by Chris Stokdyk, Drum Major 2002-2003
I was named Drum Major at the Marching Hundred banquet following the 2001 season. I was very excited about the position and had come as close as I was going to come to mastering the skill of high-stepping. In fact, I was feeling pretty confident about all of the duties of the Drum Major – except for one.
Prior to my audition I spent countless hours on every aspect of the job except spinning the mace. At the time, the tradition was that the Drum Major carried a 52″ American mace. Of course, that was an unofficial tradition and, according to the Colonel, nothing I did was more important than blowing the whistle at the right time, in time, before each song. So no pressure, right?
During the summer of 2002 I attended a mace clinic at Smith-Walbridge in the hopes that I could get into decent shape and at least look like I knew what I was doing. To my delight I learned lots of moves and was able to toss and catch the mace a little more proficiently every day. I went back to Indiana with a sense that with daily practice I’d definitely be ready for band camp.
Fate smiled upon me with an extremely early first home game against William and Mary – so early that I didn’t have the opportunity to do a mace demonstration during the traditional “Saturday Evening in the House” – the first exposure for new band members to Memorial Stadium and all of her glory. It might sound crazy, but I was more relieved to have a home game instead of performing by myself in front of the rest of the band. I figured with a game, I could play it safe, stick to what I knew, and probably avoid screwing up too badly.
Fortunately IU defeated William and Mary (it was a close game, as I recall), and the Marching Hundred remained undefeated as well. My performance was exhilarating, terrifying, and as far as I could tell it was technically clean. I had escaped. “Downhill from here,” I thought.
The following week IU hosted a more formidable (not to mention a D-1) opponent in Utah. The crowd was exponentially larger (cresting around 25,000!), and I was committed to trying to step up my game a bit. Nothing terribly fancy, but I thought maybe I’d go for one or two double tosses (two full rotations of the mace in the air), and maybe even a triple toss.
The halftime show was a Michael Jackson show, and during the closer there was a “park and bark” moment in the drill where half of the band formed the letters “M” and “J” on the back half of the field. I had decided earlier in the week to camp out in the middle of the “J” and show off some of my better moves (of which I had two).
Fortunately I chose a spot with about ten yards of clearance on either side.
My first move was a double toss, and I missed the mark and dropped the mace, my first time doing so during a game. No worries though, I was undeterred. I quickly reloaded and heaved my first true, in-game triple attempt. This one was far worse than off the mark – it quickly dropped back to the Earth five yards in front of me and a few yards to my left. It was, without question, the worst toss of my career.
Mortified and the obviousness of my mistake and not wanting to make it any worse, I quickly stepped forward with my left foot, took another step with my right foot, bent over and picked up the mace.
I wish I could tell you that was the end of the story. I wish I could tell you that.
Instead I heard a noise when I bent over. In all of my years on this planet I had never before (nor since) audibly detected the sound of a fractured ego, but I was hoping against hope that the sound I heard was just that – my bruised pride giving way.
That was when I felt a cool breeze.
I knew better than to look down, but I just couldn’t help myself. My mace back in my hands, I looked down and spotted something unusual. “Was that a flap of fabric?” Quickly I looked again and saw that my inseam had given way – the ENTIRE inseam, from my knee to my, well, it was the whole inseam.
My thoughts quickly turned. I knew it was near the end of the show, and a whole new panic set in when I realized the prospect of having to high step off the field given the potentially revealing nature of the endeavor. Still, I was sure that the massive opening in my inner-thigh region was scarcely noticeable (we call that optimism) and that the sooner I could get to the sidelines and get patched up, the better. After all, what were the odds that anyone could even see something like this from more than a few feet away?
I got off the field and assessed the damage. It was then that I realized how severe the tear was, and that I needed to be careful to avoid indecently exposing myself. Fortunately I was soon patched up with a handful of safety pins, end of story.
After the game my wife (we were dating at the time) asked why I was looking down. A Marching Hundred alumnus herself, she knew that I knew better than to look down and check my spot. When I informed her of the mishap, she was sympathetic, but also a little tickled.
Then I asked her how she saw that from all the way up in the stands.
“You were on the jumbotron,” she said in the same tone of voice one would use to inform a person that he had missed a belt loop or forgotten to tie his shoe.
Suddenly the scope of the moment came into focus. This was not just a minor mishap seen only by myself and a handful of other people; this was a major incident, broadcast to upwards of 20,000 people and, in all likelihood, preserved on film somewhere.
From then on, I decided it was probably safer to just avoid dropping the mace.