What Was Jim Rome Really Saying (About Marching Band)?

~Brian Wis

Like many band teachers out there, I enjoy watching bowl games for several reasons. For one, I'm a college football fan. But I also enjoy watching the halftime coverage of the college marching bands. They rarely get airtime during the regular season for more than a few seconds, so bowl games are a treat when the networks afford some time to the bands. Some of us see our former students out there on the field, and some of my friends used to march in those very bands. A few colleagues who are former members now have sons or daughters marching. For all who appreciate the performing arts it is a cherished moment to see young people carrying on the proud tradition of entertaining the crowd at halftime, representing their schools, and supporting their teams.

But for CBS Sports personality Jim Rome it was an opportunity to carry on a more infamous tradition...the bullying of non-athletes under the guise of kidding around. He tweeted (and has since deleted) the following to his more than one million followers during halftime at the Rose Bowl:

"Is there anyone not in a marching band who thinks those dorks running around with their instruments are cool?"

A rhetorical question with a clear air of superiority. After the subsequent backlash, he tweeted the following:

"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."

Was he out of line? Absolutely. Did he offer an apology? Yes. But there's something about that last sentence. If Rome doesn't condone bullying of any kind, if his own words were not intended as such, then what exactly did he intend to communicate? Was this even an apology at all?

If you were a school musician in the not too distant past (i.e. when Rome was a student), Rome's demeaning tweet likely put a knot in your stomach and stirred up some uncomfortable memories. This was standard fare for us back then. Some have defended Rome, stating that he was simply making a joke. If you grew up being hassled about bringing your instrument on the bus, or being pushed around in the hallway because you were labeled a "band dork" or being mocked by football players while you were out practicing (in order to support them on a Friday night), you know differently. If you were on the dishing-out side of this equation at the time, comments like his might still roll off your tongue years later (to the thousands that retweeted or favorited his post, I'm looking your way). Some probably didn't even give his tweet a second thought after the laughter subsided. Just another funny joke at the expense of the band kids....hey when is halftime over?

But this wasn't simply a joke.

No, it was all too familiar alpha dog behavior aimed squarely at anyone who isn't an athlete, in this case the band kids; past, present, and future. Athletes are cool, musicians are dorks. Cute show, but don't forget the pecking order. Don't forget that what you dorks do pales in comparison to what the cool people do. Why are you even here? And all that stuff that was said (or done) to you back in the day? It lives on, and while the words may be hurtful to you they are hysterical to me and my buddies. That's the message he intended to send.

Message received Jim.

The problem for Rome is that while his intent is clear, we no longer accept it. Times have changed, Jim. Bullying is no longer viewed as just kidding around. And saying you didn't intend to "condone" bullying is a lot different than apologizing for being a bully. Your carefully-crafted words ring hollow. Those of us who grew up around this stuff know the difference. "You band kids are dorks...hey sorry you know I'm just kidding." If we heard it once, we heard it a hundred times, and it is no longer acceptable.

Kidding, or revealing?

Jim Rome has revealed himself to hundreds of thousands of musicians, teachers and parents. We see you much more clearly Jim, no need to apologize for that, we're cool.



Many have since tried to convince Rome of band's "coolness" by posting videos of (fantastic) bands and drum corps, or pointing out the hours of preparation that go into a marching show, much of which can be very physically demanding. My favorite is the photo from the US Army Field Band (pictured above) which certainly makes the case for "cool." But truthfully, that's not what this is about. This is about respecting each other in this world, not making a case for "non-dork" status in the mind of a bully. Rome will never be convinced that band is cool, but I do believe he can be forced to change his behavior. This is about recognizing that there is no reason for putting others down. This a simple case of alpha dog behavior and it is unacceptable. 

Rome is free to speak (reveal) his mind but we have an obligation to call him on his behavior. If we don't, then how will anything change? We don't change perceptions and behaviors in our society by allowing this sort of thing to go unchallenged. We don't ignore it, we don't respond by saying "I'm a proud dork" (a coping mechanism), we don't post threats or nasty words on his twitter account.... we address it. He is in the wrong to use his position of power in the media to demean student musicians. Period.

