Fans may not have the opportunity to witness the drum major of USC’s marching band plunge their sword into midfield at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan) Typically at this time of year, most discussions about USC’s football team revolve around familiar subjects: Who will be the starting quarterback? How much depth do the Trojans have at running back? How is the team going to fare in conference play? Still, despite the challenges, Bartner believes that his band members are unwavering in their commitment. When asked about the prospect of his 27-year attendance streak ending, Nwaisser was less pessimistic, albeit for a different reason. Bartner reflected that sense of perseverance when he discussed his outlook on the Trojans’ future. In light of the circumstances, Roy Nwaisser, a USC alumnus who has famously not missed a USC football game in 27 years — earning him the moniker ‘USC Psycho’ — believes his typical gameday routine of tailgating might no longer be possible. “College is different,” Myers said. “There’s a sense of tradition … but also fellowship that just isn’t the same in professional sports or any venue in college sports.” Though his famous run might survive another season, Nwaisser acknowledged that a season restricted to TV screens will be irredeemably lacking the qualities that make the college gameday experience so special. “It severs the emotional experience of the nostalgia, the walking the streets, the running into people that you haven’t seen in years or you haven’t seen since last year,” Myers said. “[I had] season tickets for 20 years [and] I’d look behind me, in front of me, on both sides and saw people and watched them get older with me and talk about our kids growing up. You’d lose the heart and soul of [the experience] and it becomes just a game.” Despite having months to prepare and organize a season, the fate of 2020 college football remains completely up in the air, subject to the unpredictable spread of the coronavirus and the whims of government, NCAA and university officials. This means that gameday experiences unlike any in the history of USC football are approaching — potentially without fans, marching bands or tailgating. That sense of unity at Coliseum gamedays isn’t just felt by the marching band’s iconic leader. Though Dhaliwal will miss gamedays at the coliseum alongside his fellow band members, the band — led for the 51st straight year by Dr. Arthur C. Bartner — is forging ahead and preparing for the season, no matter what it will look like. Longtime director Dr. Arthur C. Bartner has led the Trojan Marching Band for half a century and is returning at the helm for one more season. (Daily Trojan file photo) Dhaliwal, who grew up attending USC games with his father, a Trojan alumnus, has recently enjoyed a gameday experience far different from the ones that most fans do. Since joining USC’s marching band, Dhaliwal has gained an appreciation for how much the band contributes to the energy and tradition of gamedays at the Coliseum. Because of the length of his tenure at the helm of The Greatest Marching Band In the History of the Universe, Bartner has witnessed first-hand nearly every big-game and time-honored tradition USC football has had to offer. Bartner is still waiting on word from USC’s leadership as to whether or not his band can perform in the Coliseum and at what capacity. According to Bartner, the number of band members allowed to perform at games might be cut by 90%, from 300 performers to 30. Dhaliwal said this reality, combined with no pregame or halftime show, might make football games feel more like basketball games for the band. “I love the band,” Nwaisser said. “I’ve always said, even when the team’s doing horribly, the band still rocks.” “As long as [the coronavirus] is a threat, I don’t know that I will be tailgating at all,” Nwaisser said. “Traditionally when we have tailgates, everyone is in close quarters, we’re eating food, we’re sharing food off of the same table, people are sticking their hands in the same chip dish [and] cooler and pulling out drinks. You really can’t do any of that if you’re social distancing … I’m certainly not going to be turning my tailgate into a COVID party.” “What I hear from my recruitment team is that these kids love this band,” Bartner said. “I’m hearing ‘I’m coming back’ or ‘I’m going to join this band … whatever they throw at us, whatever the scenario is, I want to be a part of this band.’” “For me, there is still nothing like college football,” Nwaisser said. “I love the atmosphere. I love the band. I love the action. It’s just not the same on TV.” After all, Bartner may be right. But for now, he and USC football fans can only hope for the best — and they may need to adjust to a gameday experience quite unlike anything they’ve ever seen. This year, however, only one question really matters, and fans still have no answer to it: Will there be a college football season at all? Nwaisser, for his part, maintained that he would try to travel to games if possible, but he is still wary of the public health