah typical Lehigh ignorance. You seriously think administration was going to let anyone have a say in the halftime show? This game is a huge propaganda stunt. Maybe instead of bashing another school’s music ensemble you should think more critically about what you are writing.

  4. Is it really necessary to call the Lafayette Pep Band a ‘quasi-band’? The Leopard Pride Pep Band is completely student run and un-funded yet they continue to serve as the heartbeat of the Lafayette student section. They may not be a marching band but they are as much of the tradition as the Marching 97.

  5. No, it’s not necessary to insult the Lafayette Pep Band, and turning them into the villain is going too far, and Emily’s point is important – having both bands play on the field is an important part of the tradition of the game, and part of what makes it so special on both sides. Having two student run bands out there representing their schools is an amazing thing to see and be a part of. I think the sad part is that those who get to make the decisions chose to overlook that aspect of the tradition of this game, and are instead using the game as a marketing platform. It’s easy to place the blame on Lafayette as this is their home game, but I’m more disappointed in Lehigh for not doing more to stand up for the 97, in spite of everything the group does to promote Lehigh as a whole, as well as work specifically for the music and athletics programs. It’s sad, and as a Lehigh alumnus and former member of the 97 I have to say I am very disappointed in how Lehigh has handled this.

  6. Get Over Yourselves on

    Perhaps acting with the slightest bit of class and not walking around tailgates chanting “F Lafayette” the first 149 games would’ve helped your cause.

  7. Rev. Dr. G. Clayton Ames III (Lafayette '66) on

    OK .. so I’m an old f*rt, but I was there for the infamous 6-6 tie 100th game .. or more particularly for the 99th game originally scheduled for two days after the Kennedy assassination in November 1963 and rescheduled for the Saturday of Thanksgiving vacation when there was no one on either campus. If I remember correctly there were less than 500 in the Lehigh stadium for the game, but both the Leopard and Engineer bands were represented.
    From the Easton end of the Valley, I get the impression that the administration is using the very-organized hype to launch *another* capital campaign. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Engineer/Chicken Hawk folks are planning the same. They are in cahoots .. its all about the money. The “tradition” is only useful as a platform .. and they want as many constituencies as possible to have their 2-3 minutes of exposure so the schools can reach out to that many more rose-colored-spetacle-wearing alumni/ae. The game will get lost in the campaign launch. 🙂

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