#BillsMafia is wild, y’all. The official Buffalo Bills fanbase, #BillsMafia, might just be the most passionate and dedicated group in the NFL. Seriously. Not many other teams’ fans have to brave zero degrees at kickoff games, or games where players struggle to see other players on the field, or even games with wind so strong the goal posts have to be secured several times. Even fewer fanbases would show up to those games for a team that has gone 6-10 five times in the last decade, with one season at a whopping 4-12 record. #BillsMafia though… They throw on seven layers under their zubaz pants and head to private lots, Hammer and Grass, or shell out the money for Tailgate Village in Orchard Park, New York—New Era Field. Every. Single. Sunday. So where did this fanbase come from?
#BillsMafia started virally. They’re a newer group, though the fans have been there forever. One game day in 2010, fan favorite WR Stevie Johnson dropped a pass. A dropped pass wouldn’t normally be that memorable, but Johnson took to Twitter to place the blame with whom he thought was most responsible—The Almighty Father. Hours later, long after Bills fans had exhausted the jokes about the issue, sports writer Adam Schefter tweeted about Johnson’s accusative tweet and Bills fans jumped at the excuse to tease him mercilessly by starting the hashtag #SchefterBreakingNews, tagging historical events such as Washington crossing the Delaware and “Abraham Lincon shot, police on trail of famous actor” with the hashtag. The creators were quickly blocked by the writer, thus creating the new #BillsMafia hashtag for the bad guys of the Bills family. The hashtag was quickly embraced by the Bills team and a movement was born.
However, the ethos of #BillsMafia has been around far longer than the hashtag. Fans like Pinto Ron, AKA Ken Johnson, have been hosting wild tailgate bashes for 3 decades. Pinto Ron is named for the beat up old car he used to drive to every game, which since has been adopted by the organization and now lives covered in Hammar’s Lot. Pinto Ron is best known for his and his team’s uniquely cooked tailgate food: meatballs from a bed pan, pizza from a filing cabinet, bacon on a handsaw, wings from a hubcap, and Italian Wedding soup in a tin watering can. You can also grab a beer from his toilet bowl cooler, or take a shot of 100 proof cherry liqueur from the thumb hole of his bowling ball that travels with him to every away game of the season, as long as you blow from his vuvuzela after. His tailgate culminates in a chaotic ritual-like dance, where fans encircle the Tailgate King and cover him head to foot in ketchup and mustard. The ketchup dance, however, isn’t even the wildest of the #BillsMafia traditions.
#BillsMafia are known for being rowdy. In an effort to curb dangerous party atmospheres, New Era Stadium changed tailgating rules when two fans died in one night after being ejected from the game. Specifically, though, #BillsMafia has an affinity for broken tables and professional wrestling-style slams. There are dozens of videos of Bills fans slamming other Bills fans through tables. There may be some connection to a video of a Bills fan slamming a fan of their rival team, the Patriots, to the ground in the early 2010s, but I never found confirmation of that. The table trend became notable in 2015 and hasn’t stopped. But table slamming isn’t the only unruly tradition Bills fans have. There is also Annie the Tom Brady Corgi, who gets aggressive at any mention of the hated quarterback after years of reacting to her owner’s anger at the mention of him. Annie isn’t the only emphasis on the saltiness of #BillsMafia towards their in-division rival quarterback. Two brothers started a tradition of throwing (ahem…) *adult* toys onto the field, reserved for only games against Tom Brady.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Josh Allen has gotten his fair share of criticism over the two years he’s started for the Bills. Fan favorite Tre’Davious White once chastised #BillsMafia for dwelling on the 2017 draft pick trade to Kansas City who jumped on the opportunity to draft young phenom Patrick Mahomes II. Buffalo drafted Allen the following year and he’s started at the quarterback position since. Though the Bills ended the season 3rd in the division with a 6-10 record in 2018, 2019 was a completely different story, ending 10-6 in second place behind the Patriots with a Wild Card spot. The playoff berth came for the first time since 1999, and fans braved the below freezing temperatures in the early hours after the team’s return from Pittsburgh to meet them at the airport. Allen took a quick selfie with a fan that literally ended up in a local museum, the @AlbrightKnox. Unfortunately for #BillsMafia, the Bills season ended in heartbreaking fashion—blowing a 16-0 lead to the Houston Texans in an overtime loss, 22-19. But Allen’s future with the team looks bright.
Hopefully in the future we’ll find the number of Josh Allen jerseys growing to Jim Kelly numbers. Fan favorite Shady McCoy may have left last year, but things are no longer looking bleak for #BillsMafia. Twice in the last 3 seasons have the Bills made the playoffs after nearly a two decade drought. Those winning records are genuine improvements and the Bills are looking more and more dangerous each year. Hopefully for Pinto Ron, Annie the Tom Brady Corgi, and all the fans at the Hammer and Grass Lots, Buffalo can continue to improve and become a serious threat in the coming years. After all, the most fascinating fanbase in the NFL deserves nothing less.