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The MOB’s message to Baylor

I’ve been a member of the Rice MOB since 1988, when I arrived in Houston as a grad student in math. I’m especially proud to have been part of the MOB this weekend.

Rice University’s Marching Owl Band delivered a controversial skit and played pro-LGBTQ song “YMCA” by the Village People as dozens of students and alumni rushed the field with rainbow flags at its football game against Baylor University on Saturday night.

The skit comes as LGBTQ students and alumni fight to be recognized by the private Baptist college in Waco.

Chad Fisher, a spokesman for the Marching Owl Band, also known as “The MOB,” said he and his bandmates decided on a “Star Wars”-themed show months ago, but after learning about Baylor LGBTQ students’ ongoing fight to get recognition for their student group, they decided to incorporate that into their performance.

“Some of us did some more digging and found how deep it went,” Fisher said.

A Baylor spokeswoman confirmed that on Sept. 6, the college’s administration declined to officially recognize and charter Gamma Alpha Upsilon, an LGBTQ-student group on campus that has been fighting to be recognized since its inception in 2011.

The private Baptist university’s refusal to recognize Gamma Alpha Upsilon, or “GAY” in Greek letters, as an official student group has prevented them from receiving certain privileges, including the opportunity to advertise events on campus, reserve university spaces for meetings and receive funding through the student government.

Though Baylor President Linda Livingstone did not issue an official statement about the recent charter denial, the spokeswoman pointed to an Aug. 27 statement from Livingstone. In it, Livingstone said that “Baylor is committed to providing a loving and caring community for all students — including our LGBTQ students.”

But she also referred to the college’s “Human Sexuality” policy, which states that “the university affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God” and that “Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm.”

Baylor’s sexual conduct policy, also referenced in Livingstone’s statement, explains that it is “expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching,” including “heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior.”

See here for more on this. You can also see the full script for the show here, and the scoreboard display that accompanied the show here. It’s not just that I believe Baylor is wrong, it’s that I think Baylor, and other “Christian” leaders, politicians, and organizations completely miss the main idea of Jesus Christ’s teachings. It’s very clear, if you actually read what Jesus said over and over again, that Jesus taught we are all God’s children and we are all loved by God. Jesus made a point of associating with lepers and prostitutes, paupers and tax collectors, to emphasize that we are not judged by who we are, we are judged by what we do. In particular, we are judged by our actions towards “the least of these”. (Ever read the parable of the sheep and the goats? Of Lazarus and the rich man? It’s all right there.) It amazes me how often the most prominent “Christians” of our time act like the villains in one of Christ’s parables. But here we are.

The insistence by groups like Gamma Alpha Upsilon and individual LGBTQ people that they too are included in God’s grace also amazes me. I, personally, would take the hate and vitriol that comes from the “Christians” and say fine, I don’t want to be part of your stupid, immoral group, I’ve got plenty of love and acceptance over here. But these folks, so much more than Linda Livinstone and Ken Starr and the rest of that crowd, have taken Jesus’ actual words and teachings to heart. They believe it, they know they’re a part of it, and they won’t give up until everyone else knows that, too. I’m not a particularly religious person, but I find that so moving and inspiring, and I want them to have what they have always deserved. If making dumb Star Wars jokes in a silly halftime show at the expense of the Baylor administration helps them in some infinitesimal way, I’m happy.

The MOB and Baylor

So you’ve probably heard about this by now.

If it’s possible for a band to steal headlines away from a football game, Rice’s Marching Owl Band found a way.

While Rice made strides but ultimately fell against No. 21 Baylor 38-10 on Friday at Rice Stadium, it was what happened at halftime that was the focus.

The MOB dedicated its halftime routine to satirizing Baylor’s sexual assault scandal. It sparked controversy throughout social media and the college football world.

Some believe the band was rightfully shining light on Baylor’s handling of the assaults. Some believe the band went too far in satirizing a serious matter.

It appears Rice officials agree with the latter. The university released a statement Saturday apologizing for the MOB’s performance.

The statement reads:

“The Marching Owl Band, or MOB, has a tradition of satirizing the Rice Owls’ football opponents. In this case, the band’s calling attention to the situation at Baylor was subject to many different interpretations. Although the band’s halftime shows are entirely the members’ projects with no prior review by the university administration, we regret any offense, particularly if Baylor fans may have felt unwelcome in our stadium. While we know that the MOB did not intend in any way to make light of the serious issue of sexual assault, we are concerned that some people may have interpreted the halftime performance in that vein. Sexual assault is a matter of serious concern on campuses across the nation, and all of us have an obligation to address the matter with all the tools at our disposal. The MOB sought to highlight the events at Baylor by satirizing the actions or inactions of the Baylor administration, but it is apparent from the comments of many spectators and Baylor fans that the MOB’s effort may have went too far.”

In the performance, the band started with Muppet Fozzie Bear on the video board and the narrator saying “some jokes can be unbearable”, a miniscule jab at Baylor’s mascot.

The announcer then said “There are nine judges on the Supreme Court or is it?” The band proceeded to align in a formation to resemble the Roman numeral nine representing Title IX – poking fun at the multiple Title IX lawsuits Baylor is facing over the school’s handling of sexual assaults.
It took another turn when the band aligned in a star formation meant to represent former Baylor president Ken Starr and his resignation, all the while playing the song “Hit The Road, Jack.”

You can see the full script for the show here; the embedded image contains the bit that this story elides over. As you may know, I play with the MOB and I was there on the field for this show on Friday night. All I’m going to say is that Rice University may feel the need to apologize for something, but I don’t. They are not speaking for me on this. Nor, apparently, are they speaking for the editor of the Rice Thresher, who is for more eloquent than I. The Trib and Deadspin have more.

UPDATE: More from the Press and Underdog Dynasty.

UPDATE: Even better commentary in this Observer piece, written by a former MOB member.

Quidditch, Texas-style

We are a hotbed of quality Quidditch in this state.

As cars drove by the soccer fields at Texas State University on a gray Sunday afternoon this past February, they slowed down to take in a strange scene: a dozen people running around holding broomsticks between their legs.

Anyone familiar with the Wizarding World of the Harry Potter universe would immediately recognize the activity as quidditch, the fictional sport invented by the books’ author J.K. Rowling. Of course, the version described in the books and seen in the movie adaptations is, well, magical, with the wizard characters flying on broomsticks across a field of play that takes place primarily in the sky. But a decade ago, it was adapted to real-life play by the only group of people who have the time and inclination to do such things: college students.

In 2005, some enterprising kids at Vermont’s Middlebury College created “muggle quidditch,” and since then the sport has rapidly grown. The US Quidditch Association formed in 2010 and now oversees more than 4,000 athletes playing for nearly 200 teams across seven regions in America. An International Quidditch Association formed in 2013 governs the dozens of teams that span more than twenty countries across the globe. The sport even has its own World Cup, which will be in its eighth iteration this weekend, when 80 teams from the US and Canada will battle it out for the championship in South Carolina.

Almost as astounding as the sport’s explosive growth is Central Texas’s now total domination of it. Five of the eight teams that made the quarterfinals for last year’s World Cup—UT, Baylor, Lone Star, Texas A&M, and Texas State—were from the area; three of them—UT, A&M, and Texas State—played in the semifinals. (UT beat Texas State in the final match, clinching its second World Cup championship in a row.) And going into the 2015 World Cup, four central Texas teams are listed in the top 10 overall standings, with Lone Star sitting at the top.

“The level of play in the southwest region is at such a higher level than the rest of the country,” says Beth Clem, a first-year graduate student at Texas State who plays on the university’s team. She credits this, partly, to the state’s football culture. Despite its cutesy origins, quidditch is a high-intensity contact sport, an advantage in Texas, where kids grow up on gridiron. “Half of the guys on our teams played football. They want to tackle; they want to be aggressive. We’re big, so we just wanna go through people.”

Ethan Sturm,* a player from Tufts University who is the co-founder and current managing editor of the quidditch analysis website, The Eighth Man, puts it a bit more bluntly: “You’ve got this hub in Texas where the players are simply more athletic than in other parts of the country.”

I’ve actually seen “muggle Quidditch”, a couple of years ago at Rice. There was a tournament featuring teams from a half dozen or so area colleges, including Rice, and someone in the MOB had the bright idea to put together a pep band for it. How could I resist, especially given how much my kids love Harry Potter? The matches themselves were oddly compelling to watch, though as with most sports the perspective from field level wasn’t as good as the more elevated stadium view would have been. Still, we enjoyed it, and I can see why it’s taken off. If I were 30 years younger, I might give it a try myself.

