As I’m walking from the elevator to my dorm, I can smell the stench of my own feet as I unlock my door. My body is drenched, but not from any sprinklers.
From picking my feet up at a 90-degree angle more times than I can count. From holding my body in positions that made my muscles burn.
And as I hunch my body over the air vent to cool down from the intense heat I had just endured for half of the day, I am overwhelmed with the feeling of victory — I had just conquered my first football game.
I have been in many marching shows, but none like this. None where the crowd was as loud as the Enterprise going into warp drive. My legs were shaking when I looked across the stands to a sea of purple. When I try to compare it to something, the first thing that comes to mind is the scene where B-Rabbit chokes on stage in “8 Mile,” except the crowd is 50 times louder and there is no time to vomit.
I’d like to compare it to a competitive sport, but I think it would be better described as a competitive job. Your fellow marchers are your colleagues, and the goal is to be attentive to your work and enthusiastic for your clients.
Through the Eyes of The Pride: Nights in White Satin
The clients (that’s you guys in the stands) are the most important part. Without the crowd, what we do would go unnoticed. Needless to say, I was afraid of failing at my job and making a mockery of myself.
There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into making halftime as spectacular as it is. My day started at 5:30 in the morning, which is great if that’s what you are into. But I am the type of person who wakes up at 10 a.m. and then needs a nap from 10:01 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
All sections are different, some show-up hours early (only God knows why) and some show up 30 minutes before call time (another thing I do not understand). I am part of the baritone section. (It is okay if you don’t know what that is; no one ever knows who we are. But I HIGHLY recommend that you Google one later. Or now.) We meet around 6:55 a.m. to polish our instruments, then we do our first run-through on the real field.
The walls are a lot higher in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. When on the field I heard another player near me say, “Wow. That’s a lot of stairs.” This became very obvious to me later on, right after halftime was over, and we had to go back up to our newly-added section of the stadium.
Before we did our run-through, Dr. Tracz said something that really resonated with me. “You’re not playing just for you,” he said. “There are generations and generations of people out there, and what you’re playing is a part of their tradition.”
It made me become aware of the bigger picture. To me, this meant that my playing needed to be executed with the utmost respect and precision a person can have. It meant there were no do-overs, and if I were to move during a hold, or forget a set, or be out of step, I would be shunned and probably get made fun of.
If I mess up hard enough, the rest of my section will make memes about me for the rest of my life. I was told at least 40 times to not forget my pants … I could explain, but I would rather not.
There is a lot of pressure, and if you cave under it, you won’t make it in the band. So rather than shaking in your spats, you buck up and march with pride. Your game face is worn loud and proud.
There was quite a bit of time in between the first run-through and pregame. This is where we eat and some of us go to tailgaters and play them some happy tunes. Then we meet back up in our “secret lair” and prepare for the festivities.
The atmosphere of the stadium was intense. A surge of energy came over my body when we rushed the field for pregame. People in the stands went wild as soon as we started playing Wabash. Time almost seemed to go slower. A purple field of wheat is all that I could think of, watching the people sway back and forth.
The feeling I had right before halftime was different than pregame. I wasn’t nervous at first. Waiting on the sidelines, I felt pretty good. I felt like I could do no wrong.
But the longer we stood there, the more conscious I was to the churning in the bottom of my stomach. I was watching the clock run out (remember, a football minute is not the same as a normal minute), and the pre-game jitters crept in.
The people around me stormed the field, and we took our positions. I waited for the whistles, and I felt my body take over. Not that I was possessed or anything, but I would not be surprised if the band gods came over me and took care of me. Everything felt so automatic. I moved without thinking.
Right when it started, it was over. I couldn’t believe that it ended and I didn’t collapse. The feeling was surreal. But the day was not over yet.
We scuttled over to the stands to play for the rest of the game. This is where things got (for lack of a better word) interesting. For anyone who has ever been outside in the middle of the summer, you know what it feels like to have the sun pounding down on you, but imagine this:
You have at least three layers of clothes on, including undergarments (hopefully), and one of those layers is made of wool. I felt like an Eskimo who got invited to a party at the equator and overdressed for the occasion.
One thing I noticed when I looked across the band was when I felt drained and uncomfortable from standing all day, I was surrounded by people who were doing the exact same thing. And they were still some of the most energetic, thrilled people in the stadium.
With that being said, I would just like to address where I stand on the possibilities that a person can have supernatural qualities. I do not think anyone in the K-State marching band is superhuman, but it is true that we have some of the highest GPAs on campus. Think what you will. It may have something to do with the chocolate we are selling, in which case, you can find me on the fourth floor of Goodnow Hall.
We all have our own ideas of what band is like, whether you’ve experienced it yourself or not. I have discovered that it takes a lot of dedication. It requires persistence and a passionate soul.
You have to want it, and it’ll shine through if it is what you desire. I remember thinking, “This is where I want to be. This is it, I’m here and it doesn’t get better than this.”
And truthfully, it doesn’t. In a town like Manhattan, Kansas, and a college like Kansas State University, being a part of the Pride of Wildcat Land is quite the accomplishment.
I am grateful for such an experience. But by no means did it come easily. I have never pushed myself past my own expectations. I’ve also never scarfed down a footlong Subway sandwich so quickly either.
The K-State football game was an experience that I will not forget. But the part that made it worthwhile was the hours of preparation it took to make it possible.
I think it is important to be in an environment where you are comfortable to be yourself, and you won’t find a better place to be the person you are. Although this is my own personal opinion, I think many would agree with me. We are an awkwardly awesome family with some dysfunctional qualities, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bri Schock is a freshman in nutrition.