In my mind, there is no time that both brings ex-pat’s together and makes them long for home like the start of football season. If you’re away at a decent sized college really anywhere east of the Mississippi, that might mean befriending the only Buffalonian in your class, even if that person is someone kind of strange you’d never hang out with on a regular basis. As an adult, this means heading down to the Bills bar in your new home -- or if your town doesn’t have one -- heading to the bar in town in your Bills jersey to show off your true identity as a Western New Yorker. I feel like at the start of the season, these games (which, when it comes down to it, are meaningless to everyone except the front office) are more meaningful to those living outside the area because it gives them a chance to identify with their hometown in a way that they can’t sitting around at the office or with their friends. I can certainly say, as a former ex-pat, that those games have additional meaning when you’re back home to embrace them again.
There are many reasons people leave the area, but the most common I believe, outside of going away to college, is for a career. This is when it comes down to black and white numbers and, as an adult, numbers really dictate everything. I was no different, although while my reasons were both logical in this way, they were completely misguided in others. I didn’t go to New York, or Boston, or DC, or Charlotte, or any of the outposts that gain a sizeable Buffalonian contingent with their own watering holes and other ex-pats to make friends with. No, I went to Montpelier, Vermont, and the first time I ever saw the town in person was when I showed up for the bar exam with everything I owned already packed away in my car (research!). You see, there are no Bills bars; there are only four bars. The only time people approached me was when they thought my Bills hat was a Giants hat. I realized only a couple weeks in, when these meaningless games started, that unlike most ex-pats, the Bills games (and later the Sabres games) would not provide an opportunity for me to feel immersed in the fandamonium back home, but would make me feel even more isolated. Of course, this was a reasonable observation any of my friends made leading up to my relocation, but what can I say: when The Outlander makes a decision, HE MAKES A DECISION, no matter how absurdly detrimental to the long term.
I just noticed I could have described George W. Bush with that statement so I’m going to go throw up real quick.
“Aww that guy in the Bills jersey looks so sad.”
It struck me then that I had just experienced something that EVERY ex-pat could relate to -- what our sports torture looks like when we’re surrounded by people that simply cannot understand it. It also struck me that her statement could have summed up every Bills memory since before I was old enough to drive. The idea of cheering for them every Sunday in person could not have seemed farther away.
But life’s a funny thing. Just as spontaneously, the following summer I moved home, and the opposite of the token ex-pat story emerged: the random job application that got through happened to be here and suddenly I had a career. And suddenly, the idea of cheering for the Bills every week in person has come to fruition.
During my years away at college and grad school I had watched my friends go through their routine of holding season tickets, enjoying the party more than the games. I’d go once a season but I always told myself that I’d join them as soon as I got out of school. Season tickets became one of those things that would tell me I was at least comfortable with my career and income, it became a goal where I would tell myself “if I’m holding Bills season tickets someday, I know everything’s going alright.”
I also needed to be reintroduced into being a fan after so much apathy. See, I respect the college students who would get up hungover every Sunday and throw them back for the Bills game, but that was almost never me. I can’t count how many games from 2002-2008 I slept through til at least the 3rd quarter, but it has to be a healthy majority. I have three solid memories of games through this era:
1) Attending the 56-10 pats embarrassment on Sunday night.
2) Attending the playoff killing Steelers loss a few days into 2005.
3) My senior year of college I emerged into our townhouse living room to watch a Bills-Dolphins game and my roommate was sitting on the couch, shaking his head. He informed me that when we had returned from the bar, he had drunk dialed a hideous troll from his hometown and she was still in his bed. We had a good laugh and as she emerged from the room, here’s the thing---she never left, instead sitting on the couch next to him to watch the game. Of course, this irritated him to no end, so he started pounding beers, bitching to me every chance he got that this manatee hadn’t left. Well, the fourth quarter hits, he’s borderline blackout drunk, and brings her back into his room to bang it out again. I’ve seen bad beer goggles at four am but to this day, that’s the only time I’ve seen a beer goggle hookup at 4 pm. Go Bills.
To me, these tickets tell me I’m on the right path. To those season ticket holders who have never left, or never had to leave - drink it in, appreciate it, because I assure you there are many of us in remote pockets of this country that would do anything to be in your position. See you on gamedays. Let’s get rowdy, let’s get weird (I’m looking at you, the rest of the Deeg at the season opener), let’s go Buffalo.
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