(Disclaimer: this is a sports entry. More specifically, it’s a football entry; if this bothers you, feel free not to continue reading.)
“Let me be perfectly honest: yesterday’s game ranks among the worst sporting experiences of my life, right down there with almost getting creamed by New Jersey Devils fans or having my life threatened up in the 700 level at Veteran Stadium. Live NFL is the pinnacle of the live sporting experience…but when you experience it with a crowd that is almost exclusively drunk, insane, brawling or all three at once, when you’re sitting in a dank, crumbling stadium that smells like urine, when you’re cramming yourself into a washroom that’s barely the size of your living room for the chance to pee into a trough, when your viewing experience is constantly being interrupted by fights in the stands and swars of security guards jumping in to break them up–it just doesn’t add up to the most positive of viewing experiences, y’know?”
I actually wrote this on November 22, 2004, after my first visit to Ralph J. Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. But it could just as easily have been written yesterday, after my second. Unlike last time, I had a vested interest in the outcome: the Vikings were playing. And the result–a frustrating 17-12 loss which culminated with Marcus Robinson dropping the potential game-winning touchdown with under a minute left in the game–didn’t make things better.
(IT WAS RIGHT IN HIS #&%#$% HANDS!!!!!)
But once again, the main attraction wasn’t the game; rather, it was the people “watching” the game. I don’t know why this surprised me–Bills fans are notorious, even amongst other NFL fans, and besides my previous experience at Ralph Wilson Stadium should have prepared me for it–but I was astounded by the amount of booze that got consummed yesterday. I’ve heard that Bills tailgate parties sometimes start as early as Thursday; based on what I saw yesterday, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising.
Ironically, yesterday actually started out promisingly enough. One of my dad’s suppliers not only got us excellent lower level seats (fourteen rows off the field, almost directly behind one of the endzone uprights), but also invited us to his company’s pregame tailgate party. When we were arrived, we were treated like foreign dignitaries (which was appropriate, since two of the 73,000 fans on hand at yesterday’s game were none other than Bill and Hilary Clinton…and yes, I realize they’re not “foreign” dignitaries, but you know what I mean). Within seconds we were wisked to an L-shaped buffet table with a big, open cooler at the end. Our hosts weren’t happy unless we were stuffing our faces full of food; it gave my opinion of American hospitality (which was already pretty good) a major life. But the thing is, the people we were with were seemingly a small minority within the Bills fanbase–namely, they were actual fans. The rest of the crowd was comprised almost exclusively of drunken frat boys and their sorority girlfriends. It was like a Queen’s Homecoming game times seven, then throwing in some good ol’ American swagger just for fun. They turned Ralph Wilson Stadium into a bubbling cauldron of chaos, and while there’s no doubt this gives the Bills a formidable home field advantage (whether or not it’s intentional on their part is debatable) it doesn’t make for a pleasant viewing experience.
The same goes for the language. Heckling, fine–I can deal with it. Swearing, fine–I wouldn’t be my father’s son if swearing offended me. But hearing “purple is for faggots!” all afternoon long, that’s not cool. What is this, 1989? Haven’t we moved on? I guess not. If this makes me sound like a prude then so be it; all I know is that other cities seem capable of hosting major sporting events without throwing slurs around like that.
I guess I just don’t see the point in spending hundred of dollars on football tickets, then spending three-quarters of the game in front of a urinal trough. But then again, I’m not a Buffalo Bills fan. I used to think sitting in the infamous 700 level of Veteran Stadium in Philadelphia would represent the nadir of my life as a sports fan; after yesterday, I’m not so sure anymore. But just as the demolation of Veteran Stadium rid me of the former, so too has the NFL’s schedule rotation practically eliminated the necessity of seeing another Bills home game anytime soon. Minnesota’s next visit to Orchard Park is in 2014. Hopefully I won’t be back before then.
(By the way, if my host is reading this: at the risk of sounding disingenuous, thank you so much for your hospitality. I’d probably be singing a slightly different tune if my football team didn’t suck so very, very obviously.)