About once a year, director Brian Britt will hear someone from his Pride of Oklahoma marching band yell something at the visiting team in front of them. Britt does not tolerate it.
“I tell our students, if you’d like to share your thoughts with any of those football players, let me know,” Britt said. “I’ll take you down there and let you tell it to them face to face.”
Surprisingly, they don’t take him up on his offer.
I reached out to Britt and some of his colleagues for this story on how bands are protecting themselves after a pair of attacks earlier this year. Britt had some other interesting thoughts that didn’t make my story but were still worth sharing, starting with why he thinks an occasional fan will try to take a swipe at one of his musicians.
“I really think it’s just a reflection of what we’re seeing in society, which is a gradual erosion of civility,” Britt said. “I just think a lot of the time, people don’t stop and take a breath and say, ‘Those are somebody’s kids.’ They just see the enemy.”
I can relate. When I marched at Northwestern University, I remember being heckled on our visit to Michigan. Nothing violent or extreme. But a father encouraged his elementary-school son to yell at us and Willie the Wildcat. Because it takes real courage to yell at a 6-foot, 140-pound saxophone player.
Britt and his colleagues make it clear that band members should not respond negatively.
“One of our jobs as the marching band is to be the very best ambassadors we can be for our university and our state…” Britt said. “We have nothing to say to the other team or their fan base, ever, except ‘Good game’ or ‘Best of luck to you.’ That’s all we’ve got to say.”
So what happens if they return rudeness with civility?
“It just blows their minds,” Britt said.