Being game day, I threw on an old Bills t-shirt (one of the few semi-clean items left in my suitcase) and headed for the airport with my wife in tow. With at least 10 flights headed back for the states the airport was littered with jerseys and caps representing at least a half dozen teams. I never heard any of those fans say more than a word to each other. That is except for the Bills fans.
Before I had even made it through security the camaraderie began with a pair of girls passing in the opposite direction shouting go Bills and high fiving me as I passed. In the terminal another Bills fan sought me out, telling me about the continual string of text messages his sons had sent him as he cruised the Mediterranean with his wife during the Oakland game. We talked football for a good 15 minutes before boarding and then nine hours later, he was the first to update me on the score (24-17 Pats at that point) as the plane touched down in Dulles. As I navigated immigration, there were more shouts of “Go Bills” and “they can pull this off” to the point where the couple in front of me commented to each other that they had no idea how many Bills fans there were.
In the queue at immigration an older man spotted my shirt and asked for an update on the score. As we zigzagged back and forth through the queue, I fed him updates from my father over the phone. Down by 7, tie game, up by 7 with time winding down. From there, it was a string of “nice game” and “we finally did it” comments shouted back and forth through the terminal as smiles crossed all of our faces.
None of us stuck in transit could see the game, but were all cheering our team on together, feeding each other what bits of information had been passed on to us. Even with all the other games in progress, I saw none of this from their fans. They quietly checked their phones, trudged through the lines, and showed no signs of the shared excitement I saw from my fellow Bills fans. Only when I eventually reached my connection to New Orleans did I see any sign of a similar camaraderie among fans. And even then, among a much larger concentration of Saints fans, it seemed subdued in comparison.
Even through the chaos of travel, Bills fans shined through as what we all know we are: passionate diehards, more bonded to our team and each other than any other fan base in the NFL.
Thanks to those who shared their love of the team with me during a hectic day of travel. And to the local New Orleans Bills crowd, I hope to join you guys at Rendezvous Tavern this coming Sunday if work allows!