This year was The Year. Sure, every year is The Year if you ask Bills Mafia, but this year was The Year. The Bills, who hadn’t made it beyond the wild card round since 1995, were finally on the brink of going to the Super Bowl!
For 20 minutes and 25 seconds on Jan. 24, the Bills were leading the Kansas City Chiefs. Josh Allen and Sean McDermott were primed to deliver Buffalo to the promised land. But, of course, they blew it. Fans across Upstate and Western New York retreated to their couches to drown their sorrows in cheap beer and Buffalo wings.
Maybe you were among them.
But I wasn’t.
I was just relieved.
Now, before you run me off campus, let me explain: I don’t care about football.
I got dragged to an NFL game a few years ago and fell asleep.
I couldn’t even explain the rules to save my life.
But I love Buffalo, and a Bills Super Bowl (or, god forbid, a Bills Super Bowl victory) would’ve meant disaster for the city that you probably love too.
Despite declining caseloads nationwide, public health experts are warning that Super Bowl Sunday could turn into Superspreader Sunday, and a Bills Super Bowl appearance would’ve made Buffalo the epicenter. While the situation in Erie County is improving, the situation is still precarious. Our seven-day positivity average is still hovering around 5% and cases of the more contagious UK strain were found in neighboring Niagara County just weeks ago.
And as any Bills fan will know, there are still plenty of opportunities to screw something up, no matter how well it seems to be going. As much as I would like to, I can’t imagine dedicated members of the Bills Mafia watching the game responsibly with the Lombardi Trophy on the line. Large (and likely unsafe) house and bar parties would’ve caused a surge in cases throughout the region, potentially overwhelming local hospitals.
Other cities have learned this lesson the hard way. Between Nov. 1 and mid-January, Los Angeles saw a 1,000% increase in coronavirus cases, partly due to gatherings and watch parties during the NBA Finals.
Not to mention that those same parties would’ve certainly shut down campus. As of Sunday, UB has 28 cases counting toward the NYS threshold for shutdown. I have no doubt that a bunch of mask-optional, indoor Super Bowl parties the night before the start of mandatory weekly testing could’ve easily concocted the remaining 78.
And precedent would suggest that a Bills victory would’ve been even more cataclysmic. Riding the high of adrenaline, groupthink and a few too many beers, Eagles fans climbed up pre-emptively lubed light poles, looted a gas station, overturned a car, tore trees and light poles out of the ground, got into fights, smashed store windows, marched through the streets shouting obscenities, jumped off a hotel awning, set Christmas trees on fire, and stormed city hall with a keg after their team won the Super Bowl in 2018.
One fan even ate horse poop fresh off the pavement, goaded on by dozens of screaming fans. Eagles fans have a reputation for a reason, but don’t think Bills fans are incapable of that. When (and if) the Bills finally win the Super Bowl, I fully expect to see wasted fans dumping kegs of Bud Light onto Pearl Street out the back of a pickup truck, among other drunken displays of glee.
No Super Bowl is the time for that, but this one certainly isn’t. First of all, Buffalo is broke. The city government borrowed $18 million this summer to cover a budget shortfall. Eagles fans caused $200,000 in damages to city property, and a similar “celebration” in Buffalo could be just as destructive, leaving the city with a mess it simply can’t afford to clean up.
The monetary damages, however, are just the tip of the iceberg. Following the University of Alabama’s National Championship victory in football this January, thousands of Crimson Tide fans packed the streets of Tuscaloosa, sparking fears of an outbreak. And while the caseload in Tuscaloosa has since decreased, UA recorded 449 cases among students in the two weeks following the championship match.
Tens of thousands of drunk, sweaty dudes in Josh Allen jerseys rioting in the streets with little regard for public health guidelines could have caused a superspreader event dwarfing that of Alabama’s. (After all, you can’t trust a streaker to wear a mask when they won’t wear anything else.)
And a superspreader event is the last thing Buffalo and the country need right now. Both the country and state have declining COVID-19 positivity rates. I don’t want Buffalo to be an exception to that trend, and I doubt most Bills fans do either.
I’m sure I’ve been blacklisted by the Bills Mafia by now, but I’ll give them this: Bills fans don’t even need a Super Bowl win: These are the same fans who’ve survived four consecutive Super Bowl losses, a near move to Toronto and O. J. Simpson. These are the same fans who body-slam plastic tables, accidentally set themselves on fire, go shopping cart jousting and cover themselves in condiments, all for the Bills. These are the same fans who love their team, no matter how terribly they play.
Bills fans, I know it’s hard to wait, but take heart. This is for the best. Stay home this year so that when the Bills really do go to the Super Bowl, you’ll be able to gather around the TV with all your friends and family to cheer on the Bills’ fifth Super Bowl defeat.
Grant Ashley os the assistant features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grant Ashley is an assistant features editor for The Spectrum. He is a political science major and a (mediocre) Spanish minor. He enjoys taking long bike rides and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon.