Hello, Blitzers. It’s MZE back with another shot just for you. This time it’s a little different than my trip down memory lane. This past weekend I made some memories in Orchard Park, NY, with my friends from the Bills Mafia. Last season I made my inaugural trip to New Era Field for the Titans/Bills game. At that time I had no real AFC affiliation and that day I was repping the Titans. Long story not worth talking about. That day I met the Blitzed Barkeep and immediately felt a kinship to this fan base. It was a great game won by the Bills on a Steven Hauschka field goal. While that particular day was not my greatest experience, it started something life changing for me. In December of 2018 my friend Lora, who I met on Twitter (you can follow her here) and in person the first time that day in October, invited me to the season finale against the Dolphins. I borrowed her Bruce Smith jersey and repped the 716.
The Bills buried the Fins, Kyle Williams caught the only pass in his pro career, and I had an AFC team to call my own. I had made a few other Bills Mafia friends, thanks to the Bills-Vikings game and my praise for the Bills performance. They asked me if I was coming for the home opener against the Bengals this season and I couldn’t say no. I hopped in my car and made the four plus hour ride. When I got there I found my friends, Mike and Celeste, who have a Bills-themed wedding planned for next year.
They actually made the final cut for a chance to be married at halftime of the Bills-Patriots game but the honor went elsewhere. It was great seeing them and after a quick visit, it was time to visit the legendary Red Pinto Tailgate for a bit.
Tailgating in Orchard Park is always epic but Red Pinto is the must see party every week. They literally use an old, red Pinto and several other items not normally used for cooking to create the day’s feast. They serve breakfast in the morning and incredible tailgate cuisine for lunch. The menu is in a book out front but there are no prices. Everything is on the Pinto folks.
The real show though is, “The Bowling Ball Shot.” The rules are simple. You step up to the portable bar and they pour a cherry liquor that makes cough syrup seem tasty into the holes of an old bowling ball. Guests then pick up the ball, down the shot, drop the ball to the ground, and sound the horn. Don’t worry though, it’s very sanitary. They wipe down the ball with baby wipes after every shot.
After a little time at the Pinto party, my friend, Lora, arrived. We went to Lot 7 to hang out with the Bills’ Stormtrooper. Yes, they have a Stormtrooper and it’s glorious. Lora usually brings a box of shots and they always have Jell-O shots in syringes for the guests. Lora has a plan for every home game. Drink early, stop by noon, and be ready to get home safely after the game. She has it down to a science and it always works. Everyone is invited whether they know you or not. In time, you become family. There’s always a group picture before kickoff it’s tradition. The call of, “Hey a-holes! We’re doing the picture!” rang loud and we all took our spots. It’s not harsh. It’s just who they are. If you are at the game with Lora, be prepared to say hi to a lot of the Bills’ game day staff. She’s a season ticket holder and everyone there knows her. They’re all part of the family too.
The Bills home opener is always a special day but this one was different. This one was for Pancho. Ezra Castro, know amongst Bills fans as Pancho Billa, passed away this past off season due to cancer. He fought the good fight and did a lot of good in his time on this Earth. The Bills made this day for him. His family was on the field for the pregame and Bills’ owners, Terry and Kim Pegula, presented them all with special jerseys to commemorate the day. After a military fly over during the National Anthem, it was time for some football. The crowd was deafening from the opening kickoff.
A 14-0 halftime lead was erased by 17 unanswered Bengals points. Josh Allen led a big drive late, capped by a Frank Gore touchdown with 1:50 to play. A Tre White interception off of a tipped ball sealed the 21-17 win for the home squad and the Bills went to 3-0. I sat in my customized Bills jersey happy for them all. They get the label of ‘table jumpers’ but until you spend real time with them, you just don’t get it. They’re so much more than that awful stereotype. They’re good people who love their team and who open their arms to anyone willing to open them back. My heart will always belong to the Vikings but now I truly know what BuffaLOVE feels like. Can “Skol Bills!” become a thing?
Until next time, Blitzers, may your wings be crispy, your bowling ball holes be clean, and for God’s sake leave the ranch dressing at home.
Yours in football,