It’s always been fun to watch football. The excitement of the games, the camaraderie of watching with friends.. of course the junk food. The thrill of watching the team that you love face off against all others. It’s a loved tradition and i will admit that until this year i enjoyed the fun of it, but i don’t think i quite FELT the meaning and importance until this year, watching our boys, the Buffalo Bills.
I’ve been a bills fan for as long as I can remember – though I wouldn’t call myself a devoted bills mafia member. Though I do recall a halloween back in grade school where I dressed up as a bills fan in a head to toe Bills sweat suit (somehow my mom can’t find any pictures of this though!!!). After attending college in Buffalo and meeting my now husband who is for sure a bills mafia member I really had little choice but to support. The way that the community comes out for this team, the tailgating parties, rooting for the under dog.. its nearly impossible to not walk away a Buffalo Bills fan.
I have always been interested – followed the Bills. I love the superbowl parties, getting together with friends to watch, but I wasn’t someone who sat down every single weekend and watched the game religiously. The game was on, I was around, but often multi-tasked and never really just sat there and took it all in. As this season went on this year – my multi-tasking disappeared and last night I found myself all in – sitting on the couch with a Minkey Boodle (thank you Thin Man Brewing!) in hand snacking on tortilla chips with no other thought on my mind except our Buffalo Bills.
This whole season felt different. For so many reasons… We watched every game at home, without big parties, no happy hours, no bills backer bars. We kept in touch via instagram posts and group text chains, yelling about calls, celebrating with wins and plays.
This year our kids watched the games, they wore their Bills gear before every game, begged with us to stay up later than normal so they could see Josh Allen and cheer on the team. By the end of the season our 8 year old knew almost every member of the team, and he was calling things out like “face mask!” Or “they are going to call holding on that!”. Last night he kept saying “its ok, there’s still time, if they get this touch down then they are only down by 6”. Our 5 year old would sit down and cheer lovingly for “Diggs-y” and tell us every time she saw a #17 ANYWHERE that it was Josh Allen’s number. My husband made me read Dion Dawkins letter to bills mafia in the Players Tribune.. and I thought man.. as if I didn’t love the Bills before – now this has put me over the top.
Every week we got more and more hyped up – Bills clothes were worn to school on Friday, cookies were baked, the same snacks and the same meals. We were feeling the effects of the bills mafia and this incredible bills football team.
This year – in the middle of a freaking pandemic, football was a light in our days. It was so exciting to count down to Bills Sunday. In the beginning of the season I remember thinking – “wow, how are they going to do football with all this going on?” And I remember criticizing saying “well if the NFL can get all of these rapid tests, why can’t the rest of the world?” Being in healthcare, hearing the news stories, seeing friends who are completely burnt out from working extra shifts in all kinds of protective gear that is exhausting often gives me a different perspective on things.
So I will admit that I was a little angry about the NFL season starting when so many other parts of our world are just put on hold and told to wait it out. But as this season came to a close for those of us who are Bills fans, I’m pretty thankful. I’m thankful to have had this light to keep us going on the hard weeks. I’m thankful that my family had a Sunday afternoon ritual that brought us all back to take a few minutes to shut out every thing else, eat some buffalo chicken dip and chips. Thankful to have discovered Minkey Boodle (thanks thin man brewing!!) to sip on during those games, and Josh rekindled his love for Labatt Blue light.. all for support of Buffalo and the Bills.
I think for me, the thing that was missing… the thing that I didn’t really realize… is that it’s so much more than a football game. It’s about watching something all together. Its about trying to understand something new – its about teaching the kids football is so much more than pushing people around on a field, there’s so much thought that goes into every play, there’s planning for something two plays from now that they have to consider, there’s speed, there’s paying attention to every detail. And for us – its about having something sacred that is just us… and yet SO MANY other families are doing it also. It’s tradition, and it’s keeping us connected. The number of conversations I had about football this year, the number of texts from old college friends… instead of only discussing all the bad of this year – we focused on the good, the excitement, the love of our team that has created this incredible following.
So thank you to the Buffalo Bills – for giving us a football season where we support our favorites, in a year where nothing seemed to go as planned. Thank you for giving us something to look forward to, stay connected in a time of complete disconnectedness. Thank you from a mom and wife who watched this season snuggled on the couch with her husband and kids – who got excited to find which attire was clean for them to wear on game day (we’ll definitely need some new gear for next year!). Thank you from a healthcare worker because we all desperately need something to hold on to that feels normal. Thank you from a UB graduate for being the team that the city of Buffalo needs. Thank you from a photographer who found inspiration in blue, red and white bills gear and documenting joy on my kids faces. And thank you from a person (and i think i can speak for many people) who needed something this year – those who needed to see brightness, those who needed to have something to believe in… you were that for us. To the Buffalo Bills – we believe in you – and we can’t wait until next year.
Lauren (a forever lover of the bills, but newly self declared member of the elite yet accepting of all group we call the bills mafia)