Playing in the Name of Mason

February 19, 2012   ·   1 Comments

by Cody Norman

Photo Credit: Stephen Kline

College basketball fans across the nation packed into the Quicken Loans Arena last March. Expecting to see great basketball, those fans were greeted with a welcome surprise. A strange man in a funny suit danced along the stands, directing his band in such a unique fashion that people wide and far lined up for photographs with a regular in the post-tournament “One Shining Moment.”

Despite the Patriots’ nail-biting victory over Villanova in the second round, or even despite the gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of Ohio State in the subsequent round, George Mason University won the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

At least in the mind of Doc Nix.

“In the realm of Ws and Ls and stats on the box score, we didn’t win,” Doc Nix said. “But in terms of showing up and represent­ing ourselves and what we’re about, I think we did win.”

Known for his Mason-themed zoot suits, Dr. Michael Nickens, more commonly known as Doc Nix, has attracted a nation- wide audience and has, in many ways, be- come the face of Mason basketball. “Taking it up a notch and wearing some- thing that stands out just gives everyone that cue and gives me permission to get in front of people and encourage them to clap and sing along,” Doc Nix said. “It’s kind of a code for, ‘Pay attention to this. Th is is part of the performance.’”

While continuing his work as an assistant professor in the School of Music, his alter ego has charmed the NCAA landscape for six years, bringing doubt to which persona is the most real. “It’s like asking, ‘Is Bruce Wayne the real guy or is Batman the real guy? Is Clark Kent the real guy or is Superman the real guy? Is Dr. Michael Nickens the real guy or is Doc Nix the real guy?’ It’s hard to say what’s what,” Doc Nix said.

As a drum major at West Potomac High School, Doc Nix noticed that, as a member of the marching band, he could control an entire football stadium from one spot on the field. He brought the idea to Fairfax just one year after Mason’s historical run to the Final Four and continues to breathe life into a crowded arena.

Despite the Patriots’ inability to unseat No. 5 Notre Dame in the fi rst round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Doc Nix made a huge splash in the college basketball landscape as the Green Machine was recognized by a number of sports writers as the most spir- ited pep band in the nation.

“We were at one game – and we were never really in the game,” Doc Nix said. “We were at one game and lost, but we still made enough of an impact to earn that kind of shout-out. Man, that feels so good.”

Last season, Doc Nix and a number of other band directors within the CAA began hosting an event called “Breakfast with the Bands” that is held on the Saturday morn- ing of the CAA Tournament in Richmond.

Providing a unique link between music and athletics, the Green Machine won the 2006 NCAA Final Four “Battle of the Bands” and were named the 2008 and 2009 CAA “Best Pep Band” by CAAZone. com all the while providing one of the best home court advantages in the entire nation.

Doc Nix and the Green Machine have been a driving force behind the Patriots’ incredible success inside the Patriot Center. They played an integral role in the Patriots’ 18-game home winning streak that lasted almost two full years. Th eir fl awless renditions of “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Killing in the Name” echo throughout the arena, giving Mason what Paul Hewitt called a “solid 5-point advantage.” “In a league where most conference games are decided by 10 points or less, that’s big,” Hewitt said.

“This is as good of a home fi eld advantage as I’ve been around. Th is is as good as it gets.” Wherever the band may travel, they always return with more fans. And, ac- cording to Doc Nix, they return home with more people who recognize George Mason University as the school that has “that strange guy that wears the funny suits directing their band.”

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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Tanja

    I have worked as a csioal worker since 1980 in both state and nonprofit organizations. I visited crowded state institutions, small group homes, and worked with individuals to insure that the best possible care was provided. We even started a small group home in 1987. My Mother is in a nursing home, and one of my friends is a cook there and she uses sign language. Of course, I only experienced signing in English. I think what you are doing to bring sign language to a larger world is fantastic. I pray that you will have great success, and benefit many individuals. (Have you all seen the short 1992 film: Beethoven Lives Upstairs? It is one of my favorite films.) Maybe others have mentioned this film, but you can have access to it on Utube, and elsewhere. I have tried to include it here, but my dyslexia and net skills may cause problems, but please check the film out.Beethoven lives upstairs (5)

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