Friday, November 21, 2014

2008-09 Buffalo Bandits Open Practice-revisited

This week, we take a look at a very special Open Practice by the Buffalo Bandits that took place in December of 2008. Why is it so special? Coming off a big win in the NLL Finals, the NLL Champions Cup was on display in the arena. Coming into the arena, it had a different feel and I wasn't alone in feeling that from hearing the chatter around the arena. When I arrived just as practice was starting, the Bandettes were already starting to circulate around the concourse to visit with fans.
As it turned out, in addition to a pair of alums who returned to the squad in Danielle and Denise, there were 5 fresh new faces on the squad for the 2009 season, including a pair who already knew me based on what they'd heard from friends on the Jills. Lauren S's friend Holly was just finishing up her single season on the Jills while Erin M's friend Jess finished up her 2nd season in Hawaii as the Jills' rep in the Pro Bowl.
Z, Lauren, and returning alum Danielle

Sarah, Erin M, Karla, Melissa, Jessica, and Alexis
Meghan, Kirsten, and Maggie
For the 1st part of the practice, the girls spent a lot of time in the concourses greeting fans and posing for photos. The way that worked out, I was able to meet each of the 5 new faces on the squad as well as talk to Erin J and Jaclyn a bit. Eventually, it was getting close to halfway through the practice and they headed down to get ready to perform for the crowd. I was able to get a seat near the tunnel they entered the field for their performance.
rookies Kirsten and Lauren smile for the camera

After the Open Practice was over, it was autograph time and the Bandettes were set up at the top of the East bank of escalators before the practice finished up. It was a pretty popular location that day as it's also where the Champions Cup was on display. After I grabbed a few photos of the girls waiting for the fans to arrive after practice, Erin J gathered the girls around the Cup to get a few great photos with what each NLL team was playing for.
posing with the Champions Cup!
See all the pics at https://buffaloprocheerbuffalobandettes.shutterfly.com/pictures/1371
From the 2013 Buffalo Jills comes a photo from the thrilling win over the Carolina Panthers. This photo was taken at the start of the 2nd quarter as Emily's line was traveling from one corner of the stadium to another. Shown in this photo are Emily and Hayley.
Emily and Hayley

Friday, November 14, 2014

2008 Bandits Open Practice and Bandits road game in Rochester-revisited

The 2007-08 Buffalo Bandits Open Practice saw a lot of changes with the Bandettes as 9 vets returned to the squad joined by 3 fresh-faced new rookies and 3 returning alumnae. The squad started off the day by doing their poster shoot on the turf before the players came out to practice and then following that up with a dance performance. Afterwards, they let the players have the field while they headed up into the concourse and the stands to visit with fans, sign autographs, and pose for photos. Joining the squad as rookies that year were Justina, Jessica, and Amanda Z. Justina started making her mark early that season with her leadership qualities even as a rookie. For as vocal as Justina was from the start, Jessica's training through the Navy had her coming off as more reserved. Amanda, known affectionately as Z to her squadmates, made her mark showing off her tumbling skills.
Shooting the poster
About halfway through the practice session, the girls were back on the field performing once again before spending some more time in the stands with the fans. While they were out in the concourse, I was able to track them down and get a few photos as well as have a few reunions. Returning to the squad were Karla, Korinne, and Casey, each of whom had taken a few years off. I had only met Casey once briefly during her earlier time on the squad but Karla and Korinne I knew pretty well from their time on the Jills. Long-time readers of this site will remember that Karla was an active member of the Yahoo club and group for a few years after we first started.
A couple of familiar faces re-joining the squad
As the practice wound down, the girls headed back down to the field and joined the players on the turf for an autograph and photos session with the fans. You can see all the pics at https://buffaloprocheerbuffalobandettes.shutterfly.com/pictures/729
Our second look-back this week actually revolves around an away game for the Bandits. With Buffalo and Rochester being so close together, fans travel to away games in droves but besides the fans traveling, sometimes groups from the dance teams go to the away games as well. Bandettes taking in a Bandits game in Rochester is a pretty common occurence and in 2008, that was no different. At the game I attended, I was just up the main stairs inside the Blue Cross Arena talking to an old friend when Sarah, Meghan, and Melissa came by.  They were having a bit of girls' night out by taking in the game in Rochester and posed for a quick photo before heading into the game.


