The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

December 23, 2013

Alcohol, patriotism and the NFL: The best hope for tailgaters

I was disturbed at what I recently witnessed at a Buffalo Bills football game. The Bills hosted their cross-state rival, the New York Jets, in Orchard Park, N.Y. I had attended many Bills games years ago, but this was different. The young fans seemed hopeless, yet searching for hope.

My father had owned season tickets to the Buffalo Bills for about 20 years after the opening of Rich Stadium — now Ralph Wilson Stadium — in 1973, and I often attended games with him. My parents were accomplished tailgaters who welcomed friends to celebrate at their camper before, during, and after the game. The joyful pre-game atmosphere was accented by people tossing footballs, blaring music, red and blue everything (the Bills’ colors), and the tantalizing smell of grilled meats.

But it was different this time, many years later. Everywhere we looked, my 18-year-old son, my brother, and I saw drunken youth and the crude expressions of their woozy state of mind.

“I hope you get raped!” yelled a 20-something woman to another 20-something female who was wearing a Jets jersey. A few minutes later, the yeller entered the old motorhome next to us and pressed her nose against a window. She laughed when we noticed her odd porcine greeting.

Thirty yards away, a drunken, bare-chested, obese young man stood on the bed of a flatbed truck waving a giant Bills flag with his right hand while downing yet another beer with his left hand at 10:30 a.m. He was accompanied by a friend wearing a Bills jersey waving an equally large American flag. After snapping a photo of this freakish expression of parochial pride and patriotism, another young man turned around to display the back of his T-shirt, which proclaimed that I could kiss his backside if I was incapable of urinating in red and blue. Avoiding conflict, I signaled my appreciation for his enhanced renal functioning with a thumbs-up and a “Go Bills!” Satisfied, he returned to his pack of revelers.

After having a few bowls of our host’s special chili, we made our way to the stadium surrounded by throngs of young people in a drunken stupor. Entering the stadium, we saw several signs stