I grew up in Iowa. I lived in Des Moines through my teenage years. I attended the Rose Bowl. I cheered for Stanford. Post-Rose Bowl, Iowa fans hate the Stanford Cardinal. Okay, let me amend that. They don't hate the Stanford Cardinal football team. They don't hate Christian McCaffrey for making what was only possible in video games into an astonishing reality. They hate the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band.
How much do they hate the Stanford Band? A lot.
It is February now. The Stanford Band played on New Years Day. Iowa is still worked up over the Stanford Band's performance. This is no small thing. A great deal has happened in Iowa since the Stanford Band played the Farmer's Only theme song during halftime on January 1. Iowans have been at the center of the political world. The Iowa Democrats deemed Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton to be no better or worse than one another. The Iowa Republicans declared Ted Cruz as the best man for America. The dust has settled on the caucus. Still on the mind of Iowans -- the silly cow patrolling the field, felt vests, skateboard drums, dollies, a tree, and snarky ribbing via the public address system.
So bothered, offput, and offended are the Iowa fans that a state senator from Iowa is proposing a bill banning the Iowa public universities (Iowa, Iowa State, and Northern Iowa) from any cooperation with Stanford until the university apologizes for the band's performance -- Iowa tax dollars hard at work.
Complicating the matter further for citizens of the Hawkeye state is the non-reaction and collective shrug by Stanford and Cardinal fans at large. This infuriates Iowa and its fans even further. How can a world class institution like Stanford University endorse the #classless and unsportsmanlike behavior of the band? Meanwhile the Stanford faithful are confounded too. How could an entire state be so soft, thin-skinned, and humorless? Iowa does realize that they are angry at a bunch of kids playing 70s classic rock music, right?
This is a clash of two cultures. Neither really understand one another. Fortunately, for all of us I have life experience with both universities. So, allow me to explain the Stanford Band in a way that should translate to the good people of the state of Iowa. Professional wrestling.
I do so, knowing the potential peril of official governmental banishment from visiting iconic Iowan sites and cities I cherish like the Field of Dreams baseball diamond, John Wayne's birthplace, covered bridges, the National Balloon Classic in Indianola, the Tulip Festival in Pella, and Radar from M*A*S*H's hometown of Ottumwa.
In the landscape of FBS college football marching bands, 127 of the 128 marching bands work baby face. They are the 'good guys'. They are motivated by traditional values. They want you to say your prayers and take your vitamins. They play old marches or tunes for their fight songs. They are motivated and live off the cheers of the crowd. The Hawkeye Marching Band fit this mold perfectly. They have many faculty who conduct and run the band. Membership is predicated upon audition. They march with precise regimented movement complete with ornate uniform vesture and blindingly bright matching instruments.
Holding a "Truly Incomparable" place in the college football world is the Stanford Band. The Stanford Band works heel. They are the 'bad guys'. They are trying to incite the crowd. They don't care about the traditional rules of marching band. Out of step with other band mates, wild eccentric attire, and irreverence is encouraged. Instead of playing the traditional fight song, they play Free's "All Right Now." In this analogy they are motivated by and live off the boos and jeers of the opposing teams fans. All that matters to them is that they get a reaction. The band is student run. Membership is available to "everyone who can bring the funk."
It was once explained to me by a former Stanford Band member, "You see the other school's marching bands, they are wonderful musicians, but they are boring." In the eyes of the Stanford Band, that is the biggest crime that could be committed.
In lieu of the recent reports of state legislative action being taken in reaction to the Stanford Band performance, it would be fair to assume that this might have caused many, many smiles and much joy among the band members in Palo Alto. Frankly, nobody is talking about the Iowa band's performance, including the Iowa faithful. The Stanford Band's Rose Bowl performance is still being discussed and debated -- outlasting even the Rose Bowl performance of the football team. For the Stanford Band, that's a win. After all, they are working heel.
Explaining this perhaps gives a better understanding to some. Maybe it helps Iowans to get why Stanford fans smirk and smile at their outrage. Iowa has fallen hard for the Stanford band trap. The degree to which Hawkeye faithful have reacted perhaps indicates a very good reason why Stanford and Iowa public schools have rarely "cooperated" in the past, and likely won't in the future.