Everyone who works hard and believes in what he or she does deserves respect, especially those in the performing arts who serve others. To the bands at the Rose Bowl, and bands around the country that work hard week in and week out to provide entertainment to thousands, our thanks and admiration. We know the stigma perpetuated by Rome may be a reality for you (as it was for many of us when we were younger) but be proud of your work and know that we appreciate you.

Apparently this is not Jim Rome's first rodeo when it comes to this type of behavior...broadcast transcription from 2009 (has since been deleted from his site). Note the use of similar demeaning language.

"You know where I come out on marching bands! The only people who like them are the people who are in them. And maybe their parents who “jammed their clarinets in their face” in the first place! But that’s not what the American College of Sports Medicine thinks… 

According to their research, the “dorks” with the oboes and feathery plumes on their lids are working just as hard as the guys with facemasks and shoulder pads. Exercise physiologist Gary Granata says the performers are “…running around the field at very high velocities with heavy instruments while playing very difficult passages. At the top levels of marching band and drum corps, you get a level of competition and athleticism that is equal to a Division I athletic program.” Division I, what?! Backgammon?! 

Yeah, because we all know how tough it is to nail the bridge on “Louie, Louie” while backpedaling with a tuba on a wet field. Maybe, Tim Tebow will burn his last year of eligibility with the band instead of the Gator football team! Just pick up the piccolo, miss a note or two of whatever “Earth, Wind and Fire” song they’re playing and then proclaim: “I promise you one thing. A lot of good will come of this! You will never see any piccolo player play as hard as I will for the rest of the season.” 

