“You gotta love that support. When you’re on the road and you come out of the hotel and see some of your fans cheering for you, it gives you a little extra juice for the game.“ – Matt Bullard
When traveling to road games, the presence of the Red Rowdies has a way of making the opposing fans around them respond by cheering louder for their own team. The same was true on Wednesday night in New Orleans. A group of 11 Rowdies, and a bunch of Rockets employees and Rockets season ticket holders, created a large presence of red in the New Orleans Arena. The upper bowl was nearly empty (which didn’t surprise me as I saw seats going for $2 on StubHub), but their lower bowl home crowd was loud.
This was the eighth home game for the Hornets Red Rowdy-like group, the Bee Zanies. Ironically, they sat directly across from us that night, something we did not know when we purchased tickets. The Rowdies were the first of its kind, and many other NBA teams have added their groups. From what I’ve been told, the NBA has encouraged all teams to start groups like the Red Rowdies.
We left immediately after the Kings game Tuesday night in order to make it to the Cashoutta Casino before 2 a.m., the latest they’d let us check in. On Mardi Gras night at the Toyota Center, coupons for a free night’s stay at Cashoutta Casino in Kinder, Louisiana were placed on all of the seats before the game, so we took advantage of those.
Kinder is almost exactly half way to New Orleans, which worked out perfectly. Before leaving for our road trip, we burned a New Orleans Hornet pennant and tied a noose around a stuffed animal bee, which was constantly hung out the window on our way to New Orleans. This road trip was a great way to get that awful feeling we were left with after the loss to the Kings off our minds. I had never felt so bad after a Rockets loss.
We left Kinder in the morning, stopped at a Subway, drove right to the French Quarter in New Orleans, and parked by the Rockets hotel. We were early, but we wanted to make sure that we didn’t miss any players like last time. Two busses pulled up. Rockets season ticket holders and employees poured out, most dressed in red. After those busses left, and the empty bus for the Rockets pulled up, we laid what remained of the charred New Orleans pennant and the now filthy plush Hornet right by the stairs of the bus for the players to stomp on.
I brought all sorts of stuff to get autographed, but the players seemed to be in a bigger rush this time to get to the arena, so most items were left unsigned. We asked all of the players to stomp on or kick the Hornet before boarding the bus and most of them did (Videos of that are in the comments section). It was great talking with some of the Rockets personnel and players before the game.
We “romped” a little around the French Quarter and had beignets at Café Du Monde, something we didn’t have time for on our last trip. We had some trouble with parking, and ended up entering the game a little late in the first quarter with the Rockets already up by 14 points. A wave of calm came over me when I saw that score. YES! This is going to be a blowout, I thought, or at least we will have a nice cushion just in case the Hornets go on a run.
I wore my spacesuit this time, which makes me now 0-3 with it on for Rockets road games. In the second quarter, the Hornets mascot came over and totally shocked us with some silly string. There was nothing we could do but just stand there and take it. As he walked down the stairs away from us, I started collecting all of the silly string around me, and throwing it back at him. I threw two or three handfuls, all falling short of him.
Less than a minute later, a security guard came up and threatened to throw me out for throwing it and said I was caught on camera. I asked why it was fair that he can shoot silly string at fans who did not agree to it, yet we can’t throw it right back at him. I didn’t get an answer and was told one more time if I threw something I would be thrown out. Getting hit with silly string by the mascot and getting talked to by security are on every away game road trip’s to do list.
The Bee Zanies came over to our section for a chant off at the end of the quarter, similar to what we did when the Baseline Bums and the Silver & Black Pack (two of the Spurs fan groups) visited the Toyota Center for the first home game against the Spurs on March 12. We were definitely outnumbered, but we started yelling, “Y’all copied us,” “We’re the originals” “Where are your banners?” They left and the guy in charge of the Bee Zanies came and spoke with us, saying he had come to some of the Rockets games to watch us and that he modeled their program after us. It was pretty neat to talk with him about their new program.
Our best in-game chants of the night were when Chris Paul was at the free throw line. We yelled, “New York,” “New York Knicks,” and “He wants out.” Hornets fans clearly HATED those chants. When Ariza air-balled a shot, we brought back the “You can have Ariza,” chant that was so effective last time. But, other than that air-ball, he had such a great game that it just couldn’t be said again.
As the Hornets took the lead, the fans became more and more vocal towards us. We just all stood and pointed with our left hand at their three banners: two retired jerseys and a southwest division title. Most of it was in good fun, but the people on the balcony above us were yelling some racist remarks at some of the Red Rowdies during the game. In all of my time as a Red Rowdy, both at home games and away games, NEVER have I witnessed fans using race to talk down fans of the opposing team.
That group of people did not represent the whole crowd of Hornets fans and that became apparent after the game. After we lost, we were contemplating whether we wanted to jet out of there to avoid conflict, or if we wanted to wait around until some people cleared out. We chose the second option.
Many fans who trashed talked to us during the game came up to us to shake our hands and told us what a great time they had with us here. I don’t imagine they see as many opposing fans in their arena as often as we do with so many displaced NBA fans living in Houston- especially Mavericks and Spurs fans. One guy in particular really hung around to talk to us. He shared with us how his sister now lives in Houston after Katrina. He told us to enjoy the city of New Orleans but to be careful. The last thing he told us before he left was, “If anyone gives you any trouble, tell them Houston took in a lot of the Katrina victims from New Orleans.” I couldn’t help but think of the connection that these two cities shared after that natural disaster and what an impact that man had on me. He was genuinely grateful for what the city of Houston did to help Katrina victims, and he thanked us as representatives of the city of Houston.
That and how kindly we were treated by others made it a lot easier to not be so upset after the loss and to actually be happy for New Orleans. Even the security guard who had threatened to throw me out was really friendly towards me as we left, saying he was just doing his job. We left the arena chanting “Beat LA” because we sincerely wanted the Hornets to beat LA, and it helped ward off the Hornets fans wanting to rub playoffs in our face.
We began the long trip back home right after the game and made a stop at one of the many Waffle Houses on the way. We were the only ones in there, and shortly after, four Rockets fans from Beaumont walked in. We had a Waffle House full of 15 Rockets fans. It was kind of a cool moment, and I always enjoy talking to other Rockets fans. We modified one of our own chants and started a, “Whose House? The Waffle House!” before leaving.
In my last post about Rowdy road trips, I mentioned that a trip to the Rio Grande Valley to watch the Vipers play was on my to-do list. Well, my wish has been granted because the Vipers contacted the Rockets asking that we be present at their playoff game tonight for game two of their three-game playoff series. They must have been impressed with us at the two games we went to in Austin. Unfortunately, the Vipers lost Game 1 to the Bakersfield Jam, so hopefully the Red Rowdies can help create a home court advantage tonight to keep the Vipers alive in the playoffs. The Rockets Power Dancers and Clutch the Bear will also be there.
Prior to last week’s loss to the Kings, we saw some of the best games of the season. It has truly been a real treat watching the Rockets push for the playoffs when the odds were against them. Even though the Rockets have been eliminated from the playoffs, I don’t doubt that we will still see them play with the same heart and determination the final three games of the season. With only two home games left, I’ll relish every moment as a Red Rowdy before I put away my spacesuit for the offseason.