Eighteen minutes into the game, the “snitch” entered the pitch. In J.K. Rowling’s version of quidditch, the snitch is a small, gold, winged ball that is introduced to the game after an arbitrary and unspecified period of standard play. The magical item flies around the pitch, and a “seeker” from each team (this is Harry’s position in the books) is tasked with attempting to capture it, winning his or her team 150 points and ending the game. In IRL quidditch, the snitch is actually a person dressed entirely in yellow running around with a tennis ball in a tube sock tucked into the back of a his pants. When the snitch enters the field (the referee signals him to jump in), each team deploys a seeker to try and grab the ball from the snitch, who can use both of his arms to hold off them off. It’s a highly physical battle, and the interaction between the seekers and the snitch looks like a cross between a game of tag and a wrestling match. The game is over when a seeker pulls the sock with the tennis ball off the snitch’s body, with that seeker’s team getting 30 points for the effort. When Lone Star’s seeker finally tackled the snitch, the team claimed victory—and the top spot in the US Quidditch Association’s rankings going into the World Cup.

This makes me happy. While I have no doubt that actual wizard Quidditch would be awesome to watch, the scoring rules never made sense to me. Scoring 150 points for the snitch means that the goals scored by the chasers are basically meaningless. I’ve always considered Quidditch to be a sport invented by someone who doesn’t understand sports. Changing the score for getting the snitch to 30 points makes the job of the chasers a lot more relevant, and introduces an element of strategy that the original game sorely lacked. Now it may or may not be in a given team’s interest to grab the snitch, and that situation can change in an instant. I know, I know, it’s a silly, geeky thing, but if you’re going to do this you may as well do it in a sensible way.

Friday random ten: Five, six, seven, eight…

So tomorrow the Rice Owls will play the Marshall Thundering Herd at Historic Rice Stadium in the Conference USA championship game (noon EST, 11 AM CST, ESPN2, check local listings), and I’ll be there in the stands with the Rice MOB, freezing my embouchure off. In any event, to honor the occasion and to hopefully avoid angering the weauxf gods, here are ten songs from my collection for which the MOB has an arrangement. Odds are you’ll hear a couple of these if you tune in or attend in person.

1. I Can’t Turn You Loose – Was (Not Was)
2. Vehicle – Ides of March
3. Love Shack – The B-52’s
4. Hit The Road, Jack – Ray Charles
5. Pipeline – The Ventures
6. Everybody’s Everything – Santana
7. YMCA – The Village People
8. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
9. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon
10. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift

That latter one was my contribution to the script for the U of H show, since our parting of conference ways may mean it’s a long time before we face off on the gridiron again. Our director Chuck Throckmorton arranged it as a medley with Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”. Believe it or not, I don’t actually have a copy of The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie, Louie”, which is the MOB’s calling card. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad”, in that scene with the USC Marching Band at Dodger Stadium, it’s the MOB version of “Louie, Louie” that you’re hearing. We play it after every touchdown, so I hope we’re all sick of hearing it by the end of the game. Go Rice!

Saturday video break: Twist And Shout

Song #7 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “Twist And Shout”, originally by The Isley Brothers and covered by The Beatles. Here’s the original:

Dave Barry has written about how much he prefers this version to the Beatles’ version – he called it the kind of song that if it comes on the radio while you’re driving, “if you turn it up loud enough, [it] can propel you out of the car to dance with toll-booth attendants”. That was the column that ultimately led to his famous Book Of Bad Songs, after numerous readers strongly objected to his disparaging remarks about Neil Diamond. Oh, and see here for the excellent Jeff MacNelly cartoon that accompanied that column. How’s that for a digression? Now here’s the Beatles:

The ratio of song groovability to stiffness of the singers is just off the charts, isn’t it? Of course, if you’re of a certain age, you can’t help but associate that song with this movie:

I guess that proves Dave Barry’s point about dancing. I saw that in the theater back in the day with my college roomie and best friend Greg. Not long after, I wound up at Rice, in The MOB, where an arrangement of that was one of our staples. Yes, we danced, and sang the AAAAAAAH part, and we got everyone at Notre Dame’s football stadium to do it along with us in 1988, and it was all kinds of awesome. So yeah, positive memories with this song.

Friday random ten: The final frontier

This is a little late, as this was happening while I was doing the Songs of the Century, but here’s my tribute to the last flight of the space shuttle:

1. Space Oddity – David Bowie
2. Space Truckin’ – Deep Purple
3. Outer Space – Ace Frehley
4. Hillbillies From Outer Space – The Vaughan Brothers
5. Pipes In Space – The Rogues
6. Spacemen Rockin’ In The House Next Door – Feo y Loco
7. Planet Claire – The B-52’s
8. Rocket Man – Kate Bush
9. Fly Me To The Moon – Trinity University Jazz Band
10. See The Constellation – They Might Be Giants

In more timely news, the Rice University MOB gave tribute to NASA at its show this past Friday, which involved the creation of a 2/3 scale model of the International Space Station, rendered in cardboard and laid out on the football field. Here’s the video:

Can your band do that?