Look, I’m sure being in the band requires some dexterity. Just don’t tell me they’re as athletic or working as hard as the guys playing the game. They’re not! Given the choice, no one picks being in the band over the being on the team. What’s next?! Cheerleading is as tough as line backing?! Tailgaters are more athletic than tailbacks?! Pssst…Pleease!”
107 responses
Well put Brian!
Well said - Thank You!
Fantastic response. Thank you, Brian!
Where do you teach? Your kids are so lucky to have you!
It's not either or. In my sons high school band there were always a handful of football players who joined the band for the half time field show (still in their football uniforms) then dashed back to the locker room for the rest of half time.
Bravo for your post. I don't think Jim Rome apologized. I think he tried to deflect his original intent and say bullying is not right. He didn't bully anyone. He made an intentionally degrading comment and it was grossly irresponsible. When you take a job to speak to people you have a greater responsibility for your words and for your audience. CBS Sports knows this and should hold him to a higher level. He should loose the privilege of the airway for communication. Yeah, I have to be careful about what I post of Twitter or Facebook because it can reflect poorly on me. You bet my district could use it against me. We have a Professional Code to follow. Doesn't Jim Rome?
Jim Rome
Could someone in authority make that FORMER "sports-radio personality Jim Rome"?
Well said!!!
I am happy to say I have students who play football AND march with the band at halftime as well. We are trying to honor the value of both organizations. Jim Rome clearly has dishonored both.
He's still a bully on a pulpit. 20 years ago he was fired over the whole Jim/Chris Everett thing. Now he's back on national radio and he hasn't learned his lesson. Hopefully, the radio stations drop him over this. What an ass.
Lol dorks
Jim Rome revealed himself to be nasty in his ignorance and immaturity. This statement in response is thorough and to the point. Thank you.
Well said. I think Mr. Rome needs to spend one day at a Texas High school summer band rehearsal.
Well stated. Thanks. I read the apology and immediately thought it was a non-apology apology, crafted by his agent and publicity people, for damage control. I can't help but think that Jim Rome was a bully in high school and just never grew out of it. This is my daughter's first year in marching band in high school, and it has been a fabulous experience for her, so much so, that her little sister is over-the-top excited about joining marching band and will be given the opportunity next year in 7th grade. I enjoyed watching the Rose Bowl parade specifically for the marching bands and cheered for all of the high schools who were given the honor of marching there.
Let's call a spade a spade and a bully a bully. Jim Rome, it is time to grow up. You need to feel sorry for Jim Rome who clearly had an impoverished youth, bereft of any musical exposure and missing out in all the fun and special camaraderie of such talented people. Jim is clearly out of step and out of tune with the majority of fans who look forward to the half time performances of the marching band. If he looks in a mirror, he will see who the real Dork is.
It's funny. I've read a lot about this story and no one is making the point that initially popped into my head: Who is Jim Rome to call a band member a dork? I researched just to be sure, but Rome is NOT a former athlete. He didn't play football in any collegiate or professional medium. He's a COMMENTATOR. This doesn't mean I condone a professional athlete making remarks like this, but how can he seriously berate a group of people for not being an athlete on the field when he never stepped foot on one? In fact, in his silly mental pecking order, he's actually BELOW the band because they have to show athletic talent and also step on the field every game. I don't normally wish for anyone to lose their job, but I certainly would be on board for this individual to receive a healthy does of come uppance.
Let's call a spade a spade and a bully a bully. Jim Rome, it is time to grow up. You need to feel sorry for Jim Rome who clearly had an impoverished youth, bereft of any musical exposure and missing out in all the fun and special camaraderie of such talented people. Jim is clearly out of step and out of tune with the majority of fans who look forward to the half time performances of the marching band. If he looks in a mirror, he will see who the real Dork is.
Just shows his close mindedness. Maybe he should go without any type of music for the next 24 hours. See what he thinks afterwards.
Let's call a spade a spade and a bully a bully. Jim Rome, it is time to grow up. You need to feel sorry for Jim Rome who clearly had an impoverished youth, bereft of any musical exposure and missing out in all the fun and special camaraderie of such talented people. Jim is clearly out of step and out of tune with the majority of fans who look forward to the half time performances of the marching band. If he looks in a mirror, he will see who the real Dork is.
Well written, Brian! Of further concern is that this "joking" alpha dog behavior, caused by misunderstanding and/or ignorance, is perpetuated into many school administrations, since a large number of administrators are former athletes and coaches. (another "joke" says the fast track to Administration is two consecutive losing seasons. Sorry! I just lowered myself to the same level.) This is why is it SO important that we "dorks" educate our administrators on just what Band is really all about.
