Pull my (foam) finger: A day in the life as a Red Rwody

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:57 PM

Red, Wild And Rowdy

Experiencing a day in the life of the most passionate fan group in the NBA

West Medlin

HOUSTON - Since their inception in 2006, the Red Rowdies have become an integral part of the Rockets home game experience. They have chants for almost every player. They have ridiculous costumes ranging from Darth Rowdy to drum-wielding puma suits. Their all-out audio assault begins long before tip-off and lasts until well after the final possession. The Rowdies bring energy, passion and enthusiasm to Toyota Center. You’ve seen them. You’ve heard them. And on Wednesday night against the Clippers, I joined them.

When the final buzzer rang out across the arena after Houston thumped the Clippers, I was not in my usual seat, chatting about the game with my impossible to please boss Jason Friedman. Instead, I was dancing between a Power Ranger and Rowdy Granny, flailing my arms and loudly proclaiming my pride for Houston’s team. For one night, this humble intern put down the reporting cap, replaced it with a giant hooded red cape, and became “Little Red Rowdy Hood.” Sorry, Jason, but now that I remember what fun feels like, I might never return to the reporting world.

Before the game, I assembled my costume: cape, wig, Red Rowdy shirt, and foam finger – check. I assumed I was ready to dive in to the Rowdy experience head-on. No big deal, right? Not so fast.

“We do a traditional romp around the arena to kind of hype all the fans that are in line or coming in,” said Chrislord Templonuevo, the Rockets' Red Rowdy ringleader.

With vuvulas, light sabers and cowbells in hand, we marched through Toyota Center making a racket, shouting chants and high-fiving everyone who crossed our path. It was easy to notice the fan’s positive reaction and the growing excitement our cacophonous procession produced. But while the Rowdies’ energy level only seemed to swell as tip-off time approached, I had already become winded and was losing my voice well before the game started. Who knew spreading Rowdiness was so exhausting? Don’t romps have halftimes?

Once the game began, the Rowdies ramped up the passion once more. Almost every Rockets score produced loud cheers and a flurry of high-fives from all directions. There seemed no ceiling whatsoever to their zeal.

If the Rockets fan base is collectively Red Nation, then surely the Rowdies occupy their own state.

They watch the game with an infectious enthusiasm that clearly affects the crowd around them. Other fans picked up on the cheers we shouted and soon began joining in as well. This symbiotic relationship, of course, is precisely the reason why the Rowdies exist in the first pl ace.

“We are the pulse; I guess you could say, of chanting within a Rockets game within Toyota Center,” Templonuevo said. “The first job for the Rowdies is to chant as loud as they can and secondly to spread it.”

Cleary, the Rowdies revel in their job. James Davis, a Rowdy for 3 years, found their ability to spread enthusiasm unique. “I’ve never experienced a group of people with so much energy,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of people in my life, and the energy that these people bring out in me, I can’t explain it.”

That sort of energy level probably can’t happen without a strong sense of camaraderie among the group. It’s clear the Rowdies not only love watching Rockets basketball, but that they also love watching it together. Many described the group as one big family. Part of that bond is because being a Red Rowdy brings together high-energy Rockets fans that are equally passionate about the game.

“We are like a big family,” Rowdy Granny said. “You can let your hair down and act crazy, and everyone else is too, so nobody thinks you’re nuts.”

Other Rowdies shared her sentiment. “The energy that most of us have, we have in and outside of Toyota Center,” says fellow Rowdie, Mariza Mendez. “So everyone thinks I’m crazy outside of Toyota Center but they don’t understand that it’s me, and that I actually get to express it here. I can be who I am and enjoy something I really enjoy doing.”

On Wednesday, the Rowdies allowed an outsider to join their family. The experience was beyond fun, surprisingly challenging, and so very rewarding. I can honestly say I’ve never danced that much at a basketball game before. Enthusiastically high-fiving a Power Ranger after a Chuck Hayes layup can only be described as off the charts awesome. And watching fans feed off our cheering with enthusiasm and energy of their own was uniquely satisfying.

The Red Rowdies might be the NBA’s ultimate fan group. And they now have a fan of their own.

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