Thursday, February 26, 2009

It Is Now Official

It was finally announced on the LSU Sports website today that in the 2010 and 2011 football seasons, LSU will be playing West Virginia. The 2010 game will be in Baton Rouge, and the 2011 game (my senior year) will be in Morgantown, WV, just about a 3 or so hour drive from home. West Virginia was also one of the other schools that I was considering going to, and had auditioned for. One of my friends from high school, Kinsey, also goes there, among numerous others that I know there from Oakton.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Crossmen-Spirit Bond

One of the things that I really love about the Crossmen is the history and tradition of the corps. It is something that the CAA (Crossmen Alumni Association) as well as vets among the current corps work to teach the rookies (and the CAA helping continue to teach vets, I learn new things all the time). One of the very special things throughout Crossmen history is our special bond with another drum corps, Spirit, as I mentioned a while back. I don't believe that any other corps has the same connection as the Crossmen and Spirit do.

Here is some information about how the bond was formed:

Spirit of Atlanta and Crossmen played for each other after their first show of the 1979 tour in South Dakota, forming a bond immediately. Then they headed further west together. Spirit's buses got far ahead of the convoy. Their equipment truck was blown off the road and the truck/trailer rolled twice and crashed the cab. Luckily, the drivers only suffered a broken rib and some injured fingers. A wrecker was just about to pull the wreckage to the road, which would have destroyed nearly all of the equipment. Just then, the Crossmen buses pulled up and Robby Robinson (the first Crossmen corps director) instructed his corps to "pick it clean." They did just that, taking the equipment into the aisles of their own buses for safe keeping. Out of more than $80,000 of equipment, damages came to only $1,900.

Later on down the road, Spirit was reuinted with their equipment, and a rental truck was acquired to haul it (which later had to be replaced as well).

As tour progressed, Crossmen started losing their buses one by one. One bus died in Utah, forcing Crossmen to cram members onto the 3 remaining buses, and Spirit took the overload. The second bus went in California and those members rode with Spirit all the way to Denver. Then, one of the two remaining buses died, the corps missed a show in Pueblo and slowly drove into Denver for Drums Along the Rockies.

Since then, there has been a large amount of good will between the two corps. They often play combined music following their home drum corps shows. At the end of every tour, each corps gives to one of its members an award honoring the other corps.

Tommy Lee Maddox, a 1979 Spirit member, said of the incident:

"I was on that ride way back in '79. We were beginning to get our 'contest teeth' that year as opposed to being the naive bunch that we were in '77 and '78. We began to look at other corps as opponents that we had to drop, along with the notion that we were to have fun along the way (which we did).

Then we were heading down from Hot Springs, SD, to Stockton, CA, when the equipment truck got blown off the road. X-Men picked up the pieces and helped us move on down the road. Then, when their buses died, we'd pile them on with us. It was a strange growth process for all of us.

Then, in 1980, a couple of days after Jim Ott died on the road, we had our last show of first tour in Centerville, Ohio. In the top spots were us and Crossmen. We, as a group, were pretty worthless and just plain wore out. We did the show that night and even got to play the other corps onto the field for retreat. The drum section played Jimmy Buffet's "Volcano" as the entry music. We were all so slap happy that we just sang along as the other corps paraded onto the field.

So the scores were announced...then he got to second place...paused...and announced that there was a tie between us and Crossmen. We all hollered and cried and rejoiced that our friends had not beat us and that we were going home.

It turned out, so I understand, that Crossmen had won the show by a tenth or so, but Robbie Robinson told them to make it a tie. Us, and our busmates, were a happy clan either way.

Drum corps is a good thing. I am so happy and proud to be part of a good thing."

Here is the article which was printed in "Youth On the March" show in Alton, IL (July 10, 1980).

"Crossmen" Found a "Spirit"....of Friendship

A strong bond of friendship grew last summer between two championship drum & bugle corps who helped each other survive a long trip to California.

The Crossmen from Delaware County, PA and the Spirit of Atlanta from Atlanta, GA literally became one corps off the competition field. They battled hardships, not unlike those faced by early pioneers who settled in the West.

