A few weeks ago, I was hiding out at the Central Michigan-UNLV football game at Sam Boyd Stadium — I figured that would be the last place the authorities would look — when Mark Wallington, the Rebels’ football information guy, said the UNLV marching band had formed a giant mustache down on the playing field.
At first I thought Wallington was pulling my leg, because that always is a possibility when the opponent is Central Michigan and we both have to be there.
But there it was: The band had formed a giant mustache, just as Wallington said, and it was marching down the field at a much brisker pace than the Rebels had marched down the field against Arizona the week before.
The sousaphone player who dots the “i” in “Script Ohio” at Ohio State never is gonna believe this, I thought.
“Script Ohio” is the coolest marching band tradition of all time. It is so awesome that former Buckeyes Bob Hope and Jack Nicklaus and astronaut John Glenn have served as guest dotters of the “i.”
But I think with a little more publicity and a little more panache, the marching mustache quickly could move up in the rankings. Like Boise State.
Tony LaBounty, the longtime director of the Star of Nevada Marching Band, said the marching mustache was the idea of Zane Douglass of the marching band’s adjunct faculty.
The band’s a little smaller this year, about 95 strong, so there was an issue in forming a giant ace, the usual formation for “Viva, Las Vegas.” It looked more like a six or a seven instead of an ace.
LaBounty said the marching band learned the mustache formation in one day because “it’s not that complicated.”
(Neither is Bobby Hauck’s offense, but it has taken the Rebels four years to master it. So give the band kids credit.)
“They think it’s cool,” LaBounty said of the trombone and cornet players and the kids who play the other instruments. “They’re into it.”
The mustache formation, when it is done correctly, is supposed to look like nice and bushy, like the ’stache of “Hey Reb,” the UNLV mascot.
Against Central Michigan, it sort of looked like Wilford Brimley’s.
LaBounty said that’s what happens when the woodwind section fails to follow directions.
But that’s what these early-season games against Central Michigan and Western Illinois are for. You think Barry Switzer and Oklahoma mastered the wishbone overnight?
Anyway, LaBounty said he was happy that somebody noticed what the band was up to.
It used to be the marching band was a big deal at halftime, especially in the TV games. But now all you get at halftime is sideline reporters asking the coaches silly questions. Then they throw it back to the studio, where Lou Holtz and Mark May second-guess the coaches’ answers to the silly questions, and then they update the East Carolina-Tulane score.
Meanwhile, back at the stadium, the woodwind section is playing its collective behind off, and nobody cares.*
(*Except at halftime at Grambling State and Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina A&T and the other historic black colleges and universities, and at the Cal-Stanford game, where the Stanford band has been known to run onto the field before the game ends.)
I suggested to LaBounty that if dotting the “i” is such a grand tradition at Ohio State, perhaps the UNLV band should “curl the mustache” and start its own tradition.
It would take two people, one at each handlebar. Maybe a tuba player and a bassoonist. Or like Ohio State, there could be guest mustache curlers. First guy who comes to mind: Rollie Fingers.
While I have seen the Notre Dame marching band form a sailboat when it plays Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” a marching sailboat cannot compare to a marching mustache that curls at the ends.
So it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that at this moment, the trombone and cornet players at Louisiana-Monroe, and the tubas and the sousaphones, and even the guy who rings the triangle, are working on a marching beard formation as an homage to the cast and crew of “Duck Dynasty.”
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.