Christmas is a comin’ and the geese are getting fat. Time to put some NLL games in the Bandits empty hat.
The Bandits enter the week without a game on the schedule.
I mean really, how long can you keep 24 players interested in game-type simulations, wallball and, continuous playing of the movie “The Shawshank Redemption?”
Help me, Andy, to break these guys out of a three-week “bye” sentence. The team is restless, waiting out in the yard for a real game.
“Practices have gone well considering the time off before our next game,” Bandits head coach John Tavares said. “At practice, we run a lot of transition drills to make sure the guys stay in shape. We also continue to tweak our defense and offense. Back-to-back off weeks is certainly not fun. The team is eager to play another game.”
Tavares reported no major injuries from Game 1, a 13-10 win over San Diego back on Dec. 7. Chase Fraser and Quinn Powless continue to rehab their injuries and may or may not be ready for the next game.
The next game for the Bandits is Saturday, Dec. 28, at home against the Halifax Thunderbirds.
As we enjoy the Christmas spirit, I want to take a moment and recognize two people who mean a lot to the operation of the Bandits: Public address announcer Chris Swenson and broadcast statistics chief Scott Fleetwood. These two are so dedicated to their craft, loyal, and, yes, the best at what they do.
Come to think of it, there are so many behind-the-scenes personnel associated with sports teams who work endless hours – unrecognized – to help in the success not only in the player’s performance but the event itself. There are pages and pages of names. All very good at what they do.
But these two are better than good.
Chris Swenson is, without question, the best public address announcer in any sporting event. There are a lot of them and many go “way over the top” to the point they are annoying. Gone are the days of Milt Ellis, the Sabres PA man for years, and the rich pleasant straight-forward voice of “Buffalo Goal…,” but “Swennie” has the right mix and nobody does it better.
Scott Fleetwood, a survivor of a double lung transplant and health challenges, has provided game statistics and notes for our radio and television broadcasts for the last 12 seasons. Not a peep about his health, just a clipboard of facts and numbers handed to me throughout a game. And even texts of such during road swings.
29 years and counting…
Swenson is and has been just right as the Bandits public address announcer since Day 1.
Yes, this is his 29th season! Nobody does it better than he.
“After 28 years, most of it is like riding a bike, but my routine is to get in a few hours before the game to review rosters, changes, and pronunciations,” Swenson, who initially worked with the Sabres as public address personality in the stands and on the ice, said. “I also like to mingle with the Bandit staff, players, coaches as I tend to feed off their energy and I feel more relaxed just spending time with the team prior to game.”
“What’s he got?” “Buffalo WHAT?” “Johnny WHO?” “Whose house?” “Coast-to-Coast Priolo!” “Da-Da-Da-Doot-Da-Doo!” The list continues to build.
“When I first started, I had a nickname for every player and at that time, I thought it worked well to help fans associate with the players and team. Most of them simply come to mind, I’m always thinking through the players, finding positive ways to help brand them,” he said. “As time has gone on, players have worked to create their own identity and I’m always conscious to not push the envelope too far.
“With that said, each year brings a new challenge to try and keep things fresh, though many fans are quick to remind me when I stray too far from doing enough of the traditional stuff. This year, I’ll work to add in a few new ones as players emerge finding opportunities to brand them in a way fans will embrace.”
He keeps his head on a swivel as the game has become much faster and more athletic, but the flow of the game has remained the same.
“I have the luxury to jump in and out [from a PA perspective] when I need to, and I try to identify and capitalize on the special moments by bringing a bit more hype when I anticipate something special is about to happen.”
As Swenson jumps into his 29th season with the Bandits, why does he continue to do it?
“Many reasons. My son and daughter absolutely love the Bandit and the game. The other is the organization and Banditland!,” he said. “The staff and the players have been so good to me and my family and, more importantly, the way they treat my son, Brett.
“And Banditland! I’ve been fortunate enough to emcee and be part of many teams and cool events, but there’s nothing like Banditland. It’s truly unrivaled and is a very special place to be.”
You are a good man, Chris Swenson. The Bandits and Banditland are so fortunate to have you stoking it up throughout the game!
All in a day’s work
I first met Scott Fleetwood while working with the Bills stadium production team during home games back in the mid-’90s. Our paths had crossed during my time with the Sabres, but it wasn’t until his offer to do Bandits stats 12 years ago that I really got to appreciate what he did and how fast he kept track of numbers during the game.
“I come from an auto racing family, but rich in athletics. I got my media start in radio, and while playing hockey,” Fleetwood, who has kept stats for various teams for over twenty years, said. “I connected with [longtime sports producer] David Dee and he gave me my stats start. I have also worked with the Sabres and visiting NHL teams doing stats as well as various tasks including graphics, closed captioning for the hearing impaired, music, and be a spotter for you during the Bills games.”
As noted above, Scott has been challenged with health issues for a long time, which included oxygen-supported and painful moments in wait for a set of lungs. No matter the pain and exhaustion, he made most of the games over a handful of seasons and did his job as if nothing was bothering him. Even when the time came for the critical operation of the double lung transplant a few years ago in July, “Fleets” was able to join us for the second half of the Bandits season!
But Scott doesn’t dwell on his health issues. No, he’s more interested in explaining his duties.
“I use an excel program on my laptop to keep track of stats. I add players names and numbers before the game and look for upcoming milestones for teams and players. I connect my laptop to an auxiliary monitor so the talent can get the info right away. Box lacrosse is too fast for the talent to take their eyes off the field,” he said.
“Too, I rely on pen and paper and whiteboards with dry-erase markers to pass on information. I use a wireless headset to pass on similar stats to the graphics person in the control room.”
All in a day’s work when your body is trying to get back to normal health, which is ongoing. Think of this the next time you’re tired.
“The last few years have been different for me, and like family, the Bandits have been there supporting me and my family,” he said. “Whether it be a phone call from Mearnsey [Bandits analyst Randy Mearns], a donation for my fundraiser from the Bandits, Chugger [Buffalo general manager Steve Dietrich] or the NLL Commissioner checking on how I’m doing, it all means so much.
“I love the camaraderie with the people, on and off the mic and cameras. In a way, I feel like I’m contributing a little bit.”
In more ways than one, Scott Fleetwood, in more ways than one. Thank you for your dedication and inspiration.
Chris Swenson and Scott Fleetwood, just two of the many who do their job so well and are very much a part of the Bandits family.
Let us all enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.