Night Train's success hinges on Ross' notes

03/29/02 LaCrosse Tribune
Call me crazy, but I have this gut feeling that Bill Ross will save the La Crosse Night Train.

Bill Ross?

Yes, Bill Ross.

"Did something happen to the Night Train?" you ask. "Do they need saving? They haven't even played a home game yet."

No, nothing has happened. But you know how minor league sports franchises can be. Here today, gone next season. The CBA. The IFL. The NIFL. Leagues come and go. Teams come and go. Players come and go. Bill Ross goes on.

He is the reason the Night Train will endure. Now pay close attention because this theory gets tricky and complicated, and finally in the end, makes no sense whatsoever.

Ross played the keyboard for our first Continental Basketball Association team, the La Crosse Catbirds. He played fun tunes. The Catbirds played good basketball. It was nine years of bliss.

"Those were fun times," Ross said. "I played to a lot of packed houses."

Then he was hired by the next CBA team, the La Crosse Bobcats. For three seasons, Ross did it all. He played keyboard, funny sound effects that made the kids laugh, heavy metal for the teenagers, classic rock for the dads, Top 40 and bubble gum. You name it, Bill Ross played it.

"I like to mix it up," he said. "It's hard to please everybody. Some will always think it's too loud. Some always want it louder."

But the River Rats decided they didn't want Ross at all. La Crosse's first professional indoor football team, which played in the Indoor Football League two years ago, hired a radio station instead of the tried-and-true. Ignored tradition and went their own way.

So what happened? The league folded. Coincidence? Maybe. But then again, maybe Bill Ross is the good luck charm this city needs to keep a pro football team.

"Maybe," he said, laughing. "Maybe I can bring 'em 15 years of good luck."

The Night Train were taking no chances on starting a franchise without him. So when La Crosse's new National Indoor Football League takes the field at the La Crosse Center tonight, Ross will be the 'Music Man.' The Harold Hill taking the Train to our river city. He'll show us the way to a title. That's 'Title,' with a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P' and that stands for 'Persevere.'

Which is what the Night Train will do with Ross controlling the music. Stop laughing, it's just a theory.

Mostly, I wanted to find out what the Night Train's theme song would be. Because every indoor football team should have a great song. An anthem that brings the crowd to its feet. A indoor football team without a song, would be like an indoor football team without cheerleaders, and I think we can all agree on what a travesty that would be.

Like a true promoter, Ross wouldn't reveal the song, but mark my words, we'll be hearing plenty of "Night Train" by Guns 'n Roses. Some parents just winced because it's on an album full of lyrics we can't print in a family newspaper. But rest assured, "Night Train" is a PG song, and it rocks, and has an appropriate title, so it can't go wrong.

Of course, toward the end of the song, lead singer Axel Rose will sing,

"I'm on the Night Train."

"Bottoms up..."

"I'm on the Night Train."

"Ready to crash and burn."

"I never learn."

What Axel doesn't know is we did learn. This time we have Bill Ross.

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