So assume for a second that you represent a school whose hockey team has widely been labeled one of college sports' most plucky Cinderellas in years. Assume that your school is coming to Washington D.C., but that it's pep band is stuck behind. Assume further that your school's primary color is green. Now, can you think of any D.C. area pep bands that might make for a suitable replacement?
"Wanted to give you a heads up that the Green Machine will be playing as Bemidji State's pep band at the Frozen Four this week," George Mason's iconic band leader, Doc Nix, wrote to me this week. Can you say "perfect storyline for every D.C. media outlet trying to figure out how to cover college hockey?"
"There are a lot of connections there, aren't there?" Bemidji AD Rick Goeb told me Monday afternoon with a laugh.
The wacky truth, though, is that Mason's pep band was chosen neither for the school's underdog connotations nor for its Green Machine name and blingy-greened-out accessories. The Mason kids were chosen because the Red Line Swingers - who usually represent the Beavers - had other commitments and were unable to make the trip, and because the school was scrambling to find a band, and because Washington Capitals employee and Bemidji Super Fan Rachel Becker had an in with Mason.
You know that drum line that's always outside (and inside) Caps games? Well, they're The Mean Green, also from Mason. So one thing led to another, and the Beavers coaches got Rachel involved in the band search, and she got in touch with the Mason folks, and now we have an irresistible story, with Nix already schooling his charges about their fellow underdogs, and the Mason kids doing Bemidji research of their own.
Except you know what's weird? Even though Bemidji Coach Tom Serratore has openly compared his squad to the '06 Patriots, who knocked off top-seeded U-Conn in that same Verizon Center where the Frozen Four will be played, the Bemidji Athletic Department isn't so sure about the comparison. The Beavers have won more than a dozen national hockey championships, though none in Division I, and they don't see themselves as Larranaga-style mid-major gate-crashers this week.
"Obviously the perception is true in many ways, but when we look at it at Bemidji State, we don't look at it as Cinderella," Goeb, the AD, said. "I guess were looking at it as we're not done, we have a lot of work to do yet. We're not satisfied. We're looking at making some more noise in the hockey championship. I know people look at it as a Cinderella story, and maybe that's what it is, but in our minds we have a lot of pride. And for us, it's an expectation that our hockey program does well. It's just hard for us to look at [the Cinderella theme] all the time, even though it's true. We're looking forward to the opportunity to have some success--a lot of success."
Was Becker at least thinking of capturing some Mason magic?
"It did occur to me after we lined everything up," she said. "It seemed like a nice coincidence. Hopefully we'll go all the way, though."
So should we run with this Mason thing or not?
"You know, we want to have fun, too," Goeb said. "It's all about having fun and enjoying the experience."
And so I know what you're wondering: Will the Mason band learn the Bemidji fight song? Will they play any Green Machine specialties? Will they bust out Livin on a Prayer, the anthem of the 2006 Final Four run, the song that still makes me think of Lamar Butler hugging his dad and Larranaga high stepping and Folarin Campbell leaping on the press table to salute the Verizon Center crowd?
"Yes, yes, and yes," Doc Nix answered. "We are excited to show our support for their team and fans in the best way we know how."
Oh, and will he dress...you know...how he dresses?
"The Beavers wear green," he noted. "I wonder if I have a green suit laying around somewhere...."
(In other Bemidji news, Mix 103.7 KKBJ will be broadcasting its Sports In the Round show from the downtown ESPN Zone Wednesday from 7-9. Expect lots of Beaver talk. It's called Sports In the Round because they usually tape in the Ground Round back home. And in other Bemidji news, the Beaver Pride Alumni Association is meeting up at Gordon Biersch at 2 on Thursday, three hours before the puck drops. Be there.)