Published December 13, 2013
All Hail Buffalo Bulls Nation. A network of “watch-parties” stretching from Buffalo to both coasts will gather at homes and restaurants at kick-off time to cheer on UB’s latest national bowl appearance, sending their long-range support and winning vibes to Bronco Stadium in Boise.
The parties — many coming together mid-week following the Bulls accepting of the “Famous Idaho Potato Bowl” bid — are the UB faithful’s way of being connected to their football team that earned only its third bowl bid in UB football history.
It’s the next-best gesture of support after being there, organizers say. For those who can’t make the excursion to Idaho — UB Athletics already has organized a trip — they can party together while watching the Dec. 21 nationally televised game, celebrate the Bulls’ successful season and relive memorable moments from their alma mater.
Many alumni and students are connecting through social media (#bowlingbulls), too, sharing photos of themselves, index fingers positioned at their heads, with the enthusiastic “Horns Up!” meme (#hornsup,#bowlingbulls). Organizers are expecting plenty of similar photos to be shared from the various watch-parties around the county.
The university is engaging UB alumni and fans worldwide through an interactive web hub that will serve as a digital gathering place to see and share content.
“I’m absolutely thrilled about this bowl game, and judging from the huge response we’re getting from our alumni, I know they are, too,” says Carol Gloff, ’75, president of the UB Alumni Association.
“Many of our alumni chapters are hosting viewing parties, and I encourage all alums to watch and cheer on the Bulls, no matter where they are.”
Building on the excitement of UB’s first bowl bid since 2009, the university has reached out to the 230,000 alumni worldwide through social media and personal outreach. The interest and school loyalty have generated ongoing plans for numerous watch-parties. Alumni banding together for long-distance cheering have planned parties in Buffalo, New York City, Philadelphia, Albany, Denver, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and other cities with strong alumni chapters, according to UB’s Alumni Office.
Watch-party organizer Arielle Larmondra, ’06, leader of the UB Alumni affiliate in Charlotte, N.C., sees the game as a perfect opportunity to build school spirit and strengthen grads’ connection to UB. A former captain of the UB women’s soccer team, Larmondra also appreciates an athletic milestone such as this.
Larmondra’s watch party will take place at a locally owned gathering spot called Jackelope Jack’s in Charlotte. She’s expecting about 30 people, but that could grow before kickoff.
Several previously silent UB alumni have contacted her specifically about the game and said they are interested in attending the party. Without a doubt, Larmondra says, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is an opportunity to build upon an allegiance and affection UB grads have for their school.
“When the sports teams do well, it’s easier to build camaraderie around the university,” says Larmondra, who owns her own wellness company in Charlotte called Wellspring Wellness. “We’re going to try to gain some momentum. I’m looking forward to getting this group back together and starting fresh with these transplants from Buffalo.
“UB was a big school, but we still were a tight community,” she says. “It’s going to be fun to get together and talk about classes, past-experiences, what we miss and what we’re really grateful for from our education.”
Closer to home, UB Bulls faithful looking for companionship on Famous Idaho Potato Bowl game day have numerous options. So far, the list of parties organized by UB includes the two Northtown locations of Santora’s Pizza Pub & Grill, at 1402 Millersport Highway, adjacent to the North Campus, and 7566 Transit Road, across from Eastern Hills Mall. There is also a party planned at Buffalo Wild Wings, 3540 McKinley Parkway, Hamburg, near the McKinley Mall.
Plans for numerous local parties continue to come together, informal as they may be.
Michael Lackey, ’07, who now lives in Amherst, is firmly on the party bandwagon. Plans are still shaping up, but Lackey says he will do his best to get it together before the day of the game.
So far, he pictures a house party with a “potato theme.”
“Ideas such as potato skins, loaded potatoes, potato chips, French fries, home fries, hot dogs with hash brown topping, and mashed potatoes are what I have come up with so far,” says Lackey.
One issue remains: “It really depends on whether I can do it with two kids at my house or if we will go to a restaurant/bar and watch the game,” he says. “It’s something to be proud of when your college sports team is doing well. I did go to the International Bowl in Toronto (in 2009), but Idaho is a bit out of my range at this moment.”
Laura Hartinger, ’91, is also planning a potato-themed party. But she has a special guest. Her daughter, Anna Hartinger, a freshman studying pharmacy, is a football and basketball cheerleader. She originally thought she would be going to Boise, but then was told the limited spots to the game would go to those in the upper classes.
“We’ll have our own UB cheerleader at home for our party,” says Hartinger. “I like it.”
The Hartinger party continues the potato theme, but with its own flavor, so to speak.
“This is what we’re doing for our party,” Laura says. “It’s for family and friends, and for anyone my daughter wants to bring home from school.”
At the Hartinger party, potatoes rule, she says. There will be a pin-the-eye-on-the-potato contest. Everyone will bring a potato dish to pass. There will be contests for best dish and also a best-cheer contest at halftime. Everyone will have to wear a hat with a potato on it, either a picture or a real potato. Those at the party will play hot potato.
And Mr. Potato Head will be at the party, Hartinger says. But he will be wearing a UB Bulls outfit.
The game is scheduled to be broadcast nationally on ESPN and ESPN radio. Kickoff is at 5:30 p.m. EST.