You can search the Internet for who the best fans are in the National Football League and find all kinds of rationale for why this team is better than that team and the other team is better than the team down south. To me, it’s merely a matter of what I’ve seen and felt as a tailgater.
When you pull into Lot 1 at Ralph Wilson Stadium at 9:00 am or earlier on a Sunday, you know you’re in the land of professional tailgaters. What is not there? Everyone in red, white and blue? Check. Screaming and shouting about the Bills? Check. Great food and drink? Check. Cooking on a Pinto? Check.
In my travels to other NFL venues I have never seen anything remotely similar. In some cases, fans were decidedly mellow and non-engaged. This is not the case in Buffalo.
Therein lies why the Bills will pull out some W’s for us this year: we want it and we ‘Billieve’. There are not many teams in the NFL who happen to be in small markets and happen to be 0 – 8 and still bring in the people the way the Bills do. As bad as the Bills are this year, the Ralph has yet to show the scarcity of fans as it did in ’84 and ’85.
The Bills know this. They see it and they feel it. When the guttural screams ring from the crowd on the opponents third downs, they thrive off it. When the sea of red, white and blue rises in exhilaration with each touchdown, they feel it. They’re a very young team and they’re still learning how to channel those feelings into more good plays; but they will.
A quick look at the schedule doesn’t appear to yield too many victories for an 0 – 8 team and, perhaps, that’s right. But regardless of record, this Bills team is headed in the right direction. The last few years under Mike Mularkey, Gregg Williams and Dick Jauron were abominations. Nothing ever seemed to fit with any of those coaches. Something about Chan Gailey just feels right. What else can you say about a coach who still gets a team to give their all when they’re winless?
Which brings us full circle: as this Bills team matures and the ravenous Bills fans continue to bring the noise, we will, as one, have the ever-elusive victory delivered. This team, each week, is proving to themselves the level of resiliency they have. The coaching staff continues to adjust the pieces of the puzzle and, in most instances, have brought the team a notch higher. It won’t be many more notches until the W is in place and we can all, with all our might, let out a sigh of relief and look forward (hopefully) to 2011!