The Liberty Bowl with Arkansas beating East Carolina University took place in Memphis on January 2. Two days before, the teams met in downtown Memphis to begin the several days of festivities leading up to the event, and to open celebrations for New Years Eve. Marching bands from both schools paraded along historic Beale Street showcasing each school's fight song, and culminating in a head-to-head play off with choreographed cheerleading teams joining alongside. Paul, who'd traveled to meet me in the South from Ontario, Canada, had no idea of the United States football culture. Wandering through downtown Memphis on New Year's Eve he got his first taste of it as we accidentally found ourselves in the middle of the marching band extravaganza, and all the devoted Liberty Bowl fans. Here are pictures of the ECU marching band parading into the square just off of Beale.
For my other non-American friends, University-sized marching bands consist of around 50-people, each carrying an instrument that they play in tune, while marching in high-step military fashion along a parade route. For football games, marching bands will take the field either before a game, or at half time, and they'll also burst into the team fight song to rally the troupes, so to speak. Marching band uniforms are notorious for the gold thread trim, high contrast colors with geometric design, and the feathery hats that accompany. Football is one of the prime sports for the U.S. imagination, and the public has a strong commitment to the push and tackle of the game, flooding stadiums, and locating televisions to crowd around on game days. In Anchorage, where I grew up, there is a bar with a series of large screen televisions covering every open inch of wall through the bar. I've seen this elsewhere as well. But further, this bar actually has a series of televisions lining the hallway to the bathrooms, and then a small screen mounted on the bathroom stall door that activates when you close and lock your little cubicle.