It all started back in 1963 as a 8 year old my brother took me to my first Bills game. It was a warm December day and the Jets were in town, well it happened to be the day that Cookie ran wild with over 240 rushing and 5 TD’s as the Bills stomped the Jets. Before that day I was a Browns fan because of Jimmy Brown but I knew the Browns team Jimmy Brown, Frank Ryan, Gary Collins, Walter “The Flea” Roberts, Jim Kanicki, Gene Hickerson, Lou Groza etc etc. After watching the Bills pummel the Jets I was hooked and the Bills instantly became my team of choice. Instead of rattling off the names of the Browns I now knew the Bills: Cookie, “Golden Wheels” Dubenion, Sestake, Saimes, Bemiller, Barber, Bass, Mcdole, Stratton, Kemp etc etc.
The Bills were now my team of choice and going to the “Rock Pile” was a joy. My brother had season tickets with his friends so I was invited on many occasions. I still remember them bringing in coolers filled with refreshments and grilling on a small grill right at the seats—that is correct. They use to cook dogs an Italian sausage right there. Another memory there was there were no nets for x’tra points and FG’s and one end-zone had box seats (it was actually a baseball stadium for the Bison’s). The balls used to be kicked there and fans would scramble to try and get one. I never did but suffered a black eye and a busted lip while getting pushed into the back of a seat during a scramble for a ball---it was a badge of honor!
The ultimate was my brother taking me to the AFL Championship game against the Chiefs, tickets were $10 and I still have the stubbs. The Bills lost big as RB Mike Garrett had a big day and if they had won they would have faced the Packers in the World Championship game now known as the Super Bowl.
The Bills went into a tailspin after that but me and my friends became draft nuts that continues today with our draft parties. I still remember hoping and praying that the Bills would continue to lose during the “68” season so they could draft college sensation RB OJ Simpson. The Eagles were leading the race to the Juice by going 0-11; the Bills were 1-10-1 beating the eventual Super Bowl Champs Jets in week 4. On Thanksgiving Day the Bills were facing the Raiders in Oakland and were down to their 4th QB Eddie Rutkowski. Dam if he didn’t almost pull off the upset. I don’t remember who but a Bills player fumbled inside the Raiders 5 yard line as time was running out-Raiders win 13-10! The Eagles went on to win 2 out of there last 3 games and the Juice was coming to Buffalo.
The Bills again stumbled into the abyss even with OJ as they only won 4 games total in ’70 & “71”. Excitement finally was restored when Lou Saban was brought back in “72” and his main focus was to get the ball in OJ’s hands. The results were immediate as the Bills became exciting an the record improved for a couple of years. OJ was the most exciting runner that I have ever seen in person, every-time he touched the ball the fans were on there feet chanting Juice Juice Juice! Sadly as in the past Lou and Ralph had another falling out and Lou left at the beginning of “76 season.
The Bills again regressed for a few seasons until Ralph hired a proven coach Chuck Knox. That is when I purchased my first season ticket a long with 7 friends. The team was on the up swing and the tailgate breakfast parties were outstanding. I was fortunate to bartend on Elmwood Ave at a place called Casey’s. The players would come in on Sunday’s after the games and I became acquainted with some on a first name basis. I did see and participate in many wild things (most legal some not) that with the technology today the players could never get a way with. My favorite players that came in were Lucius Sanford, Fred Smerlas and Darryl Talley but there were many more that were good guys. My two least favorites were Isiah Robertson (just a arrogant punk who one time started a bar room brawl) and Jim Haslett (a smart ass who we thru out on the street after he was konked on the head with a champagne for being a jerk).
Once again the Bills hit a rut when Knox left in a Huff after the strike season in “82” but we kept our season tickets. I was able to enjoy the beginning of the Kelly, Bruuuuce and playoff run era but moved to Florida after the “88” season. I was able to enjoy the SB run and my brother came through again getting us comp tickets (he worked for channel 10 in Tampa at the time) for SB XXV. I was so excited I got a Bills charging Buffalo tattoo at Lou’s. Going to the game was a great experience; we had Whitney Houston singing the anthem, jets from McDill flying overhead and the fans of both teams in red, white and blue chanting USA-USA-USA in support of our troops in the Gulf War. The only negative was Norwood missing the winning kick.
Even though the Bills haven’t been to the playoffs since “99” my loyalty for the Bills has never wavered, it is a marriage “through thick and thin or for better or worse”. I can’t picture following any other team and if the Bills ever leave Buffalo my interest in the NFL will drop dramatically. To this day I go watch them play in Tampa and Jacksonville, Miami use to be on my list but it is not worth the trouble to see them play there. I admit I’m hooked and addicted to being a Bills fan and that’s the way it will be “Until Death or Moving Do Us Part”……………………