Fake cow at Rose Bowl

Photo courtesy of Hawk Central

A Chorus of Boos for the Banned Stanford Band

| published January 3, 2016 |

By Earl Perkins, Thursday Review features editor

The Stanford band was somehow able to dent all six pillars of character with its performances at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. Its antics were highlighted by two parodies of Iowa, one prior to the contest and another during halftime, which were insulting and not very funny.

The Stanford Band, founded in 1893 and now billing itself as “the world’s largest rock and roll band,” was also restricted from all travel this past season because of hazing assaults on younger band members, but somehow wangled a waiver for the big bowl game. After numerous complaints by students, parents, and faculty exposed epic binge-drinking parties, unauthorized off-campus road trips, sexual misconduct, and illegal hazing activities, the administration was forced to take action.

A major 2015 investigation stated that "on several occasions, the band violated university policies regarding alcohol, controlled substances, hazing and/or sexual harassment." The ensuing punishment was the equivalent of the “double secret probation” dished out by the college dean in National Lampoon’s Animal House, but still the partying and the obnoxiousness continues.

I hate to sound like a prude or a throwback to more genteel times, but where I came from people valued trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and even good citizenship.

If I was matriculating at one of the finer institutions of higher learning in this nation, I'd be a lot more humble and respectful of others; especially if I owed my education in part to Robber Baron Leland Stanford and the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

I'm not particularly a sports fan of either school, but I would have been ill-tempered if my team took a 45-16 drubbing and was forced to watch cow-tipping stunts while the band played the farmersonly.com website theme song. They also mocked farmers in general with their antics, which included a maze made of corn and an effigy of a dejected-looking farmer. The performance drew hundreds, then thousands of boos—most from Iowa Hawkeye fans, but some from Stanford fans as well—and even prompted ESPN to cut away from its planned coverage of the musical show.

Maybe if band members were forced to grow their own food and work seven days a week (outdoors and in all kinds of weather) to survive, they might re-consider their expensive and elaborately choreographed shows.

American Society has eroded over the last few generations, with many young people feeling entitled while demanding whatever they want. Universities have also allowed students to plan and perform most facets of halftime shows, along with homecoming activities, with little or no official intervention or supervision. This leads frequently to material of questionable quality and occasionally unquestionable bad taste. You can hardly bring children to these events, considering all the cursing and nasty gestures that are somehow condoned by administrators and tolerated by the event planners and game referees.

I may not have the answer, but when it comes to things we shouldn't see, I'll defer to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous dictum, "I know it when I see it."

This is not the first time the Stanford band has faced serious problems for its intentional inclusion of political satire or scathing cultural parodies in its halftime shows. In 2004 the band performed a satirical halftime show during its football match-up with Brigham Young University which insulted Mormons with a mock marriage between one man and multiple women, a reference to the long-repudiated practice of polygamy. In 2006 the band was placed on probation and fined after some of its own members deliberately vandalized temporary facilities set up to house the band during a renovation of permanent facilities.

The band has also faced complaints throughout the intervening years of heavy partying accompanied by dangerous levels of alcohol consumption, party drinks spiked to induce vomiting and sickness, and a frequent screening process which includes requiring new band members to answer sexually inappropriate questions. This is the third time in the last decade that the band has been booed or jeered at a game for gregarious or insulting halftime shows.

I didn’t have a dog—or a cow, for that matter—in the gridiron fight between Stanford and Iowa in the Rose Bowl (Stanford won 45-16), but it was clear to me that the Stanford band checked its collective honor and its academic integrity at the gates to the stadium.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Communications Professor at Missouri Challenges Freedom of Press; Thursday Review editors; Thursday Review; November 10, 2015.

Crimson Tide Unleashes Tsunami Against Michigan State; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; January 1, 2016.