The first drum majors

We know that UTSA is debuting a football team this weekend. Well, you can’t have football without halftime entertainment, and you can’t have a marching band without drum majors.

Alana Urbano, Annie Moras and Sydney Corbin know they have a big responsibility. They’re UTSA’s first-ever drum majors, leading the Roadrunner marching band in its first season.

“Can you imagine watching football without hearing a band? Watching football and (having) music go hand in hand. They are paired. You can’t have one without the other,” Urbano said.

The band was expecting to recruit about 150 members, but instead had more than 200 students show up.

“I’m excited and proud and I feel very privileged,” Corbin said. “Not anyone else is going to get to do this.”

We don’t march in the MOB, but we do have drum majors and drum minors, and in my observation every last one of them has worked his or her rear end off to make each halftime be the best it can be. I’m sure Ms. Moras, Urbano, and Corbin will do the same at UTSA. Congratulations and best of luck to you, y’all.

Friday random ten: The Top 500, part 2

The next ten of my songs from the Rolling Stone Top 500 list:

1. Sympathy For The Devil – Blood, Sweat, and Tears (#32, orig. Rolling Stones)
2. River Deep, Mountain High – Ike & Tina Turner (#33)
3. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – Phosphorescent (#34, orig. The Righteous Brothers)
4. That’ll Be The Day – The Beatles (#39, orig. Buddy Holly)
5. Georgia On My Mind – Ray Charles (#44)
6. Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon & Garfunkel (#47)
7. All Along The Watchtower – U2 (#48, orig. Jimi Hendrix)
8. When Doves Cry – Kris McKay (#52, orig. Prince)
9. Anarchy In The UK – The Sex Pistols (#53)
10. Louie, Louie – The MOB (#55, orig. The Kingsmen)

Not too much to comment on here. I also have the Johnny Cash cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, which I think in many ways is superior to the original, and I love the original. As for “Louie, Louie”, a few years back we had the pleasure of performing it on the field with the actual Kingsmen themselves. That was a blast. Oh, and if you recall that scene in the first “Naked Gun” movie where the Southern Cal band is playing “Louie, Louie”, it’s actually a MOB recording that you’re hearing.

Entire song list report: Started with “The Rhythm of the Saints”, by Paul Simon. Finished with “Rocky Road To Dublin”, by The Chieftains and the Rolling Stones, song #4319, for 97 tunes this week. Happy weekend before Thanksgiving!

Saturday video break: They live inside of my head

The MOB performed an arrangement of Cheap Trick’s “Dream Police” during last week’s show. Not too surprisingly, none of the current students in the sax section had ever heard of the song before, though they did like it. So I went off to YouTube to find a decent video of it. This is what I dug up, the original 1979 promo video for “Dream Police”:

The 70s really were something, weren’t they?

By the way, the MOB arrangement of “Dream Police” was used as a partial soundtrack for the following video, which was the focal point of last week’s halftime show.

“Dream Police” accompanied the silent segment that begins after the line “Come with me if you want to live”. This was one of the more fun shows to perform, and it got a nice reaction.

Friday random ten: 25 and up

For the third and final entry in my numeric theme list, here are ten more songs with numbers in the title, starting with the number 25:

1. When I’m 25 or 64 – Jonathan Coulton
2. Section 29 – The Polyphonic Spree
3. Smells Like Thirty-Something – Asylum Street Spankers
4. 36 Lovers – Ready For The World
5. 40 – U2
6. Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon
7. 52 Girls – The B-52’s
8. 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On) – Bruce Springsteen
9. Route 66 – Lager Rhythms
10. Texas 71 – Magnolia Electric Co.

Needless to say, it starts to get tougher the higher you go. How high can you count on your iPod?

Entire song list report: Started with “Light Up My Room”, by the Barenaked Ladies. Finished with “Locomotive Breath”, by Jethro Tull, song #2976, for a total of 94 tunes this week.

Ripping vinyl report: This week I went old school, literally. I have in my collection a pair of early-80s records by the Rice University Marching Owl Band, a/k/a The MOB, featuring halftime and timeout music they’d play on the field and in the stands for football games. Back then, the selections leaned heavily towards show and movie tunes – the two albums have excerpts from things like “The Wiz”, “Porgy and Bess”, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”, “E.T.”, and “Fame”. Today’s MOB draws much more heavily from popular music, though some of these oldies still pop up occasionally. It was a trip listening to it all, that’s for sure.

