« Sports

Self-Centered

by Robb Reel

I was a rare kid in school.  I was just talented enough in a town just small enough that I did a little of everything.  That includes playing both strong safety and sousaphone during Friday night football games in high school.  Seriously, I would warm up,  throw on the coat of my band uniform to march the pregame show, play the first half, suit up with the band for the halftime show and then finish the game on the field.

Our football team and our marching band, at that time, were among the best in the state.  That was not the case when I reached college.  I made the right choice in being a part of the stellar Butler University Marching Band for three seasons and the actual Bulldog for one.

[Raiola before a 2011 home preseason game - Photo: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook]

Maybe that's why I am so bothered by Sunday's story of Detroit center Dominic Raiola harassing the University of Wisconsin band when both appeared at Lambeau Field.  According to Michael Leckrone, Wisconsin's director of bands and a man for whom I once played, around a dozen student-musicians approached him with reports of Raiola's bad behavior, including myriad expletives.  Some of his alleged comments would make a sailor blush, let alone a female college sophomore.

It is not the first time the 34-year-old has plunged himself into such hot water.  During the "Great Drought of 2008" -- when the Lions went winless -- the Hawaii native garnered a $7,500 fine for flying the bird making an obscene gesture at fans.  He got double for doing it in Miami in 2010.  At the scheduled Monday press conference, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz gave the usual lip service to how he has high standards for player conduct on and off the field.  Just prior to that rote response, the team issue a statement that fell just short of crying "liar, liar, pants on fire!" to the band members.

Clearly the team doesn't believe them.

Clearly, if we were to believe Schwartz, we wouldn't be enduring these repeated incidents with Raiola.

I will add just two things based on my own experience.  The percentage of people who come to a football game just to see the marching band is only slightly higher than the people who fly cross-country just for the peanuts.  However, I never had more fun 00 with some of the best people who are among my closest friends nearly 20 years later -- than I did while in the band.

I know which side I line up on for this one.