Commentary: Southern band will steal the show

Brad Stephens brings his own Southern flavored sports perspective and humor to Bartow Sports Zone. He is a Bartow County native and has his own law office in Cartersville, but he's mostly a Georgia Bulldogs' football fan.


It is a weekend of firsts for the Georgia Bulldogs football program.

The first weekend atop the SEC East standings all by their lonesome, by virtue of their decisive victory over South Carolina and Kentucky’s anemic loss to Florida. Seriously, that Kentucky-Florida game was like watching a car rust. When you see a score of 14-9, you think “ah, the typical SEC defensive struggle.”

Wrong. Both quarterbacks combined threw for 251 yards, had 21 total completions and zero touchdowns. There were 11 punts in the game and the leading rusher was former Georgia commit –turned - Kentucky Wildcat Stanley “Boo” Williams with 80 yards on 16 carries. Jim McElwain did not cuss anyone out this time, I guess he was too bored. If this were Tecmo Bowl, the Nintendo system would probably freeze up, flash a screen that said “Really?!?” and then crash completely.

It will be the first meeting with Southern University, a historically African-American university out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Jaguars have had success in the past, winning the SWAC title 18 times and nine black college national championships, the most recent coming in 2003. Mel Blount and Aeneas Williams are the two most famous and successful gridiron greats to hail from Southern. (Note: Southern has other famous athletic alumni, including Lou Brock, Avery Johnson and Bob Love.)

The Jaguars will receive $650,000 for an ostensible thrashing at the hands of the Dawgs. Other than specialist Willie Quinn, Southern does not match up very well with Georgia at any position. These games are budgetary steroids and a chance for the Southern players to show their mettle against some of the best players in the nation. The University of Central Florida made a habit of this in the 1990’s and now, they are a feared program with top notch facilities and coaches.

This is also the first time where Sanford Stadium will be the sight of a performance by “The Human Jukebox,” the revered marching band that accompanies the Jaguar football team. Frankly, this may be the main attraction on Saturday. The “Human Jukebox” is known as one of the most vibrant, spirited and soulful marching bands in the country. The average SEC fan has likely never seen or heard anything like it and Saturday’s halftime show may draw more “oohs and ahhs” than any Nick Chubb run. It will be a welcome sight, if you ask me.

This not to say that the Redcoat Band is lacking in talent or spunk. I love the Redcoats. However, my reservation with the Redcoats in recent years is palpable, especially amongst those unfortunate souls who go to Athens with me. I make the same comments, ad nauseam, and I am sure my friends want to take me snipe hunting and leave me in the woods. Truth be told though, I know they agree with me.

I am not sure the Redcoats have altered their in-game song list since 2005. One in particular really gets my goat. They seem to enjoy playing a part of the Rolling Stones’ hit “Paint It Black” consistently, especially when there is a big third-down play or a tense moment. The sound is somewhat understandable, but I know there are better choices out there. I love Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (who continues to live despite the fact that his brain and liver are probably scrambled eggs) as much as the next guy; that song simply does not translate to a football game.

If you read the lyrics, “Paint It Black” is a depressing song that uses colors to describe sadness and desolation. For example, the lyrics that accompany the tune blared by the Redcoats are as follows:

“I see a red door and I want it painted black,

No colors any more, I want them to turn black…”

Not exactly pep rally material.

The current UGA students were born in the late 1990’s, most of their parents were probably not even alive in 1966, when the Stones recorded this song. We are content with a depressing song that marks our most tense moments? Come on, mix it up. If you must have a Stones song for the moment, “Street Fighting Man” or “Start Me Up” could suffice.

In 1999, my brother was a freshman at Woodland High School and the Wildcats made the playoffs that year. Their first round opponent and home team was Westlake High School out of Atlanta. The Woodland faithful traveled down to Camp Creek Parkway to face the Lions, both literally and figuratively. As the teams warmed up, a sense of dread came over the Bartow County folks in attendance. Westlake clearly was much bigger and faster, a combination that rarely can be overcome in high school athletics. The game was a lopsided affair with the final score being 43-19.

The most memorable moment was not the game itself. As the bands fired up their first volleys at one another before the game began, Woodland played a resounding rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” It was not poorly done, but as per the usual, the song does not exactly ignite the fighting spirit of the crowd.

Westlake, on the other hand, went on a full scale attack. The band, probably double the size of Woodland’s, struck up a conglomeration of hip hop songs that caused their fanbase to come unglued. Drum majors were high-stepping, majorettes were shaking body parts that nobody knew could be shook and those members on instruments were swaying and prancing all over the field.

Even the folks from Bartow, mouths agape and eyes transfixed, had to bob their heads along with the sounds. It was a spectacle that many of them had not seen. You have not lived until you see a 70 year old man from Euharlee bouncing along with Mystikal’s “Here I Go.” The energy was infectious and despite the defeat, the people actually had a great time.

So, while this game on Saturday may be a snoozer, the halftime show will be anything but. Southern has already sent word to the Georgia administration that it will be “special.” I expect a monumental display of pageantry, pomp and circumstance that will be fun for all in attendance.

Maybe the Redcoats will be inspired to play something new and different. Any more songs about painting doors and depression may cause me to pull a Jim McElwain.


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