Dear Mr. Rome,
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mark Adkins: I am a musician, a graphic designer, a writer, and a computer programmer. I would consider myself to be a textbook nerd, geek, dork, et cetera but I do not take offense to these words anymore.
I tried my hand at sports. My big thing was baseball. I couldn’t throw a ball to save my life and I was scared to swing the bat at first, but one day I found out that when I swung I could make the outfielders nervous. I never learned to throw very accurately and I realized that baseball was not what I was supposed to do with my life, so I stopped playing baseball in Middle school. But to this day I can still gamble with the fences in a game among friends down at the field. In middle school, I took up the trombone in my school’s band. I had played piano for a few years and music was a place I could escape reality and a place I could express myself. Middle school is when I got the label of “nerd” and it stuck until late high school when I finally said “enough”. This is when I grew up. I stopped caring about what the people who were bullying me said, and for this reason I became immune to such slander and insults. However, I do not wish for it to have happened any other way. I became a stronger person because of it, I was encouraged to be my own person, and I learned to embrace the person that I had become.
Unfortunately some people are not as immune to it as I. I know you recognize in hindsight that the actions you took on January 1st were inappropriate and at this point you may think this is just another accusation, but my intent is not to accuse anyone of anything. I appreciate your apology, and I accept it. I trust that it was genuine and you have learned from past mistakes. I invite you to continue reading because this is not an accusation. This is my story. It is just one story out of millions who participate and devote their lives to marching everyday. I joined the marching band at my high school my freshman year. It was something that I honestly did not want to do. My mom challenged me to give it one season and if I did not absolutely love it I would never have to do it again. Seven years later, here I am returning from Vatican City after marching for the Pope in the New Year’s Blessing. I would say this is the most incredible experience of my life.
The reason I am on that field for every home game during halftime is because I love what I do. I love the performances, I love supporting JMU Athletics, I love the crowds, I love the music, and I love the people. I am not alone in this. I am physically surrounded by 484 people on that field that love marching for the same reasons I do.
I am ready for the accusations and pointing of fingers to cease. I am tired of seeing rebuttals every time I login to Facebook or Twitter. And I am tired of people calling you names in return. I do challenge you to recognize that every person on that field has a story. Every person on that field has their own path of how they got there for halftime. And every person on that field has a reason for what they do, and why they do it. As for me, I am proud to call myself a member of the Marching Royal Dukes and all other band programs I have been a part of. I would not have it any other way. Mr. Rome, I also encourage you to share your own story. Allow people to get to know you and why you do what you do as a sportscaster.
What you see during halftime is only a minuscule portion of what we do. If you feel so inclined to see what we do to prepare for what you see at halftime, I would like to invite you to visit a practice next season. Whether it is the Marching Royal Dukes at JMU or another marching program, I think you will really appreciate the stories of the people who devote their lives to halftime and the dedication in every step taken. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing your own story.
Marching Royal Dukes
James Madison University