There is one sure place to hear a cowbell: Vineyard football games.
While football has its great players on the field, there also are performers in the seats.
The fans all bring talent to the bleachers.
Frank Daly of Vineyard Haven tries to make it to every game with his cowbell. With his red wool cap, he is easy to spot in the crowd.
“I think I first started going to the games in 1994,” Mr. Daly said. “I had a cousin spend a winter with me and he was interested in football. I remember that first season we went over to Nantucket and I’ve been going to Nantucket every time.”
“I make every game I possibly can,” Mr. Daly said. “The only games I don’t make are the off-Island games that end so late, I can’t make it back to the Vineyard at night. I didn’t go to the game in western Massachusetts. I didn’t go to Carver because it was just too late in the evening.”
Jesse (Jack) B. Law 3rd, who has been president of the Touchdown Club for 11 years, said these Vineyard fans are devoted to the team.
They are the best,” Mr. Law said. “We have some of the best spectators. They come wearing their wild hats. They wear their fur coats. Frank Daly is always there. Henry Burt is always there. Sheriff Mike McCormack is always there. You see all the alumni and the old coaches.
“It is an amazing group of people and we see them at every game, leading up to the big game,” he said. “It is fabulous. They have cowbells, they have whistles and hand clappers. They have all kinds of stuff and it is all fun.”
Mr. Daly does make a distinction between his love for Vineyard football and his love for football. “I don’t watch college football. I watch the Patriots. But to be truthful if someone offered me a ticket to Foxboro and there was also a Vineyard game, I’d choose going to the Vineyard game,” Mr. Daly said. The reason is easy to explain: “I don’t know Tom Brady. But I know the local kids. When you get to know the guys personally, it is much better.”
Why a cowbell? “I used to holler at the games, but then I would lose my voice,” Mr. Daly said. “So I used small clappers and noisemakers, but then I realized I already had a cowbell from when I was a kid and it saved me.”
During the day, Mr. Daly is a professional engineer and runs a business called Frank Daly Engineering. In the bleachers he can sit next to anyone and everyone and feel the unity and fellowship of the sport.
While it takes a commitment to be a football player, everyone can qualify to be a fan.
Fella Cecilio of Vineyard Haven, who was once a member of the team, today runs Fella Caterers with his wife Jane. The two of them go to almost every game. And they play their cowbells together as well as anyone.
“I was in the eighth grade and they took me up to the high school varsity football practice,” Mr. Cecilio remembers. “I would play with the varsity.” By the time he was a freshman, he already was qualified to be on the team.
“I played with Bob Tankard,” Mr. Cecilio said. “I played with the best.”
Their son Michael graduated from the high school last year. When he was out on the field playing the game from his sophomore to his senior year, his jersey number was 76, the same number his father had years before.
“I try to make it to all the games,” Mr. Cecilio said. And even if they’ve seen the game first-hand, it still isn’t over.
Mrs. Cecilio said: “We are so pathetic, we even watch it again on television. We thank Plum TV for the instant replay.”
Mr. Cecilio wasn’t always a cowbell player. Prior to making the switch, he used to play a five-gallon sheetrock bucket. He would take the empty bucket, turn it upside down and use it as a drum with sticks.
Cheryl Noyes of Edgartown is another noisy avid football fan who goes to most of the games. Her husband Alfred, describes his wife’s connection to football as more than enthusiastic. “She takes my air horn, my boat horn to the games,” he said.
Noisemaking isn’t limited to just these key bleacher players. Mr. Cecilio said that he knows that SBS in Vineyard Haven is selling cowbells and he is looking forward to more bell players at tomorrow’s game against Nantucket.
Denise Lambos isn’t a noisemaker but she has followed the Vineyard football team for years. Her true affection for the Vineyard varsity football team began in 1994 when her son Peter was a freshman and a player. She didn’t stop going to football games when her son Brian graduated from the high school six years ago. Mrs. Lambos is today the Touchdown Club’s executive secretary and she said she has a great time with the players and the fans.
“My kids first noted to me that we often have more fans in our away games than the home team,” Mrs. Lambos said. “We have a lot of parents that go to away games. I think the same thing happens today.”
In her eyes, television coverage has had a detrimental impact. “We used to have a lot of older loyal followers,” she said. “People can now watch the game at home.”
For many Vineyard fans it is more than a love for football that helps underwrite the interest in distant trips to games. Mr. Daly said he sees the trip off-Island, to an away game, as an Islander’s chance to go on a mainland excursion.
“When I go off-Island, I go power shopping,” he said. “After seeing the game there is an excuse to power shop, hit the Stop & Shop in Falmouth, go to Ocean State Job Lot and Home Depot. And I indulge in that rare opportunity to go to McDonalds.”