When discussing the Chicago Bandits, you must mention Bandit Nation. I am biased, but it is a fan group like no other.
Every team has loyal fans and fan groups. Everyone thinks they are special and they all are, but Bandit Nation has a unique relationship with the team.
Among other things, the group organizes and supplies post-game tailgating with the team. This isn't just fans eating hot dogs and Cokes together. These are all out themed events (Taco Night) that are well-attended by Bandit Nation and the team. It's not unusual to see the majority of the team hanging out at the tailgate well into the night.
One of the regulars of Bandit Nation is Crystal Stevens. Crystal is a huge fan of the team (a prerequisite for being in Bandit Nation). She has been known to get on umpires on occasion, but she is a real sweetheart. She simply loves her Bandits and doesn't like seeing them get shortchanged by bad calls.
Crystal is a big softball fan in general. It was always fun seeing her at Northwestern games. Friendly faces are always welcome in the stands and Crystal's is one of the friendliest faces you'll ever see.
Last season, Crystal had the opportunity to throw out a first pitch. Her first attempt was not very successful, but it was amusing (as it landed a few feet behind her). Ever the trooper, Crystal got right back on the mound and had a much better second attempt.
I greeted her as she walked off the field. I had to get a picture of her with the ball. Crystal was a great sport, as expected.
As the season starts tomorrow, I am sure I will see Crystal many times this season. I will also see all of the other members of Bandit Nation. It'll be like a mini-reunion the first game and then it will settle into the usual ribbing on each other and the opponents. It really is one of the highlights of any game for me.
Go to ChicagoBandits.com for more info n the team, including schedules and news. Check back here for recurring coverage.
Crystal Stevens and me in Rosemont, IL_August 2018.