Blogs | 3/17/2009 4:56:43 PM | John Gurtler
Growing up Orange. Clockwork Orange. Agent Orange. Orange Crush. Orange you glad I brought this up? Yes. Aside from my first recollection of orange, I must admit I am continually impressed of the faithful following of Orange that makes up the primary colors of the Buffalo Bandits, and to many who are members of the long-time Bandit Brigade.
Not only do the Bandits lead the league in attendance, their fans are the most loyal of any Buffalo team, head-to-toe.
This was again the case Saturday night where single-handedly the 2,000-plus Bandit orange-clad fans stimulated the Rochester economy with dollars and unbelievable spirit. As Budd Bailey, beat reporter, of The Buffalo News wrote Sunday in his story; the Bandit crowd at the Blue Cross Arena rivaled a Sabres/Leafs game.
Sal Maiorana, my half-time radio guest Saturday night, of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper said in his interview, "I have been covering the Knighthawks since day one and this is the largest crowd from Buffalo I have ever seen."
On the way home from the Bandits/Knighthawks game, I made a quick stop at the last food/gas plaza before the Williamsville toll and the place was a Bandit fan commune. Cars, limos, buses, all had stopped to gate the place for a post-game chat, chow and coffee. And I must say on the later, the manager of Tim Horton's missed out on making a fist full of dollars by closing the counter amongst the ripples of Bandit fans coming through the doors. Even polite business minded requests to the TH manager of reflecting the sea of orange in the plaza as a river of green running through it. But no, not even a cookie sale. You should never turn your back on a Bandit fan.
Another Bandit Fan sighting by team officials was a Mighty Taco, 12:30a.m. Sunday, with 30-odd some orange-clad faithful hungry from the thunder-alley trek.
Plain and simple, they are the best. They can be seen. And they can be heard.
At times the vocal volleys Saturday night in Rochester reminded those of Beaver Stadium at Penn State when parts of the 105,000+ carry on a conversation from end zone to end zone and from one sideline to another. The Bandit sea of orange was spotted everywhere and ditto for decibel.
A bit of a gasp when there was nothing to say and cheer when it was 5-1 Rochester. But you could tell the gangs and gaggles of Bandit fans were cooking something up with chants. Mostly to make the Bandit players want to play better. You could sense it and later hear it.
When Cory Bomberry netted his second of the night to bring the Bandits within one, you thought the Court Street aqueduct was opening, letting the water rage past outside the refurbished venue.
And, oh my, Pat McCready went face-to-face with his Irish heritage opponent Patrick O'Toole, scoring a short-handed goal tying the game at 7, some of the Amerk championship flags were waving from the Bandit fans swell of enthusiasm.
And it kept getting louder.
I know the outcome was tough to handle with the 15-14 overtime decision but on the scale of 1-10 for exciting and entertaining night out, I would rate this a 9.5. This game was a close at it gets to end-to-end action, hits and tumbles and just raw goal scoring.
Did Mike Accursi step in the crease? And where in the world did Carmen-San-Diego-Sean Williams come from on scoring Rochester's 14th goal right after Accursi was notified his goal did not count? The yellow flag lay late with a hopeless review from Crew Chief Tom Sutton. The Bomberry major penalty was a questionable call and the Roger Vyse to win it in overtime after a strong three-goal performance.
The little things paid off for the Knighthawks. A goal nine-seconds in; power of the draw, loose balls and good old hustle by Sean Evans, Steve Toll and Sean Williams. O'Toole was good, too, with 22 turned aside. Some of the Bandit shooting lanes were clogged and the pass/connection ratio was a bit off Saturday night. Sometimes it looked like the team was trying too hard not to make mistakes and that always backfires.
Despite the critics and their power-rankings, this band of Bandits are resilient and can leap over tall obstacles in a single bound if they play the system. It may take a game or two but when they play the system, this team is brilliant.
Brilliant, too, John Tavares netted his 30th goal of the season by games end off a four goal and three-assist performance. That feat marks 14 seasons of 30 or more goals for the greatest player of the game.
Kenny Montour made some game-saving saves Saturday night, ending with 41 after spelling Michael Thompson who got pecked by the KHawks early peppers.
Portland spells possibility this Saturday night at HSBC and we'll wait and see how the Bandits respond having lost two in a row for the first time this season.
I grew up wearing orange following the Denver Broncos and drinking Orange Crush. I wore orange when others laughed at you because they were so bad. Hey, they had to loose four Super Bowls before they won one. But there is something good about the color orange. For one, you can't help but not see it and two; you won’t have to make a trip too far Saturday night to be a part of a sea of orange known as Banditland. Orange you glad you don't have to wait too long?