By Derek Belt
Mobile Press-Register
Oct. 28, 2006

FOLEY, ALA. — There’s 4:56 left in the second quarter and your team just kept a scoreless game scoreless by turning it over for the third time.

Not into it yet? Strike up the band.

Now there’s just 15 seconds left in a tie game and your team is playing defense deep in its own territory. Stop them here and you’re headed to overtime. Give up a last-second score and it’s all she wrote.

Need an extra boost? Strike up the band.

Whether they’re rocking out to Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head” during the halftime show or queuing up the fight song just after a big game, the high school marching band can make a big difference on Friday nights.

Can you imagine what it would be like without the band? They are just as much a part of the Friday night experience as uncomfortable seats, spunky cheerleaders and dill pickles on a stick.

Picture this: It’s late in the fourth quarter and your team is ahead by a single point. The other team is in field goal range but you you know their kicker can’t hit from 44 yards out, so a stop here would bring up fourth and long. They call for a timeout, knowing very well this is the biggest play of the game.

If there was no band, what would you hear?

. . .

And what would you rather be hearing?

How about the SportsCenter theme or a little AC/DC? Or maybe the one-and-only Star Wars tune that drops every time Darth Vader dominates the screen? How about something lively, something peppy, to get you up off your feet and into the moment?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is where the marching band comes in.

“It’s the band’s job to liven everybody up,” said Rick Fairson, Daphne High’s brand director for the past 14 years. “They create the energy, and you’ve got to have the energy if you’re going to create the excitement.”

The marching band as we know it is an offshoot of the military band, which once upon a time accompanied soldiers onto the field of battle to keep their spirits up and to keep them in step. By the end of World War I, however, tactics rendered the field band useless, and the marching band gradually evolved into the familiar role it still holds today.

Nowadays, band members work especially hard to perfect their craft so that on game days they can stand out, sound good and make an impact.

“I’ve actually had a band in the past get a penalty for the team because it was making so much noise,” said first-year Gulf Shores band director Tim Brannan, who sometimes plays a note or two himself on Friday nights. “The other coach complained to the referee that they couldn’t hear over our drum line. I thought that was a pretty neat thing.”

Heckling the other team with tunes? That’s the spirit!

“When we have the ball, we don’t play at all,” said Fairhope band director Will Duncan. “But when the other team has the ball, especially if we’re close to them and they’re in the huddle, we play as much as possible. I don’t know how much it helps, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.”

No, it doesn’t. And that’s why the marching band is such an integral piece of the Friday night puzzle. No matter what’s happening on the football field, good or bad, the band will always be there, supporting—like a best friend.

A best friend who struts in sync and does a smashing rendition of “Stairway to Heaven.”