Published 9:55 am Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Anybody who attends an Albert Lea sporting event isn’t really at a truly Albert Lea athletic event until the first “Go, man, go!” is unleashed upon the crowd, or “C’monnnn A.L.!” and even a “C’mon Tigers!”

After one of the cheers some might find themselves scanning the crowd looking for exactly who yelled that out.

It’s a distinct voice with a hint of a drawl, infused with a little gravel and is easily committed to memory. Teenagers try to imitate the voice sometimes, but it’s not one that can be reproduced. Behind that voice is the otherwise mellow Barney “Superfan” Prudoehl.

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Any other sporting event without Prudoehl isn’t an authentic Albert Lea experience, because his presence and patent cheers have become an ingrained part of the atmosphere.

Most people probably aren’t aware of his true name and just refer to him as “Superfan” — but he’s a fixture at Albert Lea sporting events. Prudoehl isn’t a parent or a relative of a player on any team; he’s just the Tigers’ biggest fan. He graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1976 and has attended varsity sporting events since he was 12.

Now 52, going to the games still make him feel like the young man he was when he started attending.

His dedication to Albert Lea athletics knows no distance. Prudoehl often travels to road sites to catch the Tigers playing. Earlier this fall he made the trip to Owatonna to watch the girls’ soccer team tie the Huskies 0-0. Prudoehl didn’t start watching soccer until it was added as a sport in Albert Lea.

He not only roots for the Tigers, but he follows other area high school teams. He travels to Northwood-Kensett, Lake Mills, Glenville-Emmons, Alden-Conger and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva high schools from time-to-time to watch the teams compete. That is, of course, if the Tigers are out of town that night.

His favorite sports are the winter sports, a time where he said he hibernates indoors except for going to Tiger games. Basketball is his favorite, but hockey is close behind.

The spring time brings him out to the baseball diamonds and the softball fields to cheer on the players. He rides his bicycle to a lot of the games during the spring and summer.

A back injury several years ago prevents him from working, and watching high school sports has become an outlet for him. He prefers high school athletics over professional sports because the games are shorter.

“I’m getting sick of that football, that college and that pros,” he said. “It’s takes four hours to play a stinking game, most of the time. In high school it gets over quick.”

Once people discover who he is, they often thank him for supporting the local teams with his cheering.

“They thank me and every now and then,” Prudoehl said. “Parents come up to me and say thanks for coming. I kind of like it. They appreciate it. They like my noise. I’m a big mouth.”

Fans seem to enjoy hearing his cheers from the bleachers at the games and Prudoehl enjoys supporting the local teams.

“Support your local high school teams, that’s what I say,” he said.

Prudoehl started attending a majority of the sporting events 10 years ago, he said, and now since the crowds have come to know his cheers there isn’t a time he plans on attending fewer events.

“I’ll keep on doing it,” he said. “I’m caught now, I can’t quit doing it now.”

Besides hearing “Go, man, go” just isn’t the same if it’s not from Superfan.