Let me tell you, there’s no experience quite like it. You haven’t lived until you’ve stood on your seat at a cold and wet Ralph Wilson Stadium, a number of light beers in your system, and belted out “Shout!!!1″ – the Buffalo Bills’ anthem – at the top of your lungs. I did just that on Sunday. I sang like I’d never sing again. Like the Bills might never score again. Like the Bills might never win again. Because, let’s be honest, they probably won’t.
I went to the Bills and Bears game two weeks ago, on November 7th, at the Rogers Centre, where Chicago fans outnumbered Buffalo fans by a wide margin. Where hardly anyone sang “Shout!!!1″ Where it was louder on Buffalo third-down attempts than Chicago third-down attempts. Where everyone, especially the Bears, was far too comfortable under the roof. Home game? Home game my ass.
I know, the timing of my bi-annual visit with friends to Buffalo to watch the Bills was about as ironic as it gets. The Argos were, after all, facing their hated rivals from Hamilton in the CFL’s Eastern Semi-Final. Playoffs. Playoffs!!!1 We probably should have gone to the Hammer. But we chose Buffalo. And who picks Buffalo? Ever? For anything?
But after spending the past two Sundays watching the Bills live and in the flesh, north and south of the border, I learned a valuable lesson: The Bills are Buffalo’s football team. They’ll never be Toronto’s team. We don’t deserve them. Not when our only tailgating option in Toronto is a Budweiser sponsored event where beer isn’t served after 12:30 pm. Are you kidding me?
Look, it’s hardly about the football game. Especially when we’re dealing with the inept Bills. It’s about the experience. It’s about crossing the border at 9 am in your Drew Bledsoe Bills jersey, all the while praying the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer you’re about to hand four passports to got laid the night before. Three of you were born in the Middle East, after all. It’s about celebrating a rare hassle-free entrance into the United States with high-fives, and setting up shop in an Orchard Park parking lot at 10 am. It’s about lighting up the grill; burgers, hot dogs, bacon, and tandoori chicken. Even Caesar salad! It’s about beer. Bud Light and Coors Light, 18 cans for only $20, and drinking far too much, far too early in the morning. It’s about playing three-on-three touch football, and running a flea-flicker to score a touchdown deep in a makeshift end zone. It’s about walking up to Ralph Wilson Stadium, beer in hand, passing police officer after police officer. Most importantly, it’s about being told by my brother to look at a young man, drunk out of his mind, struggling to put on the upper half of his Buzz Lightyear body costume, as he walks up to the gate to enter the building. Unfortunately, Buzz didn’t get in. Not because he was far too inebriated. Because he didn’t have a ticket. I love Buffalo.
Inside, in a seat that costs you a quarter of what it costs to watch the Bills in Toronto, it’s all about making money. Full disclosure: I’ve attended both this year and last year’s Bills regular season games in Toronto for free. I wouldn’t pay. I’m frugal — not cheap — and the prices are absurd. Anyway, back to business. Literally. During the game, it’s about betting $1 bills on each play. Pass? Run? Five yard gain? Three-and-a-half yard gain? First down? Next penalty? Incomplete pass? You name it, you can play it. It’s about taking money from your friends, and even taking money from a couple of strangers in front of you who want in on the action. There’s plenty of dollar bills to go around. I made a killing during the game. Enough for a free $8 beer for my trouble. But I gave it all back at the end of the game, after the Bills weren’t able to cover a spread of 4.5 I generously took bets on. But Buffalo was victorious. That was all that mattered. They will not go 0-16, and make history, again, for all the wrong reasons. Best of all, we got to sing “Shout!!!1″ one last time.
After the game, Bills fans were buoyant. Rightfully so. And I realized what a travesty it would be if the Bills were ever taken away from Buffalo. Lord knows they don’t have much.
“One and eight. Ain’t it great?”
Indeed it is, random Bills fan. Indeed it is.
Image courtesy of comcast.net.