Sarah, Meghan, and Melissa
After the game, I got a chance to catch up with my friend againafter grabbing a few photos of her and her squadmates in action at the game. Allison spent 2002-05 with the Jills and even though I had only met her briefly her 1st few years on the squad, I got along with her about as well as with anyone that first season I worked closely with the squad in 2005. In 2008, she had gotten a spot with the Rochester Knightingales and I caught up with her a little before and after the game.
Allison and friend
Anytime someone leaves one of Buffalo's pro cheer squads, we're saddened but will continue to support them in all they do, especially when it's something public like performing, even elsewhere like Rochester. It requires a lot of work and dedication to get a spot on a professional cheerleading squad and that's definitely deserving of a lot of support, especially if they chose to cheer on a Buffalo sports team. You can see all the pics at  https://buffaloprocheerbuffalobandettes.shutterfly.com/pictures/893
From the 2013 Buffalo Jills we have a photo from last year's home Opener against the New England Patriots. This photo was taken just prior to halftime when the squad was coming off the field to re-energize for the 2nd half. Shown coming up the tunnel are Katrina, Jayanti, Hayley, and Emily.
Katrina, Jayanti, Hayley, and Emily

Friday, November 7, 2014

2006 Cheer For The Cure and Bandits Open Practice-revisited

Cheerleading competitions are found all over the nation and in places like Buffalo, they can be blessed when they can recruit professional squads to help run the competition. In February of 2006, the Buffalo Bandettes were recruited to help run the Cheer For The Cure competition that, in addition to promoting cheerleading, raises funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. When I arrived there that day, the girls were busy greeting the younger generations of cheerleaders as they made their way into the Flickinger Center. I grabbed a few quick photos before stepping out of the way for a bit until it was time to head into the gymnasium where I ran into the Jills director, one of the judges for the competition.
Meghan and Erin Y
I stayed off to the side for the bulk of the competition, grabbing a few photos of the Bandettes the couple times they performed and was able to talk to a few of the girls throughout the day. One of the most memorable exchanges came with Marissa, who was in her 1st season back on the Bandettes after having spent the 2001 season on the squad. Marissa also spent 6 seasons as a Buffalo Jill from 1999-2004 and was one of the girls who knew me pretty well before I got more involved with the squad. She had made an appearance at the 2005 Jills Calendar Release Party and even introduced me to her boyfriend. When I got a moment alone with him, I made sure to advise him what a great gal Marissa was and to make sure he never let her get away. Well, when I talked to Marissa at the competition, she showed me that he took my words to heart and popped the question.
putting on a show!
During an intermission in the competition, I ran into a familiar face. There to coach one of the cheerleading squads was Amanda W of the Buffalo Jills. We got a chance to talk a little bit and she even told me she was turning 21 just before an upcoming Jills event, which meant she didn't have to miss out on it and could enjoy herself when other girls who were underage had to miss this event. She was also pretty excited when I told her I'd be there at tryouts.
Bandettes in action
You can see all the pics at https://buffaloprocheerbuffalobandettes.shutterfly.com/pictures/84
While the Buffalo Bills have training camp open to the public all the time but rarely practices open to the public at the stadium, the Bandits have an open practice for the fans to check out on a December weekend day, usually a Saturday, each year. Besides getting to see the team practice and pick out seats for the upcoming season, it's also the 1st chance to get to see the new Buffalo Bandettes squad perform on the field. When not performing, the Bandettes spend a good portion of the Open Practice session mingling with the fans in the stands and in the concourse. They pose for photos, sign autographs, and pass out info on their Jr Bandettes program. For me, the biggest draw is the chance to meet the new rookies as well as to reconnect with the vets, who I usually don't see between the end of the season in May until the Open Practice in December.
Amanda H, Sarah, Marissa, Ashley S, Erin Y, Meghan, Erica, and Erin H
Jenna signing autographs
After the practice in 2006, the players had a meet and greet session with the fans at Pearl Street Grill and Brewery. At the time, Pearl Street was still the home for all the Bandits post game parties. While the Bandettes generally attend the post-game parties, they were excused from the meet-and-greets following the Open Practice. In 2006, I decided to grab a post-game meal and joined Bandettes coach Erin J and Jills alum Michelle M (1998-2000) at Pearl Street. The bulk of the discussion was about the Jills and the Bandettes, including the differences between the two squads.After dinner, we checked out the meet and greet on the 2nd floor where Michelle decided she just had to meet Johnny Tavares. We found a break in the autograph line and after Erin told Johnny that I was Michelle's personal photographer, we grabbed a few pictures.
Johnny Tavares and Jills alum Michelle M (1998-2000)
You can see all the pics at https://buffaloprocheerbuffalobandettes.shutterfly.com/pictures/478
From the Jills comes a pic from last year's Home Opener against the Pats. Late in the 1st quarter, Lisa's line was performing in front of section 121 where I got this shot. Shown dancing up a storm are Natalie, Lindsey, and Allysha. While we still have hopes that we might see Natalie and Allysha on the sidelines again in 2015, Lindsey is now a rookie with the Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders.
Natalie, Lindsey, and Allysha

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why Were These Pro Cheerleaders Paid Less Than a Dollar an Hour?-Cosmopolitan Magazine