Blog Stars

The Houston Press surveyed the local blog scene and picked out ten “Blog Stars” to highlight and profile. I’m pleased to say that they did me the honor of including me and my blog on that list. I always find it a little embarrassing to talk about myself like this, so since you’re already reading my blog, I’m going to talk about the nine other folks on their list and why you should be reading them as well.

1. Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess

The Bloggess is the funniest damn thing on the Internet. Seriously, you should stop reading this right now and go click the link and see for yourself. Just don’t be drinking any beverages while you do, or your monitor may regret it. I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny a couple of months ago at a Planned Parenthood event at which she and I and a couple other bloggers got to meet Joan Walsh, and you if you’re still here reading this you should now go read what she wrote about that experience, which she cross-posted to Open Salon and got a comment from Walsh about it. Are you still here? Go read The Bloggess.

2. Robert Boyd, The Great God Pan Is Dead

I’ve been a fan of Robert’s blog Wha’ Happen?, especially his posts where he rides his bike through an old neighborhood and takes lots of pictures of what he sees. One of the flaws of reading blogs via RSS feed is that I hadn’t visited his main page recently and thus did not know about his newer blog, which looks excellent. I’ve now added it to my subscriptions. (I’ve added all the blogs of which I was previously unaware of to my subs.)

3. Gus Allen, Swamplot

Easily the best thing to happen to Houston real estate since Michael Pollock went off the air. I’ve been a fan of Swamplot since its debut.

4. Stephanie Stradley, Texans Chick

Stephanie is one of two people on this list whom I knew in real life long before “blog” became a word. She and I went to Trinity University, and we reconnected in recent years through a mutual friend and the blog of her late sister, Debutaunt. Reading her blog has actually helped make me somewhat of a Texans fan. I can only hope to ever influence someone else’s opinion that much. You want to read some solid and entertaining football writing? Steph’s your blogger.

5. David Cobb, Houston Calling

I am not familiar with this blog. But I will be now.

6. Mark Bennett, Defending People

Mark is the other person I knew back in the day, as we were both in the MOB circa 1989 or so. We both now have kids in the same school, and I’ve run into him at a PTA meeting or two. You want to learn something about how the criminal justice system operates from someone who lives it every day, go read Mark.

7. Laura Mayes, Blog Con Queso

I met Laura at the same Planned Parenthood event where I met Jenny. I had not been reading her blog regularly before, but I will be now.

8. Albert Nurick, H-Town Chow Down and
9. Nishta Mehra, Blue Jean Gourmet

I’m not a foodie. My tastes are, sadly, rather pedestrian. Maybe reading these two will help with that.

So there you have it. My thanks to the Press for including me in such good company. Happy reading, and congrats to all the well-deserved honorees.

Rice gets stimulus funds for physics building

Go Owls!

Rice University narrowly missed a chance at federal funding for a new physics building last year. The $787 billion federal stimulus plan offered a second chance.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology announced Monday that Rice will receive $11.1 million for its Brockman Hall for Physics, a 110,000-square-foot facility designed for fundamental and applied physics research.

The building will include noise- and vibration-controlled underground labs, allowing Rice researchers to expand the types of research they are able to do, said Kathleen Matthews, a professor of biochemistry and cell biology and former dean of natural sciences.

It also will provide more flexibility. Matthews said some researchers now work late at night to minimize vibrations from passing traffic that can skew results from their ultra-sensitive instruments.

I cannot say this with complete certainty yet, but I feel pretty confident this will be worked into a MOB show at some point.

Is there are revolt brewing against Straus?

Texas Insider passes along what is probably a rumor.

Word around the Texas House of Representatives is that a phantom list of nearly 76 signatures is circulating that will take out Speaker Joe Straus when the time is right. A few representatives wishing to remain anonymous have told Texas Insider they have signed the sheet calling for a motion to remove the speaker.


We are now two-and-a-half months into the 81st Legislature. Committees and chairmanships have been assigned, and all of a sudden members are second guessing the choice for speaker.

Many Democrats had high hopes for plumb chair posts and committee assignments, but when appointments came out they were surprised to see their support for Straus didn’t pay off they way they anticipated.

Consequently, a large number of Democrats and a few Republicans have signed a list that may unseat Speaker Straus when the time is right. It has been rumored that the proper timing would be shortly after the budget passes the House, which it is expected to go for a vote the week after Easter (April 12).

In years past the Rice MOB used to have in its repertoire a show called the Annual Salute To The New Coach. Perhaps we’ll have to develop a Biennial Salute To The New Speaker.

Anyway, make of this what you will. I think it’s more talk than action, but who knows? Anybody out there hearing about this? Vince has more.