HELENA -- Chances are if you’ve been to a sporting event in Helena across the past three decades, you’ve heard his voice.
As he adjusts in his seat, "Bengal" Billy Neisess is cheering on his namesake, the Helena High boys basketball team, as it takes on the Kalispell Flathead Braves on Feb. 1. It doesn't matter what sport he's watching -- whether it's Small Fry football, American Legion Baseball or high school basketball -- Bengal Billy is as close to the action as he can be, cheering on the home team.
"I like to know that even if the girls or boys are on the court, they like to hear a 'B-E-N-G-A-L-S,'" said Neisess. "I like to return their names every once in a while if they're at the free throw line."
Neisess relocated to Helena as a child and graduated from Helena High School in 1979. From there, the legend of Bengal Billy was born. Neisess said he's just thankful that he gets a chance to display his God-given talent.
"I just feel that the Lord gave me the ability to have a loud voice, and I know that Helena wants to know who the loudmouth is, besides the parents and everything," said Neisess.
As time wears on, so does the toll it takes on Bengal Billy's body, and he's missing games that he normally wouldn't miss. Bengal Billy still hopes that this year, with a spot of good fortune and an uptick in his health, he'll be able to make it to the 2020 Class AA state basketball tournaments in Bozeman to cheer on any Helena team to make it, because while Neisess may be a Bengal, he's a Helenan at heart.
"I'll be neutral because I've got friends on both sides," said Neisess. "I'll be neutral like a referee."