The alarm clock goes off – followed by grunts of protest and frantic hand-slamming to shut it off. It’s 7:00 am, time to start preparation.
For the second year in a row, I had the privilege of travelling to Buffalo to take in a Bills game. Last year, five brave souls took the trek to see the Bills take on the Oakland Raiders. This season, eight of us crossed the border to witness the “Squish the Fish” game between the Bills and their AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins.
First and foremost, none of us are Bills fans. But when we arrived at Ralph Wilson Stadium at around 8:30, that all changed. Cars were slowly trickling into the parking lot, and we took an open spot where our two cars could be side by side. Being relative tailgating rookies, our supplies were limited. A small grill and two coolers were all we had – one for food, one for ‘adult beverages’. So for the next four hours we stood around in a parking lot, meeting random fans and witnessing the American past-time of tailgaiting.
Game time neared, and three of us decided to head into the stadium. We entered our gate, and immediately heard the buzz generated by the field. We knew our seats were pretty good, but we had no idea just how amazing they were. We kept on walking down, getting closer and closer to the field. And then we were there. Four rows back, right in the middle of the endzone. The Bills were warming up in our end, looking completely relaxed as they ran through their pregame drills. Fans around us, clearly season ticket holders, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. We received a warm welcome from several Bills fans, and even some brave Dolphins fans who sat in front of us.
As kickoff neared, the stadium reached a fever pitch. Over 72,000 fans yelling at the top of their lungs, bashing the bleacher in front of them with all their strength – truly a testiment to the overwhelming power of sport. The first half flew by. It felt like each team had piled up over 40 points, yet the teams were deadlocked at seven apiece.
Miami held the lead going into the fourth quarter, but that’s when the “Twelfth Man” came into effect. Most people familiar with the NFL consider Seattle’s Qwest Field the loudest stadium in the league. But on November 29th, it was Ralph Wilson Stadium. The entire crowd stood and cheered in unison, and were rewarded by a Fred Jackson touchdown run early in the fourth. Rian Lindell gave the Bills the lead with a 56 yard field goal, and with Miami back in possession, Chad Henne threw the game away. Drayton Florence picked off an errant throw intended for Brian Hartline, and the crowd errupted. Everyone was yelling at the top of their lungs, and the stadium rang with the sound of aluminum bleachers being hammered.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who already electrified the crowd with a 31 yard touchdown run in the second quarter, proceeded to reward every Bills fan for their loyalty on the next play, tossing a 51 yard bomb to Terrell Owens. Even though it was in the opposite end, we all knew he was going all the way when he caught the ball. I’d never heard anything louder in my life. Everyone was standing on the bleachers, screaming as loud as possible. My hands were numb from clapping and high fiving – my voice was hoarse, but there was no way I was going to stop cheering.
The Bills went on to win 31-14, behind 24 points in the fourth quarter. Back in the parking lot after the game, everyone was continuing the celebration. Bills fans wouldn’t be stopped by the sun going down – fires were sprinkled around the entire lot. We got into our cars at around 5:30 to begin the trek home, already talking about going back next year.
Sure, the 22 kilometer trip back home took seven and a half hours. Yes, my hands are still sore as I type this and my throat still hurts more than 24 hours after the game. But would I do it again? In a heartbeat – and I will next year. Bills Bash has become an annual tradition. And for anyone who’s even a remote fan of the NFL, I highly suggest a trip south of the border to take in a game. There’s nothing like it.
TWO POINT CONVERSION
– Bills in Toronto update! You can still get a pair of seats in the 500 level… for $310 dollars
– alright Canadian NFL fans, time to show the leauge what you’ve got. I’ll be there watching