Blazin’ Fans Make the Game

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    By Nathan Nef

    In the first quarter of the Utah Blaze game Monday night, Colorado Crush receiver Alonzo Nix caught a ball on the 23-yard line against the right wall and brought the game to the fans, literally. Nix fell into the stands on the catch and was practically tackled by a front-row Blaze fan who held on to the player and almost refused to let go.

    This scenario of players falling into the stands is not uncommon at arena football games. Arena football was developed with the fans in mind. It is a fast-paced, high-scoring game that keeps the fans involved and puts them almost right on the field.

    “It”s fast-paced fan interaction,” said Jason Lammeres, a fan from Orem who supports his team with face paint and bright orange wigs. “We get to yell at the other team and congratulate our team. It”s just the interaction with the players, the interaction with the fans. It”s just great. It”s a good time.”

    There is even a Fans Bill of Rights. A section of it states: “We believe that every Fan is entitled to a total entertainment experience at an affordable cost for all members of the family from the time they arrive at the arena to the time they depart.”

    The Blaze strive to fulfill this and give every fan “the total entertainment experience.” During breaks in the game there are several promotions introduced by Big Buddha from Fox 13. Fans are given the chance to come down onto the field and win prizes ranging from airline tickets to Blaze paraphernalia. The contests vary from attempting to throw or kick a ball through the uprights, or win at the game of giant dice, a game where large inflatable dice are thrown from the stands onto the field and if they land on the side that says Delta the fan wins airline tickets. There are also several demonstrations during the breaks. Monday night featured a martial arts demonstration and halftime entertainment of BMX stunts.

    To add to the experience, the Blaze mascot, a dalmatian named Chief, entertains fans through various antics such as covering opposing fans in silly string and jumping off a trampoline through uprights of fire.

    The Blaze even involve the kids in the fun. In the fourth quarter Monday, the theme song from SpongeBob SquarePants was played over the PA three consecutive times. Each time little voices could be heard singing along and almost every child in the arena stood and danced.

    For diehard fans there is the Utah Blaze booster club, Blaze Nation. Blaze Nation has more than 200 members and sponsors events such as the coach”s dinner, tailgate parties with games for kids, live bands and video highlights from the season.

    “The players are awesome,” said Bev Jaques, northern member representative for Blaze Nation. “They get to know you on a personal basis. This is a very fan-friendly team.”

    Fans get more involved in the game and dress the part of the Blaze. Bradley Ogden from Tooele was outfitted from head to toe in flames. He purchased his flame bandana and orange reflective sunglasses at a convenience store and his fire shirt from a cookbook. His pants, stitched on the bottom of the legs with flames, he did himself, and his flame-bordered boots he found at Sportsman”s Warehouse.

    “I love the game,” Ogden said. “It”s fun, there is nothing else like it.”

    To add to the interaction between fans and players, fans are given the opportunity to meet, get autographs and talk with the players at the end of every game. This is part of the Fans Bill of Rights. It states, “We believe that every Fan is entitled to interact with and have access to players and coaches for autographs and conversation in recognition of their support at every game.”

    For the players, the fans are the biggest part of the game and make all the difference.

    “We got the best fans in the league,” said Blaze lineman and former BYU football player Hans Olsen. “This crew is solid. They went through five losses with us and they”re still out here screaming their guts out, a bunch of madmen. We”ve got basically a NASCAR base and these guys are die-hard fans.”

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