The Barrister asked me to post this for him because he's somewhere upstate drinking and watching cars that only turn left occasionally make a right turn. This post is long and sort of good, so enjoy. I perused it briefly. It's about tailgaiting, I think. Also, the majority of us at DGWU do not support the posting of a Phish song on our website, so understand the Barrister's video does not reflect the overall hatred of hippies shared by the members of DGWU. This will be the first and only time a Phish video will be posted on this website, so enjoy. You fucking hippie.
SIDENOTE: Years ago, we started tailgaiting just outside of the stadium at the Fountainbleau (?) Motel, far from the wandering eyes of Bills Security/Erie County Sheriff's Department. We get there when we please, do what we want, and have our own patch of grass where we can urinate freely. I suggest all Bills fans do the same to preserve the traditions of our overserved forebearers.
It was my birthday last weekend, and - having the great friends that I do - I had the good fortune of spending a great night out on Wednesday for a belated celebration over some adult sodas and wings. Sure, not Buffalo wings in the truest and purest form, but certainly serviceable for Manhattan. In any event, as I made the long trek home, spirits brightened by the 1-1 draw we had just watched between Mexico and the U.S. after such a long and tedious day at work, I was in a reflective mood. Having just celebrated what very well may have been my parents' most questionable decision - at least in hindsight - with some of my best friends, I was acutely aware that, despite being in a city of 9 million and counting, and despite going to law school with virtually no one from Western New York (at least that I knew), the best friends I have in New York Fucking City are all - with a few very notable exceptions - from the Buff. We spend a lot of time on this site making note of our love for the Queen City, and while this is a post about life back there, rather than life out here, the basic, foundational premise needs to be clear: Buffalonians are AMAZING.
Before I convince myself that I should add some caveats or mitigating language to that prelude, we shall move on...
Over the past month or so, as the lockout has wrapped up - and, actually, even before that with The Scizz's journey through Bills QB Suckitude - the DGWU Crew has had a noticeable struggle with our Bills fandom. In recent years, it seems like this struggle mirrors the internal dialogue within most Bills fans over the past decade. The fiercely loyal side of us fights with the pragmatic side of us, battling for position and the ultimate say in whether we dive headfirst into another season of inevitable disappointment. And, unsurprisingly, the fiercely loyal side usually wins, maybe in part because of some engrained refusal to accept a reality that if frankly too depressing to fathom after the years of plenty in the 90s.
Being in New York City, it is a little easier to let that pragmatist in me win out. Sure, I still love the Bills, and will still watch (at least until Week 8) if for no other reason than to avoid the disappointment of missing out on the magic of that miracle season that could maybe just finally happen. When I'm away from the daily, communal support that Buffalo has for its team, it's a lot easier to think realistically, and perhaps with a hint of cynicism, about how best to spend my time and, taking it a step further, whether being a fan of this team really benefits me at all.
I mention this aspect of my own Bills-related thinking because, even in my darkest of days as a Bills fan these past six or seven years - days when I had come to grips with being the joke of the league, with no discernible hope of recovery - one of the things I absolutely cherished was the Tailgate. Now, I don't get to games often, so my experience of tailgating at The Ralph is a pretty small sample size. Even the basic bullet points the tailgating culture, though, have always been a source of great pride for me. Wide open space for groups of friends, annual and routine meeting spots that seem to never change, touch football, buses and vans decked out in the red, white and blue. This is a tailgate that doesn't happen in other cities, and Bills games remain a vestige of the NFL's past as the league moves forward to a fully commercial culture where the only drinking and eating you'll do at a stadium will be inside it. Everyone has their own stories of tailgating for Bills games, each one affirming that the Bills Gameday experience is not to be missed. Affirming that, even if our team continues to be irrelevant on the field, games at The Ralph will still be one of the best experiences for the diehard football fan.
Unless you're wearing a Pats jersey, in which case you may get punched in the face, covered in beer and/or tipped over in a port-a-potty. But, I digress.
If you follow Buffalo sports or news, or if you can make a simple logical conclusion based on reading the title of this now uncontrollable post, you know that the Buffalo Bills have recently revamped their tailgating rules so that lots will be open an hour later, and so that cars must park in the order that they enter, with a prohibitiion on saving spots for friends coming in later. What these changes signal, coupled with a new and broad "No Smoking" policy in the stadium (which eliminates ever the option to go somewhere for a quick cigarette during the game with a right to re-entry), is that the Bills seem to be stepping further towards a more cookie-cutter existence where fans matter less and less. Of course, after reports of wonderful and obnoxious stupidity (and violence, at times) coming out of the fanbase over the past couple years, I guess no one should be all that surprised by these steps "forward." Though, the purist in me - the one who still pines for the days of Rockpile football where fans rolled kegs down the aisles to their seats - was really hoping that the Bills would do us all a solid and avoid making changes that directly alter the Buffalo traditions of gameday. The Bills tailgate is, honestly, one of the things that keeps people coming back, and is widely regarded as the best tailgating experience in the league. Lord knows that if Buffalo had the kind of rules you get out at the Meadowlands over the past decade of on the field suck, many fans would have given up ages ago.
And there's the rub, the reason that this really grinds my gears. Russ Brandon, in defending the changes in policy at One Bills Drive, has noted that, and I'm paraphrasing a touch, the Bills' most common complaint is that it takes too long to get in and get out of the lots, and that the policy will help with that. (Sidenote: Anyone who thinks customer complaints are a valid and complete metric of fan satisfaction is stupid. The only people who fill out comment cards are the ones who have an issue. The satsfied customer can't be bothered to comment because he's too busy enjoying himself and, in the case of happy Bills fans, getting over his hangover). Mr. Brandon also notes that the rules changes will allow more people to make use of the lots, since there won't be big gaps between cars where people have typically set up ample tailgating areas for their groups.
Listen, I get the point about the speed of exit/entry, but this policy simply flies in the face of all that was good about tailgating for games - the consistency, week to week, year to year, of spots where the diehard groups of fans would park and set up shop for the day. These spots have often been a matter of tradition and routine, such that you know which lot to go to if you want to link up with any given group of fans who you happened to party with last game or last season. And, this policy, which tells fans that they can't continue that tradition, is basically telling us all that the Bills don't much care about us. That they don't appreciate this decade of support despite the failures of the product on the field. That they don't understand that, with such a shitty team, there might have been other reasons we all bothered to keep coming back.
From a financial standpoint, assuming these policies are implemented as the Bills say they will be, this could very well backfire for the team. Parking revenue could go down significantly if people choose to take their tailgate to other, privately owned lots that allow for greater flexibility. Worse yet, people could just stop coming to games altogether. The Bills have already proven that they don't really care about the product they put out on the field, even if those in charge convincingly say (and maybe even believe) otherwise. But, they've benefitied from a fanbase that kept coming back because gameday is FUN, even if the games themselves are likely to cause deep contemplatons of suicide. In my estimation, if these changes have the stifling effect that they appear to be aimed at, and if the Bills continue with other changes down the road, that product on the field needs to get better, and fast, if they want to keep folks coming back.
Then again, I'm not one of those die hards who gets to every game. In fact, its been a while, so maybe I'm wrong. Have at it in the comments if you'd like - I'd love to get your take.
In the meantime: a dedication to our taint of an owner. It's your fucking ship, Ralph. "Wilson, King of Prussia, I lay this hate on you."