The NFL dead season is upon us. The thrill of free agency, the draft, rookie minicamp, and OTAs are done, and the anticipation of training camp and the upcoming season are all we Buffalo Bills fans have for the next six weeks or so.
For me, that dead time is when I plan my annual Bills away game. Since 2008, I have attended at least one Bills road game, with the goal of seeing them play in each NFL stadium. So far, I have been to San Diego, Dallas (the new stadium is amazing), Arizona, Miami (living in Florida, this is a tradition now), Cincinnati, Kansas City, Cleveland, New England, New Jersey (to see them play the New York Jets), Baltimore, and Carolina. Indianapolis will be this year’s destination.
With that travel experience under my belt, I figured this would be the time to arm Bills fans with some quick pointers so we can make each away game a “Home” game for the Bills.
1.) Wear team stuff
When I talk to people about going to away games, the biggest reason they don’t want to go (aside from money) is that they are afraid of what will happen to them if they wear Bills stuff. As someone who had season tickets to the Bills for 12 years, I can understand the trepidation. Growing up, I saw things done to opposing fans that still makes my skin crawl. Thankfully, my experiences elsewhere have been incident-free.
Of course, people will heckle you, but that is half the fun. Basically, you will hear things like “Bills suck” or “Lose any Super Bowls lately?” Then, you wave and move on. Most opposing fans are actually nice, and at more than half of my stops, free food and beverages were offered by those heckling. So, don’t be afraid to wear your Jim Kelly or Micah Hyde jersey. Plus, how will other Bills fans be able to spot you unless you are decked out in red, white, and blue?
2.) Find where the Bills Backers will be
The best experiences of road games are meeting up with the local Bills Backers clubs. The night before the game, there is always a Bills get-together at a local watering station or sports bar, and that is the place to be. Not only can you meet and talk to people who share the passion for the Bills that you have, but you see just how much a family Bills fans are.
Once you have recovered from the previous night’s festivities, seek out the tailgate party, because nobody tailgates like Bills fans. Find some new friends, and probably some you met the night before, and prepare for the game at hand.
3.) Be respectful
In No. 1, I mentioned how I haven’t had any incidents with opposing fans in my experience. That doesn’t mean I haven’t seen incidents. In each game, there is always a handful of obnoxious Bills fans who are disrespectful to others, which leads to the inevitable fight. In those cases, I hear what the Bills fan is saying, and 95 percent of the time it is something that can’t be displayed on this family-friendly website.
Much like the rest of life, you get what put in. If you are being a “normal” fan and simply cheering your team on, fans will let you be. It is when you start turning around to other fans asking for high fives, screaming obscenities at them, etc., that the YouTube stuff happens.
4.) Walk around
The final piece of advice I will give is to make sure you walk around. Don’t just park your car, stay there until the game, go to your seat, and then straight back to the car after the game ends. That is not experiencing what that stadium and team have to offer.
After parking, grab a beverage of your choice and walk around the parking lot and stadium. Interact with the fans and fellow Bills fans. Take in the sights and the atmosphere. Take a stop at the team shop. The game itself is such a small part of the away-game experience. A vast majority of your memories will be of what happened before and after the game. You don’t want those memories to include only your car.
What stadiums have you visited? What were your experiences? Leave your responses and stories about any road shenanigans in the comments.