As a New Yorker, when the Bengals play in the area, it's an exciting opportunity. So, I made the seven hour drive to Buffalo from New York City to see the Bengals take on the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
I didn't have many expectations on what the game would bring, though I had heard that Bills fans were notoriously mean to visiting teams' fans. And, more than anything I wanted the Bengals to win. The impending seven hour drive home in the dark would have been extra miserable had they lost.
When we arrived at the stadium a few hours prior to kickoff, I was immediately surprised to see Bengals fans everywhere. We passed some on the highway on the way to the stadium, Bengals fans were parked right next to us, and across from us. There was no shortage of fans representing the orange and black in Buffalo. After saying a few Who Deys once we parked, we made our way to a gas station parking lot we passed near the stadium, which is used for tailgating (strange, right?). In the parking lot there were two coach buses that drove down Bengals fans from Canada! About 50 Bengals fans congregated in the gas station parking lot for the next few hours, grilling, drinking and mingling.
I met a few fans from Indiana who knew of Cincy Jungle (hello if you're reading this!) and others old and young from both Cincinnati and areas near and far away.
After talking to a bunch of fans, apparently the Buffalo cops weren't too kind to Bengals fans and gave out quite a few traffic and public drinking tickets. Still, no one really seemed to mind and we were all focussed on seeing the Bengals go 6-0.
After a few hours of tailgating, I was happily surprised to see most Bills fans were simply ignoring the crowds of Bengals fans. Of course, we had a few people tell us the Bengals would lose or that they were going down, but the fans on the outside of the stadium were mostly polite.
The weather was also a big talking point for the game, but in all honesty, it was never that bad. There was about a 10 minute period prior to the game where it was sleeting and snowing pretty hard. I'm not sure I had ever seen anything like it before. The snow was crystallized and you could pop the little bubbles of snow with your fingers. Once the game started, it was sunny and clear. There were times during the game where it was actually warm, others where it was freezing, and just a few minutes during the game where the weather was wet. It definitely wasn't as bad as it was made out to be.
Tailgating at the Bills game was pretty different than my experiences tailgating at Bengals games. The parking lots are all essentially down a one block stretch and there aren't many party buses or decorated vehicles (I think I saw one). The stadium is also essentially part of a residential community, so people in the area sell their lawns and driveways as parking spots.
Getting into the stadium was the worst experience I've ever had getting inside a sporting event. We waited for at least 20 minutes -- probably more -- before getting in, and, we were with Bills fans who told us the entrance we were waiting at was the best option! Maybe it's the New Yorker in me, but 20 minutes is about 15 minutes too long to wait to get into a game. I went to Sunday Night Football at Met Life Stadium a few weeks ago and we didn't wait more than one minute to get inside. (I'm really not exaggerating.)
Once inside, we headed over to the section where the Bengals would enter the field. We did a whole lot of screaming as the Bengals took the field and they mostly ignored us, other than Leon Hall who gave us a high fiveas he walked onto the field after the rest of the team.
We then took our seats a few sections over where there were plenty of Bengals fans, including these guys:
There were probably no less than 20 Bengals fans in our section alone, but the Bills fans are loud, very loud when the team is winning, and they undoubtedly overpowered our chants.
As the game began, Bills fans were mostly ignoring us, until there was a second quarter call for intentional grounding against EJ Manuel. The refs were debating and Bengals fans, including the one I was with, began screaming for the call to be made against the Bills. Bills fans were screaming for the flag to be canceled. And, once the penalty was confirmed, the three guys in front of us turned around to say they were ready to fight my boyfriend if we didn't "shut up and remember where we are." Apparently, in the eyes of Bills fans, you can't root for your team to win when you're at an away game. As they then told us, "We went to Tennessee last week and we didn't say anything the whole time."
How nice for them, but, we paid money to be there, too and were going to support our team however we saw fit, including cheering for them at pivotal moments in the game.
Other than that, the Bills fans didn't have much to say to us. They were certainly loud to start off the game, banging their feet on the bleachers, which made tons of noise. I'm not sure how many NFL stadiums have bleachers, but when you're sitting in the lowest level of seats, it's kind of strange (and uncomfortable) to be sitting on bleachers and not real seats.
By the end of the third quarter, many Bills fans started to leave, and one walked by us and said, "I'm so sick of losing." It was also pretty remarkable how quickly Bills fans turned on Manuel. The crowd was booing him essentially from the second quarter on. It was a somewhat familiar feeling and reminder of Dalton haters from the past few years who are now missing in action, thankfully. I have to say, I really don't miss the Dalton haters.
The Bengals ended up winning and all was right with the world. We again rushed over to the section where the tunnel is located, where the Bengals would be exiting the field. This time around, they were in a much friendlier mood and when Dre Kirkpatrick saw my boyfriend wearing his jersey, he actually lit up smiling and jumped up and down in acknowledgement. It was pretty awesome and a great way to end the day... Until we sat in the parking lot without moving an inch for over an hour. That wasn't cool at all, Buffalo.
With the Bengals pulling out a win, it ended up being a great trip to Buffalo, well worth the drive. When isn't a trip worth it when in the end, the Bengals win? I even led a 6-0 chant on the way out, which really wrapped up a great day of Bengals football.