The first football game I ever watched was Super Bowl 27: Buffalo Bills vs. Dallas Cowboys, on January 31, 1993. Buffalo got slaughtered. I was eight years old and didn’t know anything about football; but when it offered me the opportunity to skip a church service, I became an instant fan. Twenty-two years later and I am still obsessed. Oddly enough, Buffalo is my team of choice.
Of the many games I have been to (usually two per season) Sunday’s was the only one I’ve attended alone. The Bills’ home opener against Indianapolis was the setting for my sixth date by myself.
A pregame stop at the duty-free (a tradition for all Canadian Bills fans) revealed an unexpected concern: alcohol.
Tailgating is an essential part of football. People camp out for days in anticipation of the big game and I have seen some impressive set ups. There is no denying it’s a religion. In past years, I have been an exceptionally enthusiastic participant of all things tailgating. I threw a mean spiral, I could chug like no other, and I drank many a large man under the table. A shoulder injury has since retired my throwing arm; but what’s more crippling, I no longer drink.
This was not my first sober football game; it was my fourth. The difference, of course, is that I was accompanied to the other games. This time, as I admired the beautiful crowd of jersey-clad fans pushing shopping carts full of bottles up to the register, I felt the full weight and seclusion of my sobriety. This is going to be weird.
I proceeded to the border – where I seemed to scramble the brain of the officer who asked who I’d be watching the game with – then chuckled to myself the rest of the way to Orchard Park. After parking my car on a kind resident’s front lawn for $10 (this is normal) I began my poor attempt at tailgating.
All around me music was pumping, meat was grilling, drinks were flowing, and people were cheering. I felt very much an outsider standing alone by my trunk, eating my sandwich. But as I watched the hilarious drunken spectacle, I felt no desire to join in, only an odd sadness. I am no longer a part of this. I mourned briefly, chugged a bottle of water, then headed in to the Ralph Wilson Stadium. Well, at least my chugging skills are still on point.
Here are some photos I took before the game. Note: I quite liked getting to my seat early and watching the players warm up.
The seats filled quickly and I became giddy with adrenaline. I could never adequately articulate the intensity of a sold-out Ralph at full volume on the first game of the regular season. After kickoff, I lost all sense of my surroundings (I may have even stopped blinking) and gave in to the hypnosis of the game, erratically shouting broken sentences littered with expletives. It wasn’t until half way through the second quarter that I sat down for the first time to take a breather. Only then did I notice: oh, shit. I can’t feel my toes.
It was fucking freezing and, for some unfathomable reason, I hadn’t worn socks. Mittens? Yes. Earmuffs? Of course! Socks? Nope. I am a genius. I held out until halftime before fleeing to the bathroom to figure out a solution. Behold… my solution:
Oh, I am a genius! I returned to my seat, confidence renewed, right on time for the second half.
It was a hell of a game. Despite several terrible calls by the consistently lopsided referees (c’mon, stripes!) we won 14-27. What’s more, once the guys sitting next to me consumed enough liquid courage, they became super chatty. Evidently they are season-ticket holders and the horribly overpriced last-minute ticket I purchased online belongs to their buddy, who couldn’t make it because he’s a marine. We exchanged numbers before parting ways so I may purchase his ticket for a more reasonable price the next time he has to miss a game. The chances of them remembering the outcome of the game, much less conversing with a lone Canadian, are pretty slim. Nevertheless, I regret nothing. Go Bills!