Marching 100 Super Bowl Blog
On the Road to Miami
9:55 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3
Super Bowl Blog (final installment)
Due to technical difficulties from the road, it was not possible to provide the final installment of the blog until this hour.
Wet and wild!
5:14 p.m. Sunday
It’s raining like crazy. I must be honest and say that I’m truly disappointed. This is Miami, for goodness sakes, and Pro Players Stadium will be open to the elements tonight – the moon, the sky. . . the pouring rain.
The bus had remained fairly quiet after Dr. Julian White’s pre-game talk after we left West Palm Beach. Everyone seems to be in deep thought or chatting infrequently as we plow down the rain-soaked interstate. The bus soon comes to life again, though, as we take the exit ramp, with the frame of the well-lit stadium coming into view.
“Wow, look at all of those police cars!’
A fast count by me said more than 100 law-enforcement vehicles of all kinds – cars, vans, trucks, buses, bicycles – were lined up on the wet grass like soldiers in formation, waiting for orders. On the other side of the street, there were as many limousines near the stadium: Hummers, Navigators, Escalades, Lincolns, you name it.
It was a tale of two spectators. . . Those who had paid a small fortune (with some tickets going for as much as $4,200 I heard) to see the game first-class, with nothing less than No. 1 accommodations. Then, there were those who had to pay great attention . . . to everything that moved around , near and in the XX stadium. Not only did they have regular Super Bowl duty, but also Homeland Security had declared the event a Level 1 (the highest) security threat.
This was serious in every way.
Byron Jackson, the drum major in charge of Bus B was on his cell phone taking care of serious business of a different nature as we waited to be called so that band members could be fitted with special battery packs: “I’m going to be the one with the lights on! (Jackson laughed at his caller’s response and his own joke). “OK, the tall one with the lights on!”
All 200-plus band members would be fitted with battery packs so that their uniforms could light up during the featured Prince song. It was one of the secrets the production company hoped wouldn’t surface during weeks of planning. No harm done at this point because the FAMU Marching ‘100’ band is here. Lights, camera, action . . .
Sometime close to 6 p.m.
As it turns out, it’s way too soon for “lights, camera . . .” and all that jazz. I don’t know
exactly what time it is because I had to leave my cell phone on the bus; orders were “no cameras, no cell phones.” I do know that it is time to “hurry up and wait,” which was the same routine at last year’s live Grammy Awards performance, which featured the members of the ‘100’ with Kanye West and Jamie Foxx. I guess waiting is just a part of showbiz.
Anyway, this wait isn’t so bad in the huge catering tent that we are now in -- unless you consider the challenges of trying to watch the pre-game show and the kickoff with 250 of your closest friends on only two 27-inch televisions on each side of the room! In the end, it didn’t matter: The cheers and jeers nearly blew the top off of our rain-drenched tent when the Chicago Bears’ No. 23 took the ball into the end zone with an amazing kickoff return. Everyone was having fun. This was a great Super Bowl party – complete with Doritos and water.
9:47 seconds left in the second half
Joe Bullard, the band announcer, is at another table, trying to watch the game with Dr. Eva Wanton, executive special assistant to the president, and Annie Wilson, retiree and band chaperone. They’re all cheering for their team and focusing on the game. I’m starting to worry. . . I’ve actually bitten my fingernails on three fingers down to the skin. What if I don’t get into the stadium since security is so tight and I’m not exactly performing? What if someone gets injured because of the rain and those fancy lights and battery packs? What’s the plan in case of an emergency? What if . . .?
Thank goodness for Dr. White’s bull horn. With only 9:32 seconds left before halftime, he is telling the troops to “line up and get your instruments.” Some are slow to move as they try to watch the Bears No. 20 scamper toward the goal line. Dr. White’s voice takes on a new sense of urgency to it. “Line up. . .” Rain and all, this band was heading out to play for the world, as Dr. White had said earlier.
OK, I don’t know what time it is . . . and I’m wet to the core. My new, black, sling back pumps are making that awful squishy sound with each step as we move toward the stadium entrance. The band is super drenched, yet, they are visibly excited about the next twelve minutes of their young lives: they are bouncing up and down, some proclaiming, “We’re at the Super Bowl, man!” and others wondering aloud if it’s Prince who has just arrived to the screams of hundreds of extras who will play his screaming fans in just a few seconds.
The “screaming fans” apparently do not need to do any acting as they run full-speed onto the field. There must be several hundred of them. The FAMU band is directed to run to their places and get ready. I trot along beside them. Blaring walkie-talkies, producers running back and forth saying get ready, thousands cheering from the stands . . . it’s just too thrilling.
By now, I’ve found a great spot near a huge, ear-blasting speaker, with a great view of Prince and the FAMU band. “His Highness” even seems to be wearing green and orange; too much! When I looked up at the huge stadium monitors and saw our student performers, I hoped that all the world could see and feel what was going on in the atmosphere on Super Bowl night. Incredible!
The fireworks and the momentary haze they left behind. . . the lighted uniforms that looked animated in the half-dark . . . a small galaxy of small flashlights held by spectators in the stands; and, the “Artist” who seemed quite unphased as the clouds continued to open up and pour. He removed his strange, black headscarf and just took it to another level, making his purple guitar scream in the darkness.
When the stage lights turned purple and the electronic board flashed small purple “artist” symbols and Prince tossed a purple guitar into the air, it was clear: He reigned – and the FAMU Marching ‘100’ band held its own when they joined him in “Purple Rain.” What a night!
Later that night, the band returned to Nova Southeastern University to return the battery packs and change clothes before boarding the buses to return home. The staff from Don Mischer Productions had a few surprises for them and the rest of the cast: special blue “CAST” shirts, a keepsake certificate of Super Bowl XLI and personal pan pizza for all.
Most importantly, they had a fresh DVD of the halftime performance for all to see on the big screen. After shouts and screams went up intermittently at footage of the band and others, the production staff had a message to share: The president of CBS had just called to say that he thought “this year’s halftime performance was the best ever.”