crisis. “When we win and the team comes over to the band and we got the rooting section behind us and we play Conquest and we get the player of the game on the ladder and he holds the sword up … that is my favorite moment,” Bartner said. “You got the team, you got the band, you got the rooting section, the Song Girls, the spirit squad and then you got any fan who wants to come over … For a minute and 45 seconds of Conquest you have the Trojan Family all together.” Since the coronavirus outbreak, Bartner’s band has been forced to become flexible in its recruitment and preparation. “It’s going to be a huge void because that’s something I’ve grown up with my whole life, something I really look forward to sharing with my friends and my family, and it’s not going to be the same, which sucks,” Dhaliwal said. Considering the risks presented by the pandemic and the likelihood that both University Park and the Coliseum will be largely vacant, Dhaliwal has opted to stay home for the fall semester. “This is a great university,” Bartner said. “[We’ve] got a great student body, and we’ve got a terrific band … and we’re going to Fight On. I’m a believer in Fighting On, and we’re going to get through this pandemic and come out stronger on the other end and we’re going to win a ton of football games.” Typically, the band recruits approximately 100 new members during summer orientation sessions. This summer, the band has successfully recruited about 70 new members during online sessions. In addition, much of the band’s equipment, such as instruments and uniforms, remains inaccessible. Devin Dhaliwal, a junior at USC and lifelong Trojan football fan, shared Nwaisser’s sentiment. “If things don’t change for the better, I would not feel comfortable [traveling],” Nwaisser said. “But I would do it. The question is will I fly or will I drive. I don’t like the idea of driving to Washington, but I think I don’t like the idea of flying to Washington — with crowded airports and crowded airplanes — even more.” Given the uncertainty, Bartner insists on preparing the band not only for the upcoming season but for when a new band director is selected to replace him after his upcoming retirement. But there is one tradition that Bartner will miss most of all if the band is not allowed to perform at games. “No,” Myers said. “You’re asking me if I’m going to risk the health of my family for the sake of attending a football game — sorry, no.” Nathan Ackerman contributed to the story. Apparently, Dhaliwal is not the only Trojan fan who holds this opinion. Myers was pessimistic about how fanless games might affect the environment at the Coliseum. “We’re there every game from start to finish,” said Dhaliwal, who is majoring in computer science and business administration. “We’re really trying to be positive and support the team as much as we can, and I think by doing that, it sort of sets an example for the rest of the student body and the rest of the stadium to say, ‘Hey, we’re here and we’re going to support our team no matter what happens.’” “It is true that, at this time, we do not have state, county, or university clearance for traditional practices and competitions,” Athletic Director Mike Bohn wrote July 31 in a letter to donors obtained by the Daily Trojan. “Additionally, we have not received any indication about if fans will be permitted to attend home games at the Coliseum this year should the season go forward, and we do not have any timeline for when this decision would be made by public health officials.” “If I miss a game that I choose to miss, then that would be the end of the streak,” Nwaisser said. “But if it’s there is a situation where there is no way to get in because fans aren’t allowed in or there’s just not an availability of tickets or it’s totally out of [my] control, then I don’t think that kills the streak.” The sense of loss that a missed season will bring is apparent to him. “If it’s all virtual, it’s all virtual,” Bartner said. “If we can get some kids on campus, that would be great too. But, as you know, some kids are not coming back to campus, so we’re trying to come up with a curriculum where we can go both in-person and virtual.” “From an entertainment and passion perspective, there is nothing that beats college football because you have [students], alumni who have attended the school and graduated and you have the bands, the different fight songs and traditions [and] tailgating throughout campus,” Dhaliwal said. “I think college football just has such a unique energy to it.” “I want [the band] to continue to be great [so] that when the new director takes over he’ll have this great band to work with,” Bartner said. “So I’m doing what I can to keep everybody involved and keep [everyone] progressing and improving, and I keep telling everybody that someday we’re going to march pregame … We don’t know when it’s going to happen, but we have to be prepared.” On the other hand, Charles Myers, a USC alumnus and former season-ticket holder of more than 20 years, is more steadfast in his unwillingness to attend games in person. Note: This article was written prior to the postponement of Pac-12 sports through 2020.
