Despite having the Minnesota Wild in Amalie Arena, it was still a Saturday. And it was still a little too silent.
Save for a quick burst of all three goals scored in the second period and the flurry of saves made by Ben Bishop in the waning seconds of the game, Lighting fans were too quiet, myself included. Players might say they don’t pay attention to how many people show up for a game (OK, only Panthers players say this and lie) but they certainly feed off of a crowd’s energy.
What the issue is that the in-game entertainment lacks call to action. In between all the charity spotlights, ticket promotions and kiss cams, the things that get the crowd going en masse aren’t there.
Instead of being led by the giant screen to chant “Let’s Go Bolts” or “Let’s Go Tampa” the crowd is simply told to “Make Some Noise.” Over and over and over again.
The Sticks Of Fire gang do their part in the upper bowl of the arena, but it doesn’t carry though in most instances and because of the complexity of the chants (or maybe length) they take some getting used to. (That and even when they shouted I still couldn’t make out everything they were saying across the way in Section 313.) The group is getting a lot of media attention, but it’s activation in arena hasn’t followed as much as it should and same goes for Facebook where the group has only 921 fans out of a Lightning fan base of tens of thousands. Shit, Sam The Horn guy—a man who solely blows a vuvuzela at the Verizon Center to elicit “Let’s Go Caps” has 3,292 followers on Twitter.
ESPN The Magazine praised the electrifying arena, but folks, there’s another level to get to. It needs to be much louder for longer and at points, deafening. I’m a little biased here being in plenty of games at the Verizon Center and my ears would ring.
Let’s talk solutions, shall we?
•Just get back to basics and start small. Lead us. Give us something to say. We need direction in a game with a lot going on. Go Bolts Go or Let’s Go Lightning. Something. What’s not working is overusing “Be The Thunder” as a rallying cry because it only works for the beginning of the game. Any other time, the call to action loses momentum. It’s not exactly something you can chant either because the fans are supposed to be the thunder. Yelling it doesn’t make any sense.
•Coming out of a commercial break, play some sort of short montage video to start a rally cry and get somebody well-loved from Tampa Bay and shout “Let’s Go Boooooooollllts.” Dick Vitale doesn’t have the energy in his video and just don’t get any politicians or bureaucrat in the video and we’ll be fine.
•Embrace the Sticks Of Fire chants. Feature them in the game, especially during if the game is scoreless or the Bolts are trailing, to get the energy up in the building. This can almost be like the “Unleash the Fury” moment that worked so well in the Verizon Center. (Certainly PA announcer Wes Johnson does his part when his head explodes each game.)
Start simple. Do “I believe that we will win” in the third period, with the camera on them to lead the way and have the words up on the screen. We all know you have the real estate to work with on that jumbotron. And then go from there. The Caps have set it up with both Sam and another guy called Goat, who has a strong set of chords where he will scream “Let’s Go Caps” and the entire arena can hear him and join in. The cameras typically show him once a game to get the crowd going now.
That should give the Lightning and fans a starting point. The team and fans are making strides to make it a hostile place for visiting teams, but there’s more to do. I can at least be thankful that we’ve moved away from a fiddler doing “Cotton Eyed Joe” every game.