Though it may start this way and seem so, know that this is not a sports story, an notice I make for those who tend to avoid such things...
When I was at Northwestern University, the sports section of school paper The Daily Northwestern would rate the upcoming Big Ten football season each year, ranking the schools. Back then, Northwestern not only had the worst team in the league, but historically one of the worst teams, if not the worst team in college football. And Ohio State historically had one of the best teams. Yet every year, the NU paper would always rank Northwestern only ninth. In tenth place, last, they would always put Ohio State. That's how much OSU was hated.
My dad had season tickets to Northwestern football games for a remarkable 51 years -- all the more remarkable because the team was so terrible, and when I terrible it's not hyperbole, as they set the record (while he he had his seat) for longest losing streak in college football history, losing 34 games in a row from 1979-1982. One week he told me about how Northwestern was getting crushed by Ohio State, yet with only a couple minutes left in the game, Ohio State bizarrely started driving down the field to try and get one more touchdown. He said the fans were going crazy booing the whole time -- and when Northwestern actually stopped them on near the goal time as the clock ran out, the NU fans went crazy, as if they had actually won the game.
So, it's with that perspective that my dad told me today of a story in the Wall Street Journal that a friend had sent him from July 30 about a major scandal dealing with -- of all things -- the famed Ohio State Marching Band.
Yes, the band.
(The friend who sent the article to him was a graduate of the University of Michigan, the big, traditional rival of Ohio State. I have no doubt that he took great pleasure in forwarding it along...)
It's much too detailed to explain here, and I can't do the investigation justice, but you can read these two articles in the Journal. The first here is an overview of the story, while the second deals here in more specifics with one particular transgression.
The short version is that for many decades, it turns out that the Ohio State Marching Band has had a "parody song book" that they sing along with on trips and have updated over the years, as recently as 2012, which has gone beyond the level of college hijinks. Songs making fun of the Holocaust, about rape, anti-gay and demeaning of women. There have also been reports of egregious hazing, not unlike a fraternity gone wild, and several accusations of sexual assault, with one case also involving kidnapping in the courts now. The second story noted above is a more detailed report on the Holocaust song, "Goodbye Kramer" to the tune of Journey's 1981 song, "Don't Stop Believin'"
(One of the lines reads, “Head to the furnace room / ‘Bout to meet your fiery doom,” while another part of the song goes, “Oh the baking never ends,/ It goes on and on and on and on.")
Another song concerns the University of Nebraska, which had recently joined the Big Ten conference. In part, it reads, "There’s no place as gay as Nebraska, except maybe Michigan U. Where the girls are all hairy, and the boys are all fairies, on your chest we will poo.”
(As a writer, I'm almost more bothered by how piss-poor and childish the syntax and rhyme is. Almost.)
The story notes that the parody song book was closely guarded in secret, and includes an introductory admonition to make sure to keep it hidden, along with the following note about the songs: “Some of these may be offensive to you. If so, you can either ignore them, or you can suck it up, act like you got a pair and have a good time singing them.”
It's so endearing to pompously sashay around telling others to grow a pair if they're too wimpy to take it -- yet being too frightened and unwilling themselves to sing the songs in public, making every effort to keep it all secret.
I got the sense that the lyrics that the newspaper published were not necessarily the most problematic, but the ones that they felt comfortable they should print in public.
The university finally commissioned an investigation and the resulting report found that the band's culture was "sexualized" and "abusive." It also noted that band members “shrouded their traditions in secrecy."
Last year, the band's large and powerful alumni group put out a flyer for its annual golf event and ridiculed several of the university’s actions (including firing the band's director, which he is suing over) as being a “politically correct” attack by the “thought police.” The 80-year-old band alumnus, Mel Ponzi, who puts the annual golf outing together, called the flyer “tongue-in-cheek.” Because apparently he's trying to suggest they didn't really mean the university was being "politically correct" at all, nor that it was it run by the "thought police." Otherwise, that would mean that the group is actually bothered by the university's report and actions. Mr. Ponzi added, that "We have fun and do things a little differently than most people.”
Gee, no kidding. That's why there was outrage, embarrassment, an investigation, and the band director was fired.
It's also much to whimsical to know that the defender of all this is named "Ponzi."
Note to people who like to slam criticism as being "politically correct." There is a difference between an action that "politically correct" and one that is, in fact, correct. And if one thinks something is wrongly "politically correct", it is incumbent on them to explain where they believe the line actually is that they didn't yet cross. When do they believe that too far is...too far.
You can read the two articles here is an overview of the story, while the second deals here in mor
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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