Ohio State University is suffering a black eye at the moment thanks to the inappropriate shenanigans of The Best Damn Band in The Land and the inappropriate lack of repercussions for those actions. If you want a lightning rod for controversy however, there is no college band that has pushed boundaries and ruffled feathers like the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band.
The Cardinals have packed their halftime shows and other performances with enough censorship-baiting and obscenities to make them the relative South Park of the business. What makes us judge them less than Ohio State? Maybe we're craven, but some of this stuff is so brazen it almost deserves a handshake when you're done shaking your head.
Here's a primer on life in the LSJUMB.
07) The Rose Bowl Review
All bands that plan on marching during The Rose Bowl's famous pre-game parade must undergo an advance review. Why? Ask the 1971 edition of the Stanford marching band. The group apparently was deterred at the last moment from riding golf carts during the event rather than marching, all while distributing beers to the crowd from kegs kept in the back of the carts. There is really no way this can end well (especially if the drivers have been hitting the keg) but we appreciate that they tried to help the viewers out in the hot, Southern California sun. The band continues to offend Rose Bowl opponents, including indignant Michigan State fans, during 2014.
06) Political Activism
Most of the shenanigans that the LSJUMB pulls off doesn't quite add up to political commentary, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt when they played PAC-10 opponent Oregon in 1990. A battle between wildlife defenders and the logging industry had erupted because the latter was cutting down trees home to the spotted owl, a threatened species. The band marched in the form of a chainsaw before spelling out the word "OWL." Whether or not the cause actually mattered to the marchers is debatable, but they hit their mark. Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt probably overstepped his legal bounds when he ordered the band not to return for a few years. It finally came back to Oregon during 2001.
05) Words and Censorship
A popular marching band routine is to spell out some word relevant to the university or situation, such as Ohio State's famous "Script Ohio." Stanford's squad doesn't waste its time learning how to march as if writing cursive, but it grabs just as much attention based on word choice. During the 1986 season, the LSJUMB really pushed its limits. The group spelled out "No Ballz" during a home game against rival USC, and then held an anagram-themed routine for another game. One anagram that caught censors' eyes was "CNUT," and our linguistic experts assure us that there is only one English word that can be formed by reassembling those letters. Needless to say, suspensions were doled out.
The LSJUMB has been formally banned from attending Disneyland since 1972. We're sure that there is a whole litany of bad behaviors that earned the ban but one stands out in particular: Group members managed to elude security and commandeer the microphones on the Storyland Canal boat ride. Needless to say, the band members' words weren't in line with what the Disney brand was trying to project.
Stanford tends to take pleasure in poking fun at the religious affiliations of the opponents they're facing. Notre Dame and Catholicism take the brunt of the abuse. During a home halftime show against the Irish, the band's conductor dressed as a nun and used a cross instead of a baton. Things got even more out of hand in 1997 as the band lampooned The Troubles in Northern Ireland, poked fun at the potato famine and generally gave Irish people a bad name. Catholics aren't the only ones to get crap however. Brigham Young University, a primarily Mormon institution, saw the conductor proposing to all the members of The Dollies, Stanford's on-the-field dance troupe, while they wore bridal veils.
02) Being Generally Tasteless
Stanford has a history of making jokes regarding the alumni of its opponents. USC is a special case, turning out both Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis and O.J. Simpson. The Simpson trial provided a great opportunity for reproachable behavior. First, 19 members performed songs such as The Zombies' "She's Not There" outside of the courthouse during the jury selection for the case. Worse yet, the band drove a white Ford Bronco with added bloodstains around the track on the field during a halftime show that same season.
01) The Play
Sure, everything we've listed so far may have cast the LSJUMB in a negative light, but at least the band planned it that way. That can't be said for "The Play," which shows the result of sheer hubris and stupidity on the squad's part. You've probably seen the replay, granted you've heard of ESPN. Stanford took the lead, 20-19, over its rival California with just a few seconds left in the game. They carried out a squib kick to better prevent a return touchdown and kill time. California continued to throw laterals, normally a futile attempt to avoid being tackled. But lo, Kevin Moen eventually got the ball and ran into the end zone, aided by the crowd of Stanford band members who had rushed the field in premature celebration and in the process had blocked their own team from being able to make the final tackle. Listening to Cal announcer Joe Starkey flip out during his color commentary is a thing of beauty, most notably when he (correctly) proclaims it to be "the most sensational, dramatic, heart-rending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!" It remains a point of shame for the program, but one could say they had it coming.