From the time she was 10 years old, Maria P. loved the Buffalo Bills. "I grew up going to the games," she says, flipping through an album with photos of herself as a kid in a Bills hat, standing outside the stadium. After graduating from high school, she tried out for the Buffalo Jills, as the NFL team calls its cheerleaders. Competing with roughly 200 other women for a spot on the 36-member squad, she danced before hundreds of community members. "I was so nervous," she says. "I must have looked so young." She didn't get past the first round, but the dream persisted.
After earning a degree from the University at Buffalo, she decided to try out again, hitting the gym every day for a year to prepare. When she got cut in the final round, she was so devastated, she says, "I locked myself in my house for a week." A year later, in 2012, she tried for a third time — and made it. "It was the best day of my life," she says.
Read more at http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/news/a32579/buffalo-bills-cheerleaders-unfair-pay/ 
or you can buy it at the newsstand or download it from iTunes.

The pay has been an issue for as long as I can remember. The Bills, since contracting the squad out about 30 years ago, have only provided the Jills with a sideline pass, 1 game ticket per game, and a parking pass. Supposedly the Bills were going to give Stejon Productions money this year so that the girls could be paid for gamedays and after the lawsuit went public, they withdrew that offer. The official reasoning for the squad being shut down is because the Bills withdrew their offer of money for the season.
While we've been largely neutral in this case to let the facts play out, people should realize the suit isn't about the lack of pay by any means. When Stejon Productions took control in 2012, there were several rules changes that threw many veterans and rookies alike for a loop.
One correction that should be made to the article, in regards to how many tried out. Since 2006, the most that have ever tried out for the Buffalo Jills was 120 and since 2009, the number has hovered between 80 and 90. It's often posted that the number is between 150-200 but it hasn't been that many in at least a decade or more.
Currently, there's a movement started by several former Jills and spearheaded by Jills Ambassador Squad co-captain Gabrielle to bring back the Jills. While it's likely too late to do anything about 2014 for several reasons including a resolution to the lawsuit, selection of squad management and the selection and training of a squad, it's never too early to put the pressure on to ensure that once the suit is settled, the Bills will start up a new Buffalo Jills squad. When you consider that Bills owner Kim Pegula is a former cheerleader herself, it shouldn't be hard to convince her. To ensure that the Pegulas get the message that we want our Jills back, you can support the cause with shirts from www.bringbackthejills.com A portion of every shirt sold will go to the Hunter's Hope Foundation. Also, before anyone gets the idea that the girls involved in the lawsuit are happy the squad was shut down, don't. While they have serious issues with the way the squad has been run in recent years, they are fervent supporters of the #bringbacktheJills movement as well.

Friday, October 31, 2014

2006 Gage Benefit revisited

We're going to change things up a bit for the remainder of the year before the Bandits season starts up with a look back at some of the appearances and events from the Buffalo Bandettes. The first appearance we're looking at is actually a combined appearance with the Jills. The same weekend the Jills exhibit opened at the Toy Town museum, there was a charity appearance at the Buffalo Brew Pub in Williamsville. A few months before, a beloved local doctor was in a car accident that he was in the process of recovering from when he tragically passed away 10 days later.
This was actually my 1st time working with the Bandettes and I was lucky that I had a pair of familiar faces there in the forms of Jills alumnae Julie F and Amanda F. When I arrived, Julie spotted me right away. I had only met her once or twice when she was on the Jills, but she was familiar with my work over the years and it's likely she knew to expect me as a rookie on the Bandettes that season, Meghan F had been emailing me back and forth after joining the squad about appearances and the like. After talking to Julie for a bit, Amanda showed up, who didn't recognize me right away but did after I showed her a photo I had taken with her and her squadmate Melanie at the 2001 Bills Opener.
Erin H and Amanda
Erin showed up shortly afterwards and after introductions were made, I let them get to work on selling raffle tickets, while taking the occasional photo. About halfway through the event, it was almost time for Amanda and Erin to leave but not before their relief showed up. Making the appearance on behalf of the Jills were Allison and Omarlla. After introductions were made, to Erin that is, since Amanda had cheered with both of these beauties during her time on the Jills, a group photo was taken before the Bandettes took off for the day.
Amanda, Alison, Omarlla, and Erin H

Alison and Omarlla with a fan
See all the pics at https://buffaloprocheerbuffalobandettes.shutterfly.com/pictures/7909
 From the Jills comes a photo from the Lions preseason game in 2013. In one of the 1st appearances for some of these young ladies comes this photo from Stampede Row. Shown getting set to welcome the Bills onto the field are Lisa, Allysha, Hannah, Kristina, and Shelby G.
Lisa, Allysha, Hannah, Kristina, and Shelby G