If you attend an Omaha Ashcats game, at the start of the third period you’ll hear a familiar sound, a series of staccato horn blasts over a throbbing drumbeat. You’ve heard it before, but it may take you a bit to remember where. You’ll notice the fans around you leaping to their feet and swiveling their hips over the words “She’s into superstition, black cats and voodoo dolls…”
Finally, it hits you: it’s the 1999 Ricky Martin smash hit “Livin’ La Vida Loca”. The song has become an unlikely anthem for the Ashcats, firing up the crowd night after night in athe Switching Yard.
How did a 20-year-old pop song come back to life in Omaha, of all places? It traces back to the beginning of the season, when the Ashcats held a “90s Night” promotion. Fans clad in flannel, Starter jackets, Doc Martens, and other era-appropriate threads showed up and enjoyed a wide-ranging soundtrack that ranged from the Spin Doctors to Nirvana to Sheryl Crow to the Macarena. But the song that really got the fans going was “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”
“It surprised us a bit at first,” said Ashcats GM Steve Galesko. “But if you think about it, the song is pure energy. It’s uptempo and fun, and totally danceable. What’s not to love?”
The team tried playing the song during other games, and got the same enthusiastic response each time. After testing it out for a couple weeks, the Ashcats made it a permanent fixture of the second intermission.
“It’s become our hype song,” said Galesko. “It’s guaranteed to get the crowd excited, no matter what the score is. And it let us go into the third period with a ton of energy!”
As the song became an Ashcats standard, the team realized something: The fans enjoyed dancing to the song, but unlike the Macarena, there’s not a standard dance associated with the song. So they decided to create one. The Ashcats filmed a series of short videos with their players doing simple salsa moves in time with the song, which they then played along with the song. The players took to this with… varying levels of enthusiasm.
“I’ve got a total white-guy sense of rhythm,” said G Eric Middleton, “and I was like, ‘Are you sure you want to see me dancing?’ They assured me that they did. I don’t know if that was a good idea, but it was fun.”
Speaking of the players, they’re not quire as enchanted with the repeated playings of “La Vida Loca” as the fans. “That song is a total earworm,” said D Reggie Armour. “If you come to one or two games, hear the song and do the little dance, it’s a good time. But we’re hearing the song night after night, and then it gets in your head and stays there, and that gets old. I’m hearing that damn song in my sleep now. I may need therapy by the end of the season.”
Ashcats coach Butch Slazenger is well aware of his players’ feelings about the song, and he has decided to use that as a motivational tactic. “I’ve promised the guys that if we win the division, I’ll buy a whole stack of CDs of that song and I’ll let them destroy them one by one,” Slazenger said. “That ought to be enough inspiration to get them to go undefeated.”
Even if the players don’t love the song, the fans clearly do, and Galesko says to expect to hear it echoing through the arena at least for the rest of the season. “It’s just a great experience for the fans,” said the GM. “I bet Ricky Martin never thought he was going to have a second act 20 years later in Omaha, but it just goes to show life is full of the unexpected!”