Before heading westward on their own, the two corps had competed in drum corps shows with a half-dozen other corps in eastern and mid-western states.

By the time they returned to their home states, the Crossmen had lost three of four buses and Spirit went through three equipment trucks.

Both corps worked together to over come one setback after another during the three-week tour. Freddy Martin, director of the Atlanta corps, said, "For me, the comradeship that grew between the kids in the two corps was the most meaningful part of the entire summer."

Looking back on the experience, Harold "Robbie" Robinson, director of the Crossmen said, "For the first time in my 27 years in drum corps, I finally felt something in drum corps that I always wanted. I knew we helped them in their hour of need, and they saved the day for us many times in return."

Martin said, "We had to be of help to each other to survive. It was a long trip." the close relationship began late one night in Hot Springs, S.D. the site of the first show on the tour westward.

Crossmen and Spirit were the only members of DCI (the world's top 25 ranked corps) in the show.

"The two corps were out in the middle of nowhere," Robinson said. "We felt then it was going to be a "survival thing" so we might as well have a good relationship."

The corps competed to a crowd of approx. 4,000 people in Hot Springs. After the show, the sponsors left the lights on in the stadium so the corps could perform to each other.

Rarely do corps members get the opportunity to see another corps' show from the concert side of the stands.

"Spirit put on their show and the Crossmen went wild," Robinson remembered "We clapped, joked back and forth and, in general showed our appreciation for their talents.

Then the Crossmen went on the field and did a show for the Spirit kids. After that it was a jam session - the two drum lines got together and played and the two horn lines played. We lingered for about an hour and had a great time.

The next day, both corps headed for California with a planned intermediate stop in Salt Lake City, Utah.

But nothing went as planned.

The two corps traveled together in a massive 14-vehicle convoy of buses, equipment trucks, souvenir vans, trailers and a cooking coach.

Before leaving South Dakota, of the Spirit's bus drivers, "Disco Duck," radioed to Robinson: "Hey Crossmen control, this here is the Disco Duck. We're going to boogie on down the road here."

Robinson answered: "Well you go on. I'm not going to put the pedal to the metal as we might blow our engines. We've got a long way to go on these old babies."

He said the Crossmen buses weren't as new and fast as Sprit's buses, but generally they managed to keep within 20 or 30 miles of each other.

The Spirit buses carrying all of their corps members went ahead of the corps' equipment truck, booster van and the Crossmen caravan.

It was about 10:30 a.m. on June 30. Winds were gusting 40-45 miles an hour across the two lane road, flanked by 15-foot embankments.

Martin said he was riding in the van behind the equipment truck, when suddenly the 13 ½ foot truck literally got blown off of the road. It turned over twice and landed upside down, completely smashing the cab.

"You couldn't even tell it was a truck," Martin said, "Five of us got out of the van. I remembered most vividly telling them to see the two drivers were okay. The top of the cab was completely flattened.

When we got there, the driver was crawling out of the cab. I figured the other driver was dead. He had been sleeping behind the cab.

Fortunately, however, the driver, Paul Clayborn, suffered only a broken rib. The second driver, Jim Clark who was sleeping when the accident occurred, was not seriously injured but almost lost a few fingers.

Martin took the injured drivers to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Robinson had dozed off to sleep for the first time in nearly two days. His wife Charlotte was driving and woke Robinson when they approached the accident.

"I saw a truck up ahead but couldn't make it out right away," he said. "All of a sudden, I saw drum corps equipment over the place."

"We pulled up and I hopped out. I didn't know it but the accident had happened about 15 minutes earlier and a wrecker was there.

The wrecker was about to pull the truck up onto the road. Had he done this, everything would have been destroyed. He would have had to drag the truck over drums and horns. There were three or four Spirit woman trying to pull uniforms out of the wreck."

The Crossmen buses filled with 128 corps members stopped.

"The kids were hanging out the windows with tears running down their faces," Robinson said. "They had started to generate such feelings toward each other the night before in Hot Springs. The kids were thinking, what if that would have been their equipment? What is Spirit going to do??

The driver of the wrecker told Robinson he had to remove the wreck and was going to pull the equipment truck back onto the roadway.