President’s guns/crime concernsThe position taken by President David Granger on guns and their relation to crime in Guyana needs to be tested closely, as the evidence for such is “slim orPresident David Grangeranecdotal”.Former House Speaker Ralph RamkarranThis was the view of former House Speaker Ralph Ramkarran Sunday on his online blog “Conversation Tree”, as he examined comments made by President Granger recently about the issuance of gun licences to private citizens and its correlation to the rise in criminal activities in Guyana.Recently, on his televised programme “The Public Interest”, the President said the Administration would be working towards seeing fewer guns on the streets by scaling down the number of licences issued to private individuals. He indicated that that may be the reason why so many weapons were in the hands of criminals.“We would like to see fewer weapons in the hands of private citizens; it is my personal view that weapons should be used by law enforcement agencies – the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force… We will try to detect people coming into the country with illegal firearms… so there is a plethora of measures, which will be implemented and our whole policy is aimed at getting guns off the streets and leaving guns in the hands of the Police and the Army,” the Head of State said. He noted that some firearm holders rent their weapons to criminals.But Ramkarran on his blog said there were no statistics or other evidence publicly available to link lawful gun ownership to the high level of gun crimes. He said by the end of the 1980s, after strong Police action against ‘kick down the door bandits”, criminals increasingly resorted to the use of firearms. He noted that in 1992, the newly-elected People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government increased the issuance of firearm licences, which had been previously denied to business people and farmers.He said a few years ago all owners of firearms were required to submit their firearms when renewing licences.“The objective was to acquire spent shells by firing the guns in water so that a database could be built of spent shells of all firearms, which are legally owned. That database is presumably in existence.” He further asked, “If, as the Government argues, private owners are renting their firearms to criminals, how come no one has been charged? This indicates that the evidence against private gun owners is slim or anecdotal.”According to Ramkarran, the increase in gun crimes has also been linked to the increase in drug trafficking from the 1980s.He said for several years, Government and security officials have attributed the prevalence of not only illegal guns and gun crimes, but also illegal drugs to Guyana’s porous borders. The implied argument was that it was impossible to stop the flow of arms across our borders because of the impossibility of monitoring them. According to him, this was the explanation, some would say excuse, for the inability of the authorities to reduce the incidence of gun crimes and drug trafficking.“There are many initiatives which have been taken to reduce crime. These range from increased cooperation between the Governments of Guyana and the US in relation to drug trafficking, cooperation between the Governments of Guyana and the UK on security issues, efforts to build relations between the Police and communities, enhanced capacity of the CID, increased recruitment and training, and others. These have resulted in an overall reduction of crime. But the intractable problem of crimes involving the use of a gun continues to be deeply troubling to Guyanese in Guyana and overseas,” the former Speaker wrote.He said Government and security officials face a situation that had no single, dominant cause and required wide-ranging solutions. These, he said, range from secure borders, better Policing, granting of gun licences only to those who are fully qualified, reduced drug trafficking, more stringent bail conditions and many more. He said, however, that the attempt to unduly restrict the issue of firearm licences ran the risk of returning Guyana to the days when only the politically favoured were granted licences.“There are other issues, already in the public domain, that need to be addressed. Recently, both the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Public Security called for bail to be refused to persons accused of gun crimes because while they are on bail, they commit more gun crimes. This has been a sore point for decades and the only answer is legislation.”He said the extent of the power of Magistrates to imprison persons convicted of gun crimes, or any indictable offence tried summarily, was limited. Also, a simple amendment to the relevant law would enable a magistrate to refer such persons to be sentenced by the High Court, as if the person were convicted on indictment, if the Magistrate considered it necessary, either on his or her motion or at the request of the prosecution.