It is amazing to think that this kind of discrimination still comes from paid employees of a tv or radio station. I have heard this type of bullying for my entire career, and it needs to stop by making the penalty for this type of hatred deter others from following his example. It stops when people think of others rather than reveling in the sound of their own voice.
Jim Rome, you couldn't hang with these 'dorks' long enough to survive the first half of a 3 hour practice. Stick to badly opinionated journalism.
I don't think of him as a bully, although he is a pain and comes across as a bad role model and an abusive-type person. However I respect this group too much to use the word that pops into my normally clean mind. To put it nicely, he is not someone I would want to meet. His sense of humor is actually humor with no sense.
I was not a high school or college band kid, but both of my daughters are and I am super proud to be a band mom! Well said Brian and I'm proud to know you.
Just consider the source. This is the same guy that baited Jim Everett into beating his ass on live television. He's a pretty dim bulb.
These reflections should be printed (w/permission) in EVERY high school and college newspaper in support of non-bullying, regardless of discipline or age. Local papers should do the same. This was expertly composed and shed light on more than the ignorance of Jim Rome. This message should be widely viewed. Excellent job, Mr. Wis. Bravo!
Let's call a spade a spade and a bully a bully. Jim Rome, it is time to grow up. You need to feel sorry for Jim Rome who clearly had an impoverished youth, bereft of any musical exposure and missing out in all the fun and special camaraderie of such talented people. Jim is clearly out of step and out of tune with the majority of fans who look forward to the half time performances of the marching band. If he looks in a mirror, he will see who the real Dork is.
Your article actually perpetuates stereotypes of how band members are perceived and treated. As a proud member of my high school and college marching bands, Rome's comment was NOT "likley" to put a knot in my stomach or stir up uncomfortable memories. Many football teams and other students are quite supportive of their marching bands. If your students are experiencing this bullying, you, as an educator, may need to consider the possibility of systemic problem behavior rather than a case of just the band kids getting picked on.
Let's call a spade a spade and a bully a bully. Jim Rome, it is time to grow up. You need to feel sorry for Jim Rome who clearly had an impoverished youth, bereft of any musical exposure and missing out in all the fun and special camaraderie of such talented people. Jim is clearly out of step and out of tune with the majority of fans who look forward to the half time performances of the marching band. If he looks in a mirror, he will see who the real Dork is.
Playing a musical instrument is a life skill while playing football is generally short lived. A beat up old jock is no match for a drummer or sax player in later years.
I was one of those music "dorks" in HS. Then I went on to teach them and made it not so dorky. Besides as someone I knew very well put it, "I'd rather be in singing with the good looking girls than showering with the guys!" He was an athlete and a music "dork" and theatre guy all his life and proud of it. He captured my heart with his voice.
I guess I'm in Rome's (a mere commentator) camp, in that I was never a high school (or after) athlete, nor was I in the marching band. Hey, I appreciate music. I LOVE music. But nobody goes to a football game to hear the marching band, with the possible exception of parents of kids in the marching band. Most of the commenters above need a reality check.
If you don't think Rome is biased, you apparently never were teased, and have no empathy. It's sorry and sad to see that there are actually people commenting here who DON'T find his comment offensive or even inappropriate (Ed). Opinions are like "posteriors" - everyone has one, and some spew crap more than others. Unfortunately, Rome has "explosive diarrhea of the mouth," and he had this "accident" on live TV.
Perhaps he should have spent the day with the West Coast Composite Marine Corps Band after making that statement!
To Ed Costello, you obviously we're also a student who didn't get it nor still does. Marching band students train and condition AT or MORE of a higher intensity than football players. While they're doing 2-a-days, the band is on the field 8-10 hours, in the heat, non stop 5 days week. Doubt it Ed?? Look it up and educate yourself before you blindly follow a pansy like Rome... You clone!! Signed a former All City Football player and now, band parent.
Does it mean anything that I don't even know who Jim Rome is? Thank you for the post. Well done.
Rome is simply a product of a system that fails to educate the masses in the fine arts. Until we wake up and realize that teaching ALL grade k-12 students about music, dance, and art, we will continue to produce the Jim Romes' of the world. As with everything, education is the key.
I did not march. I did not know anyone who marched. When my oldest son transferred to a school which required a musician to march if they performed with a higher level band, I did not know how he would react to the discipline, and those uniforms. I did not see him conforming. He loved it, and confirmed his passion in music. He will attend Berklee College of Music where the discipline will help. Second son loved music and football. He gave up football so he could march with big brother for the one year they were together in high school. Yesterday, he marched with the band at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Our daughter wants to march when she gets to high school. Mr. Rome, try carrying a sousaphone during summer camp when the ice pops and your dedication to your friends are the only things that keep you from fainting in the heat, or playing in a cold fall night to support a football team that just might need that support in a less than stellar season and tell me that these musicians are deserving of any less support and approval...and pride than any money sport. I did not know anyone who marched before. I missed out.