"Give me 10 minutes," Robinson told the driver. He turned to the buses and shouted, "Everybody off the buses and pick this wreck clean!"

The corps members climbed out of the buses. The Crossmen drivers and the entire traveling crew helped gather the equipment.

"They are unbelievable," Robinson said. "The kids ripped open the rest of the truck. It was an instinctive thing. The drummers went for the drums. The color guard went for the flags and uniforms and the horn lone went looking for horns.

The kids took the drums, like they were handling a baby. They took them very gingerly and set them in the aisles of their buses. They put towels, pillows and sleeping bags around them so they wouldn't get scratched. There was gas leaking all over the place I warned everyone not to light a match."

Before long, the Crossmen had picked the wreck clean. When Martin returned, he was handed a box of nuts and bolts the Crossmen members had gathered from the grass. Not one bolt turned up missing!

Out of more than $80,000 in equipment, the total damage came to $1,900, Martin said.

"We had a couple horns ruined, a cracked bass drum and a couple of uniforms damaged, but nothing major," he said. "We went on the rest of the tour and borrowed a bass drum and a pair of cymbals." About 20 miles from the accident, the Spirit buses had pulled to a rest stop where they were met later by Crossmen members.

"Together the corps members took equipment off the Crossmen buses and wiped everything down. We changed a couple of drum head, evaluated the damage, put a lot of the equipment back on our truck and carried it into Salt Lake City where Freddie (Martin) rented a truck," Robinson remarked.

The hazards of the trip, as it turned out had just begun.

The next day, July 1, the corps left for California.

It was in Wendover, Utah, where one of the Crossmen's buses broke down. "The bus is still sitting there in Wendover," said Robinson. "Oddly enough, a Spirit bus got a flat tire not 50 yards in front of us when our bus broke down hopelessly. They put all of their kids on their two other buses and sent them to McDonald's about 50 miles down the road.

The driver of the bus with the flat tire, it just so happened, was the Disco Duck. He changed the tire, took the rest of the Crossmen members and we all rendezvoused at McDonald's. We split up our kids on our three remaining buses and on the California we went."

The Crossmen lost their second bus in California when the clutch went out.

The director of a California corps, the DCI Champion Blue Devils from Concord, sent one of his buses to pick up the stranded Crossmen members.

Robinson said for the long trip home, "Freddie (Martin) brought three of his buses to the school where we were staying and we put about nine or ten of our kids on each one. He hauled 33 of our kids all the way back to Denver."

Down to two buses, the Crossmen's string of bad luck still wasn't over. Just outside of Needles, California, Robinson got a call from the driver of the second bus:

"Hey Robbo!"

Robinson knew something was wrong.

"What's the matter?"....Robinson

"I've got no air pressure."....driver

Luckily, however, Robinson had packed a generator in the Crossmen equipment truck and was able to repair the problem himself. The caravan, minus tow buses continued.

"We blew a hose in Apache Wells, N.M. but got that fixed. That was simple" he said. "But, then all of a sudden, we started getting flat tires. We started with new tires. That's one thing I won't take a chance with.

About 100 miles north of Apache Wells, we had a double blowout and by this time we had gone through every spare tire. The kids were frustrated, but they knew I was just as frustrated. They tried to cheer me up, and Charlotte was always telling me to calm down, and that we'd get everything straightened out.

In fact, at one point, an Amtrak train went by and the kids tried to thumb it down to make the Pueblo show that night. The train just blew its horn" said Robinson.

The most horrifying experience was yet to happen. When the bus was jacked-up to change the last tires, the jack slipped and the bus nearly landed on top of Robinson!

"That's the closest I'd ever come to being killed in all my life. I shot out from underneath that bus like a rocket when I heard it starting to go," he said.

Once the tire was replaced, the two buses hobbled for the next 100 miles at about 20 miles an hour.

The corps never made it to the Pueblo show.

"When we got into Denver, everyone just took a deep breath and went to sleep," Robinson said. "I had been up about 80 hours straight.

When I got to the Denver show that night, I must have looked like death warmed over. Don Pesceonoe [Executive Director of DCI] walked up and looked at me and took my hand like a baby. There must have been six inches of grease on my hand and my fingernails had disappeared."

