Go ahead and rip into the Rice band, the Marching Owl Band (MOB), if you must, for their Baylor-skewering halftime performance Friday night.
The MOB’s been called worse.
But how tacky, distasteful, shameless and offensive were the Bears fans who stood and cheered when fired Baylor coach Art Briles walked to his seat in the crowd at Rice Stadium?
Before it had even left the field Friday night, the Rice band was being assailed on Twitter and Facebook, mostly by Baylor fans and knee-jerk national media.
"How dare them make light of such a serious thing as rape?", went the common response.
The correct answer, though, is that they didn’t.
If you piece together the halftime show from internet excerpts, you see that the MOB’s clear target Friday was Baylor and its indifferent response to the university’s sexual assault victims.
During its brief show, the band formed the Roman numerals "IX" – for nine, the Sesame Street-like "number of the day," as its PA narrator announced. The band also took aim at the former president and chancellor of Baylor, Ken Starr, by forming a star at midfield, while the narrator mock-quoted the former Clinton investigator:
"I did not investigate that coach."
Predictably, the Baylor fans in attendance reportedly booed. Twitter lit up with calls for the band director’s head.
But he’s the one who deserves the ovation, not the party-crashing Briles.
Get accustomed to your new world, Baylor. This is the way it’s going to be, probably for a long time.
Bears fans and Art Briles might think the sexual assault scandal can be easily swept under the rug by hiring a kindly interim head coach and by Briles declaring that he’s "a righteous man" and will soon be back in coaching.
But it doesn’t work that way. There are still victims that are waiting for a Baylor football apology – Briles’ ESPN performance certainly didn’t qualify as one – and reportedly at least one federal lawsuit is still pending.
The new coach, Jim Grobe, also made the unpardonable decision to retain Briles’ son, Kendal, and son-in-law Jeff Lebby on his coaching staff. Kendal Briles, the team’s offensive coordinator, memorialized his fired and disgraced dad by writing the initials "AB" on his hand for the Bears’ season opener.
And yet Baylor fans expect talk of the scandal to go away?
It doesn’t work that way. Art Briles continues to paint a pitiable picture, touring the country, insisting that some school will soon be hiring him, all the while not taking responsibility for the indifference he showed and the interference he caused as reports of his player-rapists surfaced. It was Briles and his staff who brought those rapists onto the Baylor campus.
The tragic victims, by now, probably realize that they’re not going to get a personal apology from the former head coach. But maybe some solace can be taken from the ongoing discussion and increased awareness that their cases at Baylor have caused.
Rather than display faux indignation, the lazy among the national media should have just done a little research into the Rice band and its long history of halftime parody.
"Tacky" and "shameless" might well be printed on the MOB’s bass drum.
There are Texas Aggies who still chafe at the 1973 halftime show, when the MOB mocked A&M’s Corps tradition with a precision display of German World War II marching. To honor Aggie collie mascot Reveille, the band formed a fire hydrant.
Over more than four decades of halftimes, the MOB has taken digs at, among others, the SEC (Satan’s Evil Conference), Gov. Rick Perry, suggested Longhorn Network programming (a dating show with Bevo), and President Obama (a costumed impersonator).
Their halftime performance for games with Texas begins, "Ladies and steers . . . ."
The MOB’s theme song, if you will, is Louie, Louie. One of its student directors said that a goal of the 120-or-so-member band was to grow its ranks enough to be able to spell four-letter words.
Offensive? That’s sort of the idea, as most college football fans in Texas already know.
Get accustomed to your new world, Baylor. If you’re going to continue to defend Briles and allow his son and his coaches on your sideline, don’t expect it to go away.