James Bueno goes by many names, but he is best known as the “flag guy” to sports fans at The University of Southern Mississippi. “I used to be the guy with the dreads and the flags, now I’m just the guy with the flags,” he said.
Bueno, a staff member with Southern Miss Athletics and a sports management major, covers audiences with original flags during football and basketball games in an effort to promote school spirit and engagement with fans.
Inspired by soccer traditions in his home country of Brazil, Bueno decided to share his excitement with USM.
“It is a way for me to express my enthusiasm at games and support Southern Miss,” Bueno said. “Every year (that) it gets bigger, the bigger the enthusiasm.”
Bueno currently has three flags, all of which he made himself.
“The Nasty Bunch flag, I had to sew the whole thing with a $20 sewing machine,” he said. “It took me three weeks to sew it.” Bueno said the larger flags take more work.
“The biggest one I have is so big that I have to put it in my trunk,” he said. “It fills the whole trunk of my car and I need to have at least three or four guys to
help me out.”
When it comes to the sizes of the the flags, Bueno gave a rough estimate. “In the coliseum, it goes from the first row all the way to the last row,” he said. “It covers the whole student section.” According to Bueno, with a large crowd, the flag can cover up to 1,500 students.
It takes more than the love of the game to produce such large flags. Bueno puts in time and his own money.
“The black and gold flag is the biggest, and I’ve spent around $2,500 on it,” he said. “On the Nasty Bunch flag, I spent around $600 dollars, including fabric and paint.”
So what keeps Bueno inspired to keep making and extending the flags?
“I just feel like if I don’t, no one else will, at least not on their own,” he said. “I’m a really passionate sports fan.” That is how it is done in Brazil.
“At home games, that’s what we do; we have flags,” Bueno said. “Back home, it’s a big deal.”
Bueno said he would carry over ideas from being a fan for the Brazilian soccer team.
Bueno’s girlfriend, Malin Collin, a tennis player at William Carey University, called what he does remarkable. “It’s remarkable how much passion he has for all of the games,” Collin said. “Even when they were losing, he was still there.”
According to Collin, there were many times when their friends would discourage him from attending. “No matter what, he would still be there,” she said.
In 2011, Bueno was recognized for attending all of the football games during USM’s winning season, including the Hawaii Bowl. When it comes to the home games, Bueno said he only has one request from fans.
“If you see the flag, try to help out; I don’t try to block anyone’s view of the game,” he said. “Don’t be that person that stops the flag from going up; it just ruins it.”
Bueno encourages fans to try to enjoy it and have some fun. “Flags will not come up at every game,” he said.
“It gets too heavy if there aren’t enough people under it,” Bueno said. “I need a good group of at least 12 people to help with the big flag.”
Like the sports he supports, Bueno said managing the flags requires teamwork. If students would like to get involved with flag management, contact Bueno at Leandro.Buenodasilva@eagles.usm.edu.