"My God, what are we doing to each other? Are you all right?" Pesceone asked.

Robinson smiled and said, "Yeah, sure! This is great."

The rest of the Crossmen's trip home was relatively quiet.

"Too many people think of DCI as on the competitiveness, which it is, but this experience is what I want out of drum corps. Sure I want a good drum corps and the kids do too, but they've learned to help their fellow man and in turn, were repaid that favor many times over. The kids will never forget that experience," said Robbie.

The Spirit of Atlanta staff members will never forget the trip west either.

"Our corps is a relatively new corps, being only three years old," Martin said. "The trip was a growing experience for the kids. They learned to cope with problems and share with others."

At the Spirit of Atlanta annual banquet last fall, one member was presented an awarded for being the most dependable and helpful corps member.

The award - to be given annually - was named "The Crossmen Award."

The bond still continues to this day. In 2004, the Crossmen and Spirit hornlines combined and played each others corps songs (Russian Christmas Music for the Crossmen, and Georgia On My Mind for Spirit) with each other, both hornlines playing together. Also in 2004, Spirit just missed making finals, ending up in 13th place. During finals retreat (when every corps that marched in finals, the top 12, is on the field and has 10 yards to stand and do what they want within the 10 yards design wise), the Crossmen created a delta, which is Spirit's insignia, on the field with the contras. In 2005 when the reverse happened, and Crossmen missed finals and were in 14th place, and Spirit was in finals, Spirit returned the favor by creating a Maltese Cross (Crossmen's insignia) with the all of the horns from the hornline. In 2007 they did the same thing with the low brass instruments and they had the new Crossmen in Texas flag along with an aussie (what we wear on our head as part of the uniform. It is NOT a hat...haha) that they borrowed from us.

In 2008, after both corps semifinals performances (and both knew that they weren't going to be performing the next day in finals, Spirit placing 15th, Crossmen 13th), both corps gathered back in the warm up area and the hornlines of both corps played their corps song. That was a very memorable moment of the past summer. The next night at finals, Crossmen members wore a blue teardrop and Spirit members a red teardrop by their right eyes in support for each other. 2008 was the first time that neither corps was in finals since both corps were founded and the bond was formed (Spirit was formed in 1977, Crossmen in 1975).

Here is a picture that I took during finals retreat in 07, as well as a couple videos of the corps playing for each other this past August on semi's night. The first is Crossmen playing Russian Christmas Music, the second is Spirit playing Georgia On My Mind.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Mike the Tiger

One of the unique things about LSU is our pride in our mascot, Mike the Tiger. Yes, the tiger is a very common mascot (also being that of Auburn, Missouri, and Clemson, to name a few), but here, we also have a real live tiger, Mike VI, on campus. He lives in a habitat built for him in between the PMAC and Tiger Stadium. There are a lot of traditions and lots of history surrounding Mike the Tiger, here is some taken off of the LSU Sports website.

LSU's Live Tiger Mascot, Mike VI


Mike the Tiger, the famed live Bengal Tiger serves as the graphic image of all LSU athletic teams, resides between Tiger Stadium and the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

In 2005, a new environment (gallery) was created for Mike that is 15,000 square feet in size with lush planting, a large live oak tree, a beautiful waterfall and a stream evolving from a rocky backdrop overflowing with plants and trees. The habitat has, as a backdrop, an Italianate tower - a campanile - that creates a visual bridge to the Italianate architectural vernacular that is the underpinning of the image of the entire beautiful LSU campus. This spectacular new habitat features state-of-the-art technologies, research, conservation and husbandry programs, as well as educational, interpretive and recreational activities. It is, in essence, one of the largest and finest Tiger habitats in the United States.

Mike's ride through Tiger Stadium before home games in a cage topped by the LSU cheerleaders is a school tradition. Before entering the stadium, his cage on wheels is parked next to the opponent's lockerroom in the southeast end of the stadium. Opposing players must make their way past Mike's cage to reach their locker room.

