April 9, 2015 by

Originally published in March 2015 HerFamily

I could have worked with Jim Rome, the radio sportscaster. We’re about the same age. We were in college about the same time, studying the same thing. We both started working at small stations before moving up. I produced a number of anchors and reporters “back in the day” who are still on the air at national networks. So, I have some experience working with Rome’s personality type—or at least the type he uses on air. Arrogant, bloated ego. Inflammatory language. 70’s mustache.

Before January 1 of this year, I only had peripheral knowledge of, and no opinion on, Mr. Rome. I’m not a hardcore sports fan, so I couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup any day of the week. But on this particular New Year’s Day, Mr. Rome chose to insult not only my children, but the children of my friends, and, in fact, the children and grandchildren of hundreds of thousands of Americans. In the middle of one of college football’s biggest days, he threw this tweet out there:

“Is there anybody not in a marching band who thinks those dorks running around with their instruments are cool?”

Wow. You can just imagine the firestorm that followed. It didn’t take long for the hashtag #MarchonRome to be trending. To be brief, the answer to Mr. Rome’s question was a resounding, “Yes there are people who think they’re cool.” After a 24-hour blast of more than 8,000 responses (and that was only on Twitter), including everyone from the U.S. Marines to band alums everywhere, he tweeted this:

“Band nation—I hear you. I was out of line. I apologize. I do not condone bullying of any kind and that was not my intent.”

The reason I chose this topic is not so much because I was personally offended by Mr. Rome’s comment, but because I was so saddened that someone my age could intentionally set such a horrible example. If not to be a bully, I can’t comprehend what Mr. Rome’s intent was. I think if it was “to be funny,” then that’s a fail too—because making fun of entire groups of people in this manner is pretty much the textbook definition of bullying.

Mr. Rome (and many others, I think) got a fast education about the athleticism, discipline, and commitment that marching band requires. And I won’t even start on the statistics about the value of arts education. Just last week, a new study from the University of Vermont indicated the measurable impact of music education in developing attention skills, anxiety management, and emotional control.

No, my beef with Mr. Rome is quite simple—he should be old enough to know better. I get that my generation was a little different. We were very cliquish—jocks, potheads, geeks, dorks, blah, blah—but I really thought (hoped) that with all of the current awareness of bullying, a public figure like Mr. Rose would be tuned in enough to choose his words more carefully when referring to hundreds of thousands of hard-working high school and college students.

My hope rests with this next generation, where amid the online furor, those students with highly developed “emotional control” graciously accepted Mr. Rose’s apology, reminding him that this time, he “messed with the wrong dorks.” I’m still holding out hope that he will accept the challenge from many of the band members (many of whom also play sports) to come do what they do—
handle one week of band camp. In the summer. In the South.

Or how about here in Nebraska on all those cold early mornings? Go Band!

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