I don’t think it’s that often that a sports fan can pinpoint, to the day, when they became a fan of a certain team. Many fans moved into an area when they were young that had a team in their favorite sport. Or, as was my case when I was young, you were a fan of a certain team because that’s the team that your whole family had rooted for, going back multiple generations.
I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania, near Erie, which, geographically speaking is about 90 miles from Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo. So, ‘fandoms’ were…conflicted…to be polite about it. Being in PA, most my family was and is to this day made up of unabashed, dyed-in-the-ugly-colored-yellow-wool-of-The-Terrible-Towel Steeler fans.
Sadly, I must report, that when I was young, I too was a Steeler fan. It was fun as a 5/6 year old to high five my family, and just to say “Bubby Brister,” and “Louie Lipps,” even if I had no concept they were a below-average QB/WR duo. Especially below-average, given how my allegiance was about to change.
Like I said in the first sentence of this story, it’s not often that a fan can point to a specific day in their lives and say “That’s the day! That’s the day I became a ______ fan!” Luckily, I can say with 100% authority that September 25th, 1988, is the day I became a Buffalo Bills fan.
My family often got together on Sundays to have dinner and watch football at my grandparent’s house, because they were the only ones with an antenna on their roof that could catch the TV signal for Steelers games (remember giant rotating rooftop antennas, gang?) Well, on this particular Sunday, the Steelers just so happened to be playing the Bills in Rich Stadium. Being 6 years old, I had no idea there was an NFL team in Buffalo.
I was rooting for the Steelers when the game started. But as I watched, all I could think of was three things: Number One: The Bills uniforms were awesome. Way cooler than the Steelers. Number Two: The Bills were kicking the sorry Steelers’ butts.
Checking Wikipedia, the game was 30-14 at the end of the 3rd quarter, but to me, it felt more like 1283-6. Number Three: Having everyone root for the same team in one family was borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrinnnngggggggggg.
According to my mom, it was when the Steelers scored a garbage TD towards the end of the 4th quarter and my family started talking about a futile comeback that I turned to her and said “I’m rooting for the Bills from now on!”
Confusion. Chaos. What? You? You’re a Bills fan now? My grandpa was particularly confused. “Why would you change just like that? What if the Bills just have one good year? The Steelers have FOUR Super Bowl wins!” Little did my grandpa know what was about to take off in Orchard Park, NY.
And that was that. My 6 year old mind was made up. Bills fan, Ryan Russell. Log it in your record book. I cried when the Bengals and Browns knocked us out of the playoffs; and I certainly cried when Scott missed the field goal in Super Bowl XXV.
Side note: Mr. Norwood, I doubt you will read this, but on the off-chance you do…Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Please, don’t hide yourself away from Bills fans and the Buffalo area because you thought us losing that game was on your shoulders.
The team lost. The Giants beat the Bills, 20-19. Not “The Giants beat Scott Norwood, 20-19.” We loved you then and we love you now. I see you’re coming back around a bit, whether it’s on the tremendous “Four Falls of Buffalo” 30 For 30, signing autographs at a card show, or at the roast of Andre Reed that happened recently.
If you’re comfortable with it, please keep coming back. I would love to shake your hand and thank you in person someday, as would a boatload of Bills Mafia family members.
Of course, I cried after all 4 Super Bowl losses. What Bills fan didn’t? I screamed in agony and almost broke my hand punching our basement wall after Frank Wycheck tossed that football across the field. What Bills fan didn’t? “Miracle” my butt.
I agonized over Rob Johnson vs. Doug Flutie, lamented our mostly questionable QB play in general after Jim retired, wished Tom Brady would just go away, and criticized our yearly draft picks. I screamed several choice words when the Cowboys beat us with a field goal as time expired on our first MNF game since Millard Fillmore was President. What Bills fan didn’t? I cried when Mr. Wilson passed away. What Bills fan didn’t?
But I also cried for joy watching ‘The Comeback’. I was not one of the 750,000 people at Rich Stadium that day, but I remember my next door neighbor calling me just after halftime, telling me I should come over and watch the rest of the game on TV, Frankie was making magic happen and Warren Moon looked like Brian Cox trying to win a “Buffalo’s Favorite NFL Linebacker” contest.
I was in the stadium for Doug Flutie’s coming out party against Jacksonville, where Flutie Flakes got their start, and hope sprung eternal again, at least for a little while. Good luck on Dancing With The Stars, Doug.
I was hopeful when we started Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, Fitzy, Brian Brohm, Trent Edwards, EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel, and Kyle Orton. I actually did a happy dance in full view of my adult co-workers and several customers when it was confirmed that the Pegula family had bought the team, and it wasn’t going ANYWHERE. I’m hopeful every time Tyrod starts that finally, we’ll see we’ve got our franchise QB.
When I discovered @TheBillsMafia on Twitter, I thought it would be just another fun account to follow while Bills games were on TV. Being in a big community center of Bills fans cheering and booing with every win and ref-assisted-for-the-Patriots loss, virtual friends to “RT” and “Like” when you can’t be at the Ralph, to high-five and sing the Shout song.
But I realized quickly why we refer to ourselves as a FAMbase. We kick each other into an even higher gear than I though possible when it comes to rooting for 53 grown men playing a game on a 100 yard patch of grass. We keep each other from getting too down when things aren’t looking too good in the rock pile.
That’s what family does (twitter family and real-world family)…family is there to help. Big need, small need, silly need (…the Bon Jovi memes still make me laugh…), and serious need. Almost any need…the FAMbase is there to help.
So, here’s what I’m doing to help, just a bit. Since the Mafia has helped me through so many highs and lows since I became a Bills fan on 9/25/88, I think this is the least I can do to help spread the word about who the Mafia is and what it can do.
Two contests, courtesy of @ryanrussell1982, if you care to follow a Bills, Pirates (hey, get a MLB team Buffalo, I’ll probably jump on board that FAMbase too), and Penn State fan. And don’t mind dog and cat pictures clogging your timeline. Don’t worry the dogs are Bills fans. The cats? Well…moving on.
And, as promised, here are the details for the two contests I am sponsoring (independently) to support @26shirts, and as a way to say thank you to the members of www.BuffaloFAMbase.org for their ongoing commitment to provide resources for people with immediate medical needs in Western New York.
Contest One: RT this article, and follow both @TheBillsMafia and at least TWO of the 26 Shirts accounts: @26shirts, @26shirtsPIT, @26shirtsCHI, and @26shirtsCIN. At 5pm Sunday, March 13th, I’ll pick one lucky winner that fulfills those criteria. They will have their choice of the following:
A Dyngus Day shirt or Bills Mafia shirt from this very website, or their choice of a current 26 Shirts shirt. “We Want Scott” from @26shirtsBUF, OR “This Is Next Year” from @26shirtsCHI (as a Pirates fan, that shirt will probably the toughest to buy should you request it *sad, bitter, wild-card game loser face goes here*), OR “Peng-WIN” from @26shirtsPIT, OR if you want to wait, you can get the inaugural shirt from @26shirtsCIN. I’ll buy whichever shirt you choose and ship it right to your door. (Within the continental USA only).
Contest Two: This is open to anyone that’s bought either a www.26shirts.com shirt in the last 30 days, or a shirt from www.buffalofambase.org/store in the last 30 days. My twitter name is @ryanrussell1982. Send me a screenshot showing your proof of purchase of a shirt from either of those websites by 5pm Sunday, March 13th.
At 5pm, I will pick one lucky winner from those screenshots, and I’ll buy that person the Week 2 March Forward Campaign Logo shirt, which will also enter them into the current contest to win a year’s worth of t-shirts. (Shipping within continental USA only)
So if you were thinking of buying a shirt from the FAMbase store or 26 Shirts, consider this your sign to jump in! Help some folks in need, and help grow this awesome FAMbase. Where would I rather be, than right here, right now in the Bills Mafia FAMbase?
Nowhere else. Nowhere else!
Editors Note: A big thank you to Ryan Russell for sharing his story with us, as well as providing two contests described here in support of @26shirts (these contests are sponsored solely by Ryan Russell).
Be sure to follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanRussell1982. If you would like to share your story as part of our ongoing series, “Bills Fans Across The Twitterverse”, please contact me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO for details.
Robyn Mundy is a retired oncology nurse and psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. She lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the shadow of the glorious Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. You can find all of Robyn’s previous blog posts here.