Tradition dictates that for every growl elicited by Mike before a football game, the Tigers will score a touchdown that night. For many years, Mike was prompted to roar by pounding on the cage. Objections of cruel punishment brought about the use of recorded growls to play to the crowd before the games. That practice was discontinued shortly afterward and, today, Mike participates in the pregame tradition without provocation.

The Tiger mascot stopped traveling with the LSU team in 1970 when his cage overturned on Airline Highway in an accident en route to a game. Mike IV traveled four times in recent years, though, as he appeared at a Mardi Gras parade in 1984, the 1985 Sugar Bowl and LSU's basketball games in the Superdome. Mike V made his first road trip in December 1991 to the Louisiana Superdome to witness the LSU men's basketball team with Shaquille O'Neal defeat Texas, 84-83.

In the mid-1980's, pranksters cut the locks on Mike IV's cage and freed him in the early-morning hours just days before the annual LSU-Tulane clash. Mike roamed free, playfully knocking down several small pine trees in the area, before being trapped in the Bernie Moore Track Stadium where police used tranquilizer guns to capture and return the Bengal Tiger to his home.

The incident was reminiscent of a kidnapping of Mike I many years ago by Tulane students before a Tiger-Green Wave battle.

Birthdate: July 23, 2005 (named “Roscoe”)
Donated by: Great Cats of Idaville, Ind.
Heritage: Bengal/Siberian mix
Weight: approx. 300 lbs.; may reach 700 lbs. as an adult
Arrived in Baton Rouge: August 25, 2007
First Public Appearance: September 1, 2007
Designated as Mike VI: September 8, 2007

Thoughts of the state of Indiana may produce images of Bobby Knight, Peyton Manning, John Mellencamp or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the minds of LSU supporters, the Hoosier State will now also be remembered as the source of the university’s new live tiger mascot, Mike VI.

The two-year-old Bengal/Siberian mix, formerly known as “Roscoe,” was donated to LSU last month by Great Cats of Idaville, Ind., a nonprofit sanctuary and rescue facility for big cats and other large carnivores. LSU veterinarian Dr. David Baker began the search for the young tiger after his predecessor, Mike V, died in May of renal failure at the age of 17.

“We were looking for a tiger that was suitable both in appearance and in temperament,” Baker explained. “We wanted a tiger that was confident and not fearful. When this tiger first entered his enclosure on campus, there was no sign of fear or apprehension. This tiger is full of vigor and enthusiasm and affection. I expect that he will grow into an excellent mascot.”

Mike VI arrived in Baton Rouge on August 25, and he was originally scheduled to be quarantined for two weeks in the “night house” of his habitat across the street from Tiger Stadium. However, the quarantine period was reduced to just one week after it became apparent to Baker that Mike had adjusted quickly to his new surroundings.

Mike VI was released into the outside portion of his habitat on September 1, making his first public appearance before a throng of adoring LSU fans. He was officially designated as the successor to Mike V on September 8, when LSU played host to Virginia Tech. Six days later, on Sept. 14, 2007, a ceremony was held to honor Mike V and dedicate the habitat to Mike VI (photos).

“Think of a 10-year-old boy who has been moved from away from his family into completely new surroundings, and it gives you an idea of what this tiger has experienced,” Baker said. “It can be extremely stressful; however, he remained completely healthy during his quarantine period and has adjusted very well to life at LSU.”

The university does anticipate that Mike VI will attend some home games this season as he becomes more comfortable with his new environment. For the moment, fans can admire the great cat’s power and grace as he playfully roams about his habitat.

“I would describe him as awesome,” Baker said of Mike VI, “and that’s a word I don’t use very often.”


Mike V was donated by Dr. Thomas and Caroline Atchison of the Animal House Zoological Park in Moulton, Ala. Avid LSU supporter Charles Becker, a member of the LSU booster group the Tammany Tigers, put Dr. Sheldon Bivin of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in touch with the Atchisons. Bivin traveled to Alabama and brought the baby tiger back to Baton Rouge. Born Oct. 18, 1989, the new tiger was introduced to LSU fans at a basketball game against Alabama in February of 1990. He officially began his reign on April 30, 1990, when he was moved into the tiger habitat across from Tiger Stadium. Mike V died on May 18, 2007, at the age of 17.


