The Great Gig In The Desert, Part 3, Part 1

Apparently he's a genius, but I've still got my doubts.

Trevor Jones, lead trumpet player in the Oregon Marching Band and recipient of a full ride athletic scholarship for his service in the OMB’s Green Garter Band, woke at 6:00 AM on the morning of the BCS National Championship, ran into the hotel bathroom, and copiously vomited. He kept up this act with such force and dedication that within hours he was on his way to an urgent care clinic in Scottsdale – Trevor, whose fanaticism for Duck football knew no bounds, was at death’s door on the day of the most historic game in Duck football history. Two other members of the OMB had come down with similar ailments in roughly the same time period.

This fucking game was going to be the death of us.


Our mood on the day of the game was giddy, which came in contrast to our mood on the day of the previous bowl game, which was more like, “Fuck shit ow why am I awake?”

We clambered onto our buses in full uniform and rolled out onto I-10. At the back of Bus 1, where all the main OGs of the Oregon Marching Band ride, we bus surfed for most of the hour long drive from Scottsdale to Glendale.

If you lived here, you'd be home by now. And eaten by coyotes.

And let me take this opportunity, having seen a good amount of the countryside, to ask what possessed someone to look at any part of Arizona and say, “Hey, you know what we should have here? Human civilization!” Because really I’ve never been anywhere that’s seemed less enthusiastic about having life in or around it. It’s all sand, scrub brush, and rocks as far as the eye can see, yet Phoenix is one of the largest cities in America. The summers are so hot out there that hobos routinely cook to death in the streets, and yet they’ve got an opera company and an NFL team.*

*But apparently they don’t have a Major League Soccer team, and if I have to go into the middle of an uninhabitable, racist desert to get away from people who consider it acceptable to like soccer or talk about soccer in polite company, well, so be it. Maybe that’s why 4.5 million people live there.

In Phoenix’s favor, the city’s seal bears an uncanny resemblance to the insignia of the Rebel Alliance. So there’s that, I guess.

Rebel Alliance...

...and Phoenix. Eh? Eh? C'mon, it's not just me.

Presently, we joined the throng of cars headed to the game. Most of the cars we saw had Auburn gear adorning their windows and back bumpers, but we figured that it was probably just because the road we were on was closer to Alabama than all the others, and that the northern facing roads were veritable logjams of Subarus repping Duck colors. Out of spite and school spirit, we pressed The Sign up against the window whenever we passed an Auburn car, hoping to, at the very least, confuse them and make them run off the road. Go Ducks.


When we first caught sight of University of Phoenix Stadium rising out of the sand, a hush fell over the bus. Jokes and giddiness stopped as people whipped out phones and cameras to document what a pro football stadium in the middle of a desert looks like through the tinted window of a motorcoach.

It looks like this.

Thanks to traffic it took us a good 40 minutes from first sight of the stadium until we were in the parking lot and unloading in a pavilion of dead grass near one of the parking lots. Our rehearsal was brief and relatively focused. As we tweaked our music, Auburn’s band showed up and began massing at the other end of the pavilion, like a big blue and orange Zerg rush with sousaphones and baton twirlers.

I’ve always had marching band size envy. Be it in my days at Sprague High School, when our 50 piece marching band would square off in competitions against bands three times our size, or more recently in the OMB, where at every bowl game we’ve faced off against a band from a part of the country where everyone is as fanatical about marching bands as I used to be, I’ve always looked at the band I’m in and felt that it was somehow small and inadequate.

Let’s just say that if the National Championship was an Enzyte commercial, Auburn’s band was Bob, and the Oregon Marching Band was everybody in the commercial who isn’t Bob.

Well, uh... War Eagle, I guess.

Auburn’s band is almost laughably huge. They have 62 trumpets and 19 sousaphones. The band’s total size is 380 members, which is the equivalent of almost two U.S. Army companies. The Oregon Marching Band, which dwarfs the high school bands at the annual competition we host, barely even exists next to something that huge.

This, times, like, a hojillion, and then you've got a sense of scale. (Christian Petersen, Getty Images.)

There’s no real reason for my size envy, I guess – I just want to feel like I’m in the better organization, and no matter how much better in tune or in balance the small band is, the big band always looks more impressive. If you’re in a gigantic marching band that sucks, at least you’re sucking with several hundred buddies.

Auburn’s army lumbered off into the distance, and not long after we followed, marching around the stadium to visit a number of tailgates, none of which, thankfully, were attended by Sebastian Bach.*

*You know what? I bet he doesn’t even like college football. Fuck that guy.

The ‘Shit Just Got Real’ moment for me came when we marched into Westgate City Center – basically a spiffy and expensive mall arrayed on either side of a street adjacent to the stadium – to find the sidewalks and elevated mall walkways lined with Duck and Auburn fans alike, all of them screaming and cheering like crazy, drunk on the moment (and probably beer, too).

Westgate City Center on a normal day, because apparently nobody at the rally had a fucking camera.

We stopped in the middle of the street and played Mighty Oregon, and then kicked into Winner, just like we had at the previous day’s pep rally. Winner is a hip-hop song by Jamie Foxx, featuring Justin Timberlake, and the lyrical content is mostly about being awesome and infallible. I get the idea that Jamie Foxx specifically wrote this song for guys to listen to right after they have sex.

My old roommate Bret arranged a rendition of the song for the marching band, which we learned and began to play more and more in the leadup to the big game. It’s the sort of song that a marching band should play, and I’m surprised that more don’t. The marching band is there to make the team feel awesome, and this is a song all about being awesome. Connect the dots, folks.

Halfway through the song we reached the drumline solo, and we at once began our pre-choreographed dance moves. For the first time, I happened to be looking forward when this started, and I was suddenly able to appreciate the beauty of it all – our ranks spontaneously broke apart as three rows of white girls in the flutes and clarinets began booty poppin’*, saxophones all but humping their instruments in time with the music, we trumpets thrusting our crotches forward with each note, the crowd going nuts and positively eating it up.

*This, I am told, is what the black people call it.

It was roughly this bootilicious.

Jesus! I thought. We’ve got a shot at this thing, don’t we?

When we finished, blasting out the last notes of the song –

You know you’re lookin’ at a winner, winner, winner
Can’t miss, can’t lose, can’t miss
You know you’re looking at a winner, winner, winner
‘Cause I’m a winner
‘Cause I’m a winner

- an Auburn fan behind me clapped me on the shoulder.

“Hey,” He said. “I sure hope your team doesn’t play as well as you guys do.”

I’ll say it right now: With a couple of notable exceptions, Auburn’s fans were some of the nicest people I’ve met in four years of attending college football games. And if you’re out there, that guy, thanks for at least temporarily curing me of my size envy.

Truman Capps will cover the rest of game day, as well as the fate of Trevor Jones, tomorrow. Incidentally, apologies for the shitty embedding on the videos - my HTML isn't THAT good, okay?