When the University of Oregon Marching Band struts into Autzen Field in Eugene today for the pregame show, my nephew Kyle will be lip synching.
It's not that the kid can't play his trumpet - and play it well - but when the band, in its stylish green uniforms, begins to play "Mighty Oregon," Kyle will raise his horn to his lips and fake it.
You, too, might be reluctant to play your trumpet if you had split your lip on another guy's head during an intramural game of flag football this week. The only thing worse than playing a really cold trumpet is playing a really cold trumpet when you have stitches in your lip.
I have to be honest about "Mighty Oregon."
The instrumental score to the school's fight song is stirring, but the lyrics are fowl. What do you expect from a football team whose mascot is a duck?
"Roar the praises of her warriors
Sing the story, Oregon
On to victory, urge the heroes
Of our mighty Oregon!
Go Ducks Go!
Fight Ducks Fight!"
Oregon's marching band is top flight, and I'm very proud of my nephew, but "Fight Ducks Fight?"
Does Oregon's punter have webbed feet? I'm going to resist inserting any puns using the word "quack" into this column, but don't let that stop you from doing it yourself, dear readers.
I told Kyle's mother not to worry today - the only person who will notice that her son is lip synching is his new girlfriend. And besides, most of the country won't be watching Oregon play Arizona. They'll be sitting in front of the TV watching a couple of great Big Ten marching bands square off when the University of Michigan visits Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
During our morning coffee break in the newsroom Friday, we were debating which university or college has the most electric atmosphere on football Saturdays (we don't have much else to do down at the newspaper). There were votes for Nebraska, Clemson and Texas A&M. Personally, I can think of places I'd rather spend a Saturday in late November.
However, we all agreed that the strong traditions associated with marching bands are a big part of what makes the stadium experience so special.
Today, the Ohio State University band will spell Ohio in script, and a celebrity will be invited to dot the "i." Later, the band is certain to play the 1960s Top 40 classic "Hang on Sloopy." That's tradition!
There was a day when the major television networks never failed to show at least a snippet of the halftime performance by the band. Those days are gone, and it's a pity.
Today, universities get a 30-second commercial at halftime to brag about their bio-engineering schools, and then the network cuts away to a studio in New York where four guys in expensive suits flap their gums and watch highlights.
I'd rather watch the Wolverine and Buckeye marching bands. As a Wisconsin fan, I pretty much hate the Michigan and Ohio State football teams. But I always kind of dug watching their marching bands when they used to come to town and whack the Badgers 62-3 back in the 1960s.
At Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisc., today, I can guarantee you the tuba section will march around the field while playing the Budweiser jingle (classy, huh?), and transition right into the "Beer Barrel Polka."
If you want to know the truth, Northwestern University might have the best fight song in the Big Ten. You can download a sample of "Go U Northwestern" at www.fightmusic.com, where you'll also find "Buckeye Battle Cry," "On Wisconsin," Michigan's "Hail to the Victors" and even "Mighty Oregon" (featuring my nephew Kyle).
So, what's the best college fight song in all the land?
This might surprise you, but I think there is a contender hanging out in Laramie, Wyo. That's right, I'm talking about the University of Wyoming's "Ragtime Cowboy Joe."
Before I go further, imagine a big section of slide trombones in your head. OK, here it is:
"He always sings raggy music to his cattle as he swings
Back and forward in his saddle on a horse (pretty good horse!)
He's a syncopated gaiter
And you ought to hear the meter to the roar of his repeater
How they run (yes run!)
When they hear him come, because the Western folks all know,
He's a high falutin, rootin' tootin'
Son of a gun from old Wyoming
Ragtime Cowboy, (talk about your cowboy), Ragtime Cowboy Joe."
I don't know about you, but the thought of sitting in a packed college football stadium, with the band playing for all it is worth, kind of gives me goosebumps. Of course, in Eugene, fans get duckbumps.