Mike IV reigned over Tiger athletics for 14 years after being donated to the school by August A. Busch III from the Dark Continent Amusement Park in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 29, 1976. Born on May 15, 1974, Mike's age and health were determining factors in his retirement to the Baton Rouge Zoo in 1990. The centerpiece of the Zoo's cat exhibit, Mike weighed in at 500 pounds. His only hiatus from the LSU campus before 1990 was the summer of 1981 which he spent at the Little Rock Zoo while his cage was being refurbished. Ironically, the Little Rock Zoo was the birthplace of Mike I. Mike IV died of natural causes in March of 1995 at the age of 21.


Just in time for the 1958 national championship season, Mike III was purchased from the Seattle Zoo following a "national search" by then-athletics director Jim Corbett. The student body contributed $1,500 for the purchase of the tiger. Mike III served as mascot for 18 seasons, dying after the only losing season of his reign as LSU posted a 5-6 record in 1975.


Served a brief reign, lasting only the 1957 season, before dying of pneumonia in the spring of 1958. He was born at the Audubon Park Zoo near the Tulane campus in New Orleans.


In 1936, the original Mike was purchased from the Little Rock Zoo for $750, with money contributed by the student body. Originally known as "Sheik" at the time of his purchase, his name was changed to Mike for Mike Chambers who served as LSU's athletic trainer when the first mascot was purchased.

Chambers had played football at Illinois where he blocked for the legendary Red Grange.

The first Mike was housed in the Baton Rouge Zoo for one year before a permanent home was constructed near Tiger Stadium. Mike I reigned for 20 years before dying of pneumonia in the midst of a six-game LSU losing streak in 1957.

Fearing the LSU faithful would give up hope upon the death of the mascot, Mike's death was not made public until the Tigers finally ended the losing streak.

LSU's Mascot

The live Bengal Tiger whose habitat lies across the street from Tiger Stadium has been a part of the LSU tradition since the early days of athletics in Baton Rouge (Nov. 21, 1936). Meanwhile, his two-legged furry costumed counterpart that stalks the sidelines of LSU athletics events has been on campus since the 1950s.

Mike travels throughout the country with many of the Tiger teams, while also making public appearances to promote LSU athletics in Baton Rouge and surrounding communities.

Mike was named "Most Collegiate Mascot" at the UCA Collegiate Camp held on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa both in 2002 and 2003.

Mike appears in television commercials annually, including an ESPN College Football Game Day commercial, and ESPN Sports Center commercial featuring Mike being rescued from a tree by former LSU great Shaquille O'Neal, and an advertisement for Tippen Motor Homes.

The Nickname: "Fighting Tigers"

Way back in the fall of 1896, coach A.W. Jeardeau's LSU football team posted a perfect 6-0 record, and it was in that pigskin campaign that LSU first adopted its nickname, Tigers.

"Tigers" seemed a logical choice since most collegiate teams in that year bore the names of ferocious animals, but the underlying reason why LSU chose Tigers dates back to the Civil War.

According to Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., PhD. and the "Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units, 1861-1865" (LSU Press, 1989), the name Louisiana Tigers evolved from a volunteer company nicknamed the Tiger Rifles, which was organized in New Orleans. This company became a part of a battalion commanded by Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat and was the only company of that battalion to wear the colorful Zouave uniform. In time, Wheat's entire battalion was called the Tigers.

That nickname in time was applied to all of the Louisiana troops of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The tiger symbol came from the famous Washington Artillery of New Orleans. A militia unit that traces its history back to the 1830s, the Washington Artillery had a logo that featured a snarling tiger's head. These two units first gained fame at the Battle of First Manassas on July 21, 1861. Major David French Boyd, first president of LSU after the war, had fought with the Louisiana troops in Virginia and knew the reputation of both the Tiger Rifles and Washington Artillery.

Thus when LSU football teams entered the gridiron battlefields in their fourth year of intercollegiate competition, they tagged themselves as the "Tigers."

It was the 1955 LSU "Fourth-Quarter Ball Club" that helped the moniker "Tigers" grow into the nickname, "Fighting Tigers."