I was not born a Bills fan. I grew up outside of Philadelphia at a time when Randall Cunningham and Reggie White were the stars of the show. I started following "my" Eagles when I had to hear about Monday Night Football the next day because it was on past my bedtime.
Like most children, my fandom was limited to my hometown team—at least for a while, anyway.
Even a myopic 12 year old, who had eyes only for the guys in the green and white (remember that old Eagles green?), had trouble ignoring the presence of Jim Kelly.
I remember the first time I watched Kelly play. The Bills were playing a home game and as usual, there was vicious wind and snow—the cold must have been brutal.
Yet he stood on that field looking as comfortable as if the temperature had been a balmy 75 degrees. He was a force to be reckoned with. Gentleman Jim with a rocket for an arm. I cheered for the Bills in the team's four Super Bowls, but it was not until I moved to upstate NY years later that I became a fan.
The thing itself (my fandom) happened the first time I went to a game at Rich Stadium. I walked into the House that Jim Built, with it's freezing temperatures and loyal fans and fell almost immediately in love.
How could I not?
If there is something that Philadelphians don't understand, it's the allure and charm of a small town team. We Philadelphians tend to have high expectations for our sports teams —and when they inevitably fail us, we turn on them like a pack of rabid dogs. This is not the case in Buffalo.
My first game was eight years ago. The temperature was well below 20 degrees and the Bills were on their way to a 3-13 season—yet the stands were full of fans, buying beers that they had to drink quickly or else risk it freezing in their cups. They gamely held tailgate parties, and cheered on their hometown Buffalo Bills.
Maybe I was always destined to be a fan in a city like Buffalo. I take pride in the grumblings of other teams' fans who bemoan our weather as though it were some sort of scourge.
I like being in the company of the Green Bay Packers as the little guys with the big history. Most of all, I love that Bills fans as a whole are sure that someday, somehow we're going to get our old glory back.
There's nothing like a little belief to keep you warm on a cold winter's day.
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