Buffalo Bills have No. 1 tailgating in the country
Despite team’s past success, Buffalo fans dedicated to team, tailgating
Mason Cohen, a junior psychology major, said a tailgate and football game at Ralph Wilson Stadium was “nothing like [he’d ever] seen before.”
Cohen, a life-long New York Giants fan, attended his first-ever game at “The Ralph” this past Sunday when the Giants faced the Buffalo Bills. He attended games at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, but this experience was very different.
“I’ve never seen a place jump like that before,” Cohen said. “Even during pregame warm-ups, just so many Bills fans would be on their feet and cheering. Don’t know if it was the alcohol talking or not, but it was a sight to see. I always hear that Buffalo has the best fans, but I actually saw why.”
Yahoo! Travel listing recently named Buffalo the top-tailgating city in the United States, despite its sports teams’ lack of success. In a report by The New York Times earlier this year, Buffalo was ranked third for the most “cursed” sport city in the country, as both the Bills and the Sabres of the NHL have never won a championship.
It always hurts to see your favorite team underperform. That’s what Buffalonians have endured for their favorite teams. From Bills kicker Scott Norwood’s “wide right” kick in the 1991 Super Bowl, or the “Music City Miracle” in the wild card round in 1999, Bills’ fan have a lot of painful memories.
But it doesn’t matter how bad a Buffalo team may be. The weather doesn’t matter either. Residents and college students alike will pack out home games and begin “Buffalo” chants at the spur of the moment. Everyone, in unison, will chant, ‘Let’s go Buffalo’ or the crowd-favorite song “Shout” by the Isley Brothers, which has gradually made its way into Bills folklore with fans singing “the Bills make me wanna shout.”
Cohen is a native of Long Island and has never been to a Buffalo tailgate other than a UB football tailgate. This past Sunday’s game in particular helped Cohen understand the context of how Buffalo won the award.
“People everywhere,” Cohen said about the crowd. “It took me close to 20 minutes just to go from the tailgating lot to the ticket booth. We had to leave five minutes early because we were either going to wait an hour to leave or get into a fight after the game with a Bills fan.”
Cohen was expecting a raucous crowd at The Ralph. He only heard stories about the boisterous Buffalo crowd and how they could begin a fight at any given moment. But he was impressed with their composure.
“Coming into the game, I expected the Bills fans to be way too obnoxious to get along with, being I’m a Giants fan,” Cohen said. “But they were actually pretty cool.”
For outsiders like Cohen, a Buffalo tailgate may be a rare occurrence. But for natives, a Sunday at the Ralph is an event.
Maury Fields, a senior biomedical engineering major, wakes up at dawn to begin the tailgate process. Fields, a season-ticket holder, meets together with a big group of people at the early hours of the morning with taco dip and chicken wings in hand, ready to begin the party.
She usually brings the essentials for “typical drinking games” such as a baseball bat for “dizzy bat,” a beer pong table and a lot of cups.
“The tailgating experience is one of a kind,” Fields said in an email. “Last week, we tailgated next to a DJ and they had a TV next to them with the 9:30 [a.m.] London game playing. You could go to a tailgate knowing nobody and leave it knowing so many people. Everyone is ready to party and have a good time.”
The atmosphere doesn’t change much when inside the stadium either. Cohen said the stadium “was surprisingly small,” but it made for a good time as well. Fields said “The Ralph” during a game is “loud and rowdy, just like you’d expect.”
But any stadium in the country can be loud and rowdy. Two weeks ago, Buffalo attempted to break the sound record for the loudest stadium, but that mark is still held by the Kansas City Chiefs fans at Arrowhead Stadium. What makes Buffalo so appealing on game day is camaraderie.
The Bills haven’t come close to a championship since 1993, which was the fourth and final season they lost in the Super Bowl. It’s hard to be a Bills fan. There’s a lot of suffering. But it doesn’t matter to natives. They want a good time.
“I think Bills fans will always support their team,” Fields said. “I have been tailgating at ‘The Ralph’ for the last six years and the fans have always been loud and excited to see their team play … Since I’ve been a Bills fan, they haven’t made the playoffs. But every Sunday morning, those lots are still full and the stadium is roaring come 1 p.m.”