On a dreary March Sunday an email notice reminded me: “Great seats still Remain” for a playoff game that same day for an excellent local college’s women’s basketball team. When it’s March in Chicago, you say “yes.”
The “great seats still remaining” turned out to be in the STUDENT section of the 3,000- seat auditorium – lodged between two rows of 30 cheerleaders and about as many pep band members – largely brass and percussion.
The game was fast and entertaining. As expected, the young female athletes played well – delighting the sold-out house with a healthy lead.
Due to my unique seating vantage point, it was during the “time-out’s” and the period breaks, when both the pep band and the 30 cheerleaders kicked in with full energy, that I was even more entertained. The cheerleaders, as expected, personified youthful energy, clear skin, perfectly fitting uniforms and headbands and ever-present smiles. And they were good!
The pep band, largely male, while in uniform, was a bit more “scrappy” – displaying a variety of looks, haircuts, body builds, and complexions. And they also were good! Seated so closely to them, I could tell that they were really having FUN – with each other and with the crowd. They were fully present in their role – even though their role was clearly in the background of the action.
At one point I noticed the bandleader. He was a young man – with clean-cut short hair, a suit and tie, and a wonderful constant smile and twinkle in his eye. He was down front directing tempo and stops and starts – always with this smile and a twinkle in his eye – not unlike Harold Hill in The Music Man. He sang along; he mouthed the words; he was in tune with the action on the court; he gave frequent “thumbs up’s” to his band. Unfortunately the family and faculty crowd across the court in the “good seats” could not see this.
I wanted them to be able to see as I could! I wanted them to know that this young bandleader was with his team the entire time – contributing to our experience of the event. As the game ended, and I stood to leave, I noticed that he left his post and walked up and down the bleachers to give a “thumbs up” and an “Atta boy/girl” to every single row and musician. They beamed. They retorted. They laughed. They were totally comfortable with him.
It was a lesson in how a leader motivates a team even though they are not the stars. Thanks to a dreary March day and the leader of the band.
He earned his love through discipline, a thund’ring, velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand
…From Leader of the Band (1981 release) by fellow Peorian Dan Fogelberg