There is a guy who resides in Delmar, New York named Paul Marquardt. Mr. Marquardt is a middle-aged family man employed by the Department of Homeland Security.
Then there is an enormously proud West Albany product nicknamed “Paulie Walnutz.” A gregarious fellow dedicated to investing his time and energy into the pride he feels towards both his hometown and all things sports.
With his Sopranos moniker in tow, Marquardt/Walnutz holds the title of the Albany FireWolves loudest and most well-known fan. In the two years since the NLL returned to the state capital of New York, Paulie’s devotion to the franchise includes a near-perfect attendance record, along with a never-ending desire to expose as many people to the box lacrosse game as possible.
“The first year, I brought 270 people to FireWolves games. And you have to cheer. You can’t look at your phone all game,” explained Walnutz, who was summoned to duty by team management shortly after the club relocated from Uncasville, Connecticut.
Here is Walnutz’s time-tested sales pitch.
“What is box lacrosse? It’s hard-hitting like football. Fast like basketball. Has line changes like hockey, but high scoring most of the time. It’s a party atmosphere and very entertaining, once the new fan figures out what’s going on.”
Marquardt looks at the franchise 300 miles to the west as his NLL inspiration.
“NLL fans need to go to Buffalo to see what fandom should be. For lacrosse, that is the epitome of ‘Oh My God, we should be like this.’ You will not believe what those people do there, especially in the playoffs.”
Acknowledging the Bandits near 30-year head start and long history of achievement, the FireWolves booster sees the Buffalo success story as the blueprint for what this fellow Upstate New York team could someday be.
Mr. Walnutz turn towards local celebrity came to be thanks to his connection with the Albany Empire of the Arena Football League. The former Empire Fan of the Year’s attachment to the team led to players, coaches and administrators becoming close personal friends, to the point that Walnutz would host team gatherings at his suburban Albany abode. His association with the AFL even extends to the proprietorship side of the league, with Paulie joining the Carolina Cobras ownership group, thanks in large measure to a former Empire bigwig taking on a similar role with the Greensboro (NC) based club.
The fictional Tony Soprano associate’s love for city and sports also features a connection to the Albany Patroons of the 44-team Basketball League. “The reputed New Jersey mobster” serves as the team’s on-court MC, water/towel boy and floor mopper.
If there is an opportunity for Walnutz to involve himself in an Albany professional sports outfit, the man is 100 per cent all in.
While Paul Marquardt of Delmar remains a huge fan of the Yankees, Rangers and Giants (even making multiple trips to NYC/NJ for games each year), Paulie Walnutz of West Albany tries his absolute hardest to bring a more up-close level of sports magic to his beloved and sometimes overshadowed hometown.
“We don’t have a capital city look at us thing. We’re a little brother, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Be sure to catch Paulie and the Albany FireWolves hosting the Georgia Swarm on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.