Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Warning: Percussion Concussion - The Drummers Story

 While I am on vacation (will return February 18) posting some of what I call "Best Of Allen Americans Blog" that maybe you missed when first posted or might enjoy rereading. Originally posted February 21, 2013 this is one of my favorite stories. You could not find more passionate, dedicated fans and they add so much to the excitement of the hockey games. If you have ever been to a game when they did not drum you know what I mean.

Jon & Brenda Beard (second and third from left) started drumming & chanting in season one. Photo by www.SceneByKimberly.com

Have you ever wondered about that group that plays the drums and sings their creative chants in the upper regions of Section 100 & 120 during Allen Americans games? Did you know if you try and buy a seat in this area at the ticket office you get a warning that "drums are in use" and you may want to rethink your seat choice?

Having been a season ticket holder since the beginning I have often wondered how this whole thing got started and how it has evolved since season one, so I got in contact with one of the founders, Brenda Beard, to get some answers.

It was kind of an innocent beginning as Brenda along with her husband Jon and their friends Travis Bell and Harlan Haire were just finishing up the soccer season as they are huge FC Dallas fans. When Brenda saw an advertisement about an open house for a new hockey team at the Allen Event Center (AEC) she and her friends decided to check it out. She had only been to one hockey game in her life (Dallas Stars) and she didn't like the experience. As she said, "Every time the play would start to be good they stopped to clean the ice." Jon, who is from England, was a hockey fan of the Bracknell Bees (Bracknell, Berkshire) who play in a second tier professional league in England.

Since the hockey season is a perfect fit with the FC Dallas off season and they were looking for something to do in the soccer off season they all bought season tickets on the spot at the open house.

This might be a good time to mention how big of soccer fans Brenda, Jon, Harlan & Travis were as members of the Inferno. For the uneducated like myself, most major league soccer teams have organized team supporters and one of the groups that supports the FC Dallas team is called the Inferno. It is common place for these groups to make noise (drums, horns, vuvuzela), cheer and chant with lyrics that could be called anything from funny and creative to lewd and crude depending on your point of view.

It was with this soccer background of being members of the Inferno that the group approached Matt Canavan, Americans team president, at a watching party at Boston's to see if they might be allowed to bring a drum to the games. If you recall, during the first season the team was on the road for the first seven games as the Allen Event Center was not completed. Fans went from October 16th which was the opening game of the season in Arizona until November 7th for the home opener. Because of the many road games the team sponsored watching parties at Boston's.

It was during one of these watching parties that the idea came up to play the drum at the hockey games. The group knew some of the front office staff ( including Chad Meints) as they had worked for FC Dallas prior to going to work for the Americans. Chad encouraged them to ask and Matt Canavan gave them the okay to bring their drum to the games with only one warning, "don't be too loud."

That first season the group brought only one drum that was mostly played by Harlan with Brenda as back up. There were some issues that needed to be worked out such as not playing while the PA announcer, Lee Hastings, was talking, not playing over sponsorship announcements, etc. but overall the feedback was positive as it helped create atmosphere and energy inside the AEC. At the end of the season the drum was in such bad shape from all of the abuse it took from Harlan's playing, the group signed the drum and presented it to Justin Bowers who represented the team. The drum was put on display in the players locker room.

After the first season Harlan got married and left so in the second season Brenda and Jon bought two drums and became the drummers. In addition, more of the group in sections 100 & 120 started to sing along with the cheers and chants and more of the FC Dallas Inferno group started attending games.

During season three TJ & Kendra Ogroske joined the group of drummers as they went from the group that would sing and chant to drummers when TJ bought four drums and started bringing them to the games. One of the drums TJ bought was a bass drum and Jonathan Virnig has become the bass player with Elizabeth (killer) Hottle as his back up.

This year saw the group expand by two as Kelly and Paul Reichert along with their children (Bailey & Max), who had been sitting lower down in the section, moved their season tickets to the top, bought two drums and are now part of an eight drum group. I also heard from Brenda that Max, who is eight is becoming quite the drummer.

I have concentrated on the drummers but there are lots more people in this no name group. I asked Brenda why they have no name and she told me it has purposely been left as an unorganized group with anyone welcome to come to the top of sections 100 & 120 and join in. There are regulars, one timers, people who come to a few games, full season ticket holders, children and adults. Everyone is welcomed and they will even let you play the drums if you ask. Brenda has heard others refer to the group as the Drum Corp or The Crazies but they don't use a name for themselves.

Some of the folks I haven't mentioned that participate on  a regular basis include (sorry if I missed some names) Carmen, Chris, Rob, Lorae, Richard, Carol, Margarita, & Matt.

photo courtesy of chlphotos.com
 Pictured above are some of the drummers in action. Not everyone cares for the group but they have the support of the Americans front office and the vast majority of fans. They create great energy and enthusiasm in the arena and definitely motivate the crowd.

So what are the chants?  Here is a sample of the chants the group uses:

- One of the favorites is "Let's Go, Al-len" punctuated by drum beats
- I think we have all heard, "Hey (insert goalies name), IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT"
- How about, "I'm blind, I'm deaf, I wanna be a Ref"
- We luv ya, we luv ya, we luv ya, and everywhere we'll follow, we'll follow, we'll follow, because we support you Allen, Allen, Allen, and that's the way we like it, we like it, we like it.
- For former players on other teams, "Al-len Re-ject, Al-len Re-ject"
- "Allen ... Americans" is supposed to be a two sided cheer so when you hear the group yell "Allen" the crowd is supposed to respond with "Americans"
- "Let's Go Red"
- 'Get out the way ref, get out the way"
- There is a special song for "Biscuit" that they sing only when he comes to visit.

I think the Allen Americans are unique to have established this soccer style cheering section that has now been engrained into the atmosphere at the AEC. Will there be concerns expressed my some fans, yes. Will Brenda periodically get a visit from Chad Meints of the front office to deal with issues, yes. But we are lucky we have such a dedicated group willing to use their talents to get us off our feet and cheer for our team. I for one appreciate their efforts.

With the team coming home Friday after seven away games wouldn't it be nice to have an extra loud crowd. One way we can all help is chime in with the "no name" group in the upper part of sections 100 & 120 and let the players know how much we support them.

And finally, take the time to stop by and say hi to the group, let them know you appreciate what they do and take part if you like. Everyone is welcome. And thanks to Brenda, Elizabeth & Lorae for spending time with me to share their story.

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