Flood his radio show with calls...make him talk about it.
Have you ever referred to an athlete as a "dumb jock"? Have you ever thought that, perhaps, they try their best to educate themselves?
I think that someone should write drill to spell out "Rome" and then a donkey runs across the field to show how band kids have a sense of humor too! Then they can half-ass apologize! ;)
The music pageantry arts and Drum & Bugle Corps are very spiritual to me. I am fourth generation Drum Corps and Jim Rome's comment was ignorant. It was an insult to all the men and women who served our country and marched. My great-grandfather, great grand uncles, grandfather, and father were not dorks. They worked hard and fought hard for this nation. Jim Rome you are an asshole! I don't accept your apology. Keep your mouth shut if you can't say anything intelligent.
@ Dennis C: Congratulations on your son making the USAAMB; our daughter was in the 2012 All-American color guard. I thought Rome's comments particularly ironic on this weekend when I was cheering for the San Antonio performers in spirit. I'd be interested to see people like him try to make it through one day of rehearsal or band camp...
Jim R did not apologies. All he did or said was only an attempt at damage control
It was a joke, made by an idiot. He was not condoning violence. He wasn't saying to boo them off the field. He was stating that he wanted football back. People are way too sensitive. You people need to grow a thicker skin! And I am a morbidly obese, middle-aged woman working in the video game industry so if your think I don't get teased, and sometimes meanly, then you'd are crazy. If your don't value his opinion then it just shouldn't matter! You choose to let people upset you.
And Jim Rome did what
...not athletes? I'd like to see HIM get out and do it!
A well-written response. As an 8 year veteran of high school and college band programs, and now an author who writes about marching band, I'm saddened but not surprised when I see comments like Rome's. People fail to realize that the bands add to an overall game day experience. It's not about "cool" or "dorky," it's about supporting a school, a team, and a tradition. -author of NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL BAND GEEK (Dial books, 2011)
I think sometimes the word 'bully' is so trite and overused we have become inured to it, like 'thug'. But that bonehead was just plumb out of line. What a d*ucebag. ~~~ And I want to say what a beautifully written piece that was. I was totally impressed by the writing, the grammar, spelling. VERY well done!
Hey Rome. You're a prick. My daughter is in a marching band. It's called the USMC. She also knows how to break I our neck and fire a 50 caliber machine gun. I'd invite you to her next trip to the fun range if I could. Maybe you can tell her face to face what a need you think she is. Love to see that. Love to see her kick your pansy ass if you have the guys to bully her. You're a POS Rome.
I would like to point out that, 50 years after our high school graduation, I and many of my fellow "band dorks" are still hale and healthy, still "running around" like we did out on the field at half time, still playing and enjoying music. One of the hard-working athletes from my class whom I encountered the other day is suffering from Parkinson's. Made me sad for him, and made me wonder if too many hits to the helmet had anything to do with that.
I'm mean we are dorks :p but only we get to call ourselves that, and NFL players would crumble trying to perform a Blue Devils, Carolina Crown, or Cavaliers show, they have no clue the effort involved... I hope DCI Finals starts getting aired on CBS so maybe the CBS Sports man himself would have to watch marching music's major league.
Great article Brian! Bullies think that if they say "Don't get mad. I'm just kidding." then their attitude will be forgotten. Insulting the fan base is usually a bad tactic. I marched at University of Michigan. Our band was immensely popular. The schools that visited (often Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State) also were very popular at their schools. So not only is Rome a jerk...he's also wrong. There is no reason for this guy to have a microphone. Fen-Naz class of '93 UM class of '97
wow! He sure has a lot of anger towards musicians to let out! Maybe he was unsuccessful as a musician, & has harbored resentment for his shortcomings!
Excellent article, Brian. Funny, I was in varsity sports, but band totally won every time. That's where I found my people - you know, the smart ones, the nice ones, the funny ones... and the ones who didn't degrade folks around them. And in the U of Illinois marching band... that's where I found my college pack... and husband of 18 years. I guess I wasn't "cut out" for the sporty life, but "coolness" (as defined by Jim Rome and his ilk) wasn't my first (or second or third) choice. Note the word "choice."
I find it interesting that Jim Rome who is Jewish, all of 5'4", and a communications major who never played any sport at all and was almost certainly bullied himself for one or more of the above finds it acceptable to bully anybody... but that's how it goes: the bullied become bullies themselves.
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