I have a big, booming voice.
This has, in my opinion, added a real wildcard advantage to the Sabres. Bellowing “Let’s go Buffaloooooooooooo”, not only shakes up the home crowd around me, but reaches the ice.
(The Sports Vowel “o” is a powerful weapon. It’s very opportune that the word “Buffalo” ends in an “o,” since you can project this profound Sports Vowel from the bass of your stomach to be heard far and away.)
Of course, I’ve heard players say that they tune out the noise from the crowd to focus on their game, but I believe that they hear me, and that my gusto fuels them. And as a fan, belief is fact. But recently, I had an experience that told me that my status of wildcard might be changing.
My wife and I were avid fans of the now defunct Jacksonville Barracudas. The city had just built a new arena – and while small, it’s a dandy: there’s not a bad seat in the house, the stadium nachos are good, and the bartender at their Stadium Club is one of the cheeriest I’ve ever met (of course, people around hockey always seem to be plain good people). Well, I was known to clear out seats/rows/sections around us in the usually near-empty arena when I began to use my voice (I believe they just didn’t want to drown me out.)
Anyway, my crowning moment was during a ‘Cudas breakaway: it was a nifty and unexpected breakout pass from deep in our own end, and the crowd went silent. I thought to myself, “This is my time.” I looked at my wife, and she gave me the nod. Just as our guy on the ice lifted his blade to shoot the puck, I let it go:
(The schwa “a” is also one of those great vowels that you can really extend out long and loud. Besides the long lung-busting delivery, it also comes out with a sort of barbaristic rasp – a war-like bellow. I really love Sports Vowels.)
The goalie flinched, and the puck was in the back of the net. Now, I can’t say for certain that he flinched because his goaltender’s mask was being rattled by my sound-waves, but I believe it did, and as a fan, belief is fact.
The ‘Cudas have now left town to find a larger fan base in North Florida. I hope they find a good fan base somewhere, but I believe that they will miss me.
My wife and I have since moved up to WNY, after 16 long years of away game hockey. Along with my mother and father, we all attended a Sabres’ preseason game against Toronto in 2008. It was my first game in Buffalo since the 90’s, and the Aud.
Since it was pre-season, there were a few thousand empty seats. I was ready to give my voice to the Sabres, finally, on their home ice – and at the first quiet moment, I let that “o” out louder and longer than ever before:
“Let’s go buffalooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”
But this time, no one around me was close to being rattled. I even got a high five. This was a unfamiliar reaction. But at least, I do believe that Lindy recognized me, and I believe he even cracked a smile. (And you know from reading this post what belief means to a hockey fan.)
And then it happened: from just about three rows behind me came a high-pitched echo – a big time “Let’s go Buffaloooo!” from a surprising source. When I turned around, there she was. She couldn’t have been more than nine years old, but she had the Big Voice. She smiled at me, and then gave me a look as if to say, “This is my turf.”
I turned to my father, a season ticket holder in that section. “Yep,” he said, “she’s the Sabres Official Cheerleader. All game long, she keeps us all going. Just wait. It’s amazing.”
And she did not fail to impress. My voice was ready to give out by the mid-second period, as we were trailing, but she kept the home fans delighted and electrified with her indomitable voice and spirit. The Sabres tied the game late and won in overtime, and I believe that it was her Big Voice that won the game that night.
And belief, of course, is fact.
Since then, I have been re-learning what it is like to be a home-fan. It’s certainly different – you don’t get to enjoy invading a city with a horde of thousands of other Sabres-jersey-clad fans. (Well, there’s always Toronto.)
But also, I’ll am realizing that I am now a generation behind, and I am handing over my voice to these new Big Voices in the crowd.
My voice is getting older, and giving out sooner, but I can take it easy, knowing that the biggest Official Sabres Cheerleader, and the Biggest Voice, is just nine years old: the Sabres will be in good hands for decades to come.
And you’d better believe it.
*(A variation on the “Cudaaaaaaas” theme was “Cuuuuuuuuudas,” emphasizing the Sports Vowel “u.” Another powerful gutteral sound, the “u” sound is perhaps most famously used to “boo” opponents (or your own team, on bad outings). While resoundingly booming, it is to be used with care, so as to avoid being mistaken for a “boo” of one’s own team. )