Being a fan is funny. Fan is short for fanatic, after all. Some of us fans are willing to brave sub-zero temperatures and blinding snow, or blinding rain, or whatever elements nature throws at us. Being a fan of the Buffalo Bills is insanity and masochism rolled into one, yet we all still look forward to the next season with hope. Why?
We love our team, that's why. Being a fan is about love and a sense of community. I was a Buffalo Bills fan from the day I was born, thanks to my dad. Some of my earliest memories revolve around the Bills and Sunday afternoon games with my dad. When I was younger, the worst thing I thought I could do to my dad was become a Miami Dolphins fan. I could never do it, though. I couldn't turn my back on the Bills.
I was born in Rochester General Hospital and lived in Sodus, New York, for my entire life until April 2008. Sodus is about two hours east of Buffalo. Yet most of my friends in school were not Bills fans. No, the majority of my football-following friends were Dolphins fans. Ugh.
Yet I never backed down from them when it came to football. I took the teasing and smack-talking all the time. When the Bills swept the Dolphins back in 2003, oh was I merciless. It was my first chance to really talk back and I took full advantage of it.
Up until that time, I never had a convincing comeback for the smack-talk. How was I able to not bow to peer pressure even though my beloved Bills were the laughingstock of my friends?
All due to my dad, of course.
I thought I had it hard, but he has seen it all. Back-to-back 2-14 seasons. Wide Right. The man has seen the lowest of the lows for Buffalo, yet every season back out comes the Buffalo red white and blue without fail. That is devotion. That is being a fan.
How could I let my own father down by caving to a bunch of Dolphins fans? There was no way I could face my dad when he's seen it all.
It was not simply that he had seen it all that made me and kept me a fan. No, it was those late-night discussions all year round, be it discussing an upcoming game, dissecting the previous game, or speculating on free agency and the draft. My dad and I connected as more than father and son during those discussions.
We were two guys discussing their love for the Buffalo Bills. That's why I am a fan of the Bills. I have yet to encounter a tighter-knit sports community than the Bills fanbase. I have met countless people who I probably would not talk to otherwise, yet am proud to call them friends because on Sunday afternoons during fall and winter, we are brothers and sisters circling the wagons for our beloved Buffalo Bills.
I barely remember the Super Bowl-era Buffalo Bills. The best season I really remember anything at all about was the season that ended in the loss to the Tennessee Titans. I do not have the Glory Year memories that a lot of Bills fans do. Yet it is through those that have those memories that I am able to hold on through the bad to hopes of better days.
There is nothing better to me than a Sunday morning and afternoon spent at Ralph Wilson Stadium with my dad and a bunch of crazy fanatics wearing Buffalo Bills red white and blue cheering like mad men (and women). Being a Bills fan is part of who I am, and I have my dad to thank for that. As he often says, he loves the Pittsburgh Steelers (he lived in Pittsburgh at one point during his life), but he lives and dies with the Buffalo Bills.
And I do too. That's what defines my fandom. It's more than a game when you're a Buffalo Bills fan. It's a way of life. Thanks, dad. This article's for you. Let's go Buffalo.