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Doug Clark was able to find an Eastern Washington University band uniform to fit on his body after practice Thursday  in Cheney.  At left are  former student Holly Amend and EWU band uniform manager Amanda Goede.  (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Doug Clark was able to find an Eastern Washington University band uniform to fit on his body after practice Thursday in Cheney. At left are former student Holly Amend and EWU band uniform manager Amanda Goede. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Clark: Title game trip with EWU band a rootin’, tootin’ success

(Second and final episode in an odyssey of self-delusion and collegial glory.)

This Eagle has landed!

That happened about 2:30 a.m. Saturday. The charter jet toting Eastern Washington University’s band, cheer squad, boosters and luminaries such as university President Dr. Rodolfo Arevalo touched down smoothly on an airfield west of Spokane.

We had returned from being witness to Hollywood-style history. Namely, watching the Eagles pull off a back-from-the-grave, 20-19 victory over the University of Delaware in Frisco, Texas, to capture the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title.

This was Cheney’s greatest moment since that night in the 1880s when armed residents stormed the Spokane County auditor’s office and made off with the county records.

Unlike our landing at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport 17 hours earlier, however, no spirited band members would lead us all in a humming of the school fight song.

(The band always plays the fight song after “touchdowns” – get it?)

Instead, we retrieved our belongings from overhead compartments and shambled off the airplane like groggy victims of a mass chloroforming.

We were simply cheered out. The long day and miracle outcome had sucked every last drop of adrenaline out of us.

But how great was this whirlwind experience?

Being able to tag along to Texas as a uniformed, cornet-playing member of the mighty EWU band will go down as one of my most enjoyable column adventures. Ever!

Patrick Winters, Eastern’s director of bands, runs a passionate and polished program. The student musicians go about their business like pros, and the result sounds great.

There was only one hitch to the entire experience.

Band uniforms have changed quite a bit from the early 1970s, when I attended Eastern as a trumpet-tooting music major.

Back then we looked more like marching mailmen. The modern uniform of today is a bit more, well, flamboyant.

Pulling off that look is no trouble for the young and the vigorous.

But there comes a time in the cruel aging process when a man shouldn’t be seen in public wearing sequins.

Unless your name is Elton John, of course.

A visit during the game from the brothers Walter – Jess and Ralph – didn’t boost my ego any.

Jess thought I looked like a weird bejeweled superhero or maybe a harvest queen.

I shouldn’t complain. At least the school found a uniform I could get into. Barely.

I didn’t want to be treated differently than any of the students. I even filled out the compulsory contract promising that my conduct would not fall to the level it was at when I actually attended Eastern.

Thank God I didn’t have to make any promises about my playing.

Oh, I’m probably being too hard on myself. My chops were slowly starting to come back the more we played.

In fact, during one of the seminal moments of the game – when the Eagles were squeezing the life out of the Blue Hens – I dared to blow a charge.

It was pretty much recognizable, too.

I wasn’t the only old-timer to be invited into the band for the fun in Frisco. Unlike me, however, Keith LaMotte, 72, is a fine trumpet player who has been gigging professionally most of his life.

We sat together during the game and had a ball.

Oh, one more thing.

Before the war for national pigskin superiority, both schools competed outside the Pizza Hut Park stadium in a struggle for musical domination.

The “battle of the bands,” they called it.

And so we Easterners faced off with the University of Delaware players.

Quite frankly, I didn’t like ’em the moment I laid eyes on them.

I’ve never trusted a band that wears capes. Just looks smug.

Along with the band battle, there was also a dance-off between school mascots.

Now I don’t want to sound biased, but the EWU mascot is an eagle. You know, America’s symbol of everything we hold dear, like freedom and cable TV?

The blue hen is a cartoon chicken.

Really. A chicken.

I mean, come on. How’s that even a contest?

Yet in the end, this mouthy boob with a microphone declared our band and mascot smackdown a draw that would “have to be decided on the field.”

Hah! So Eastern wins twice.

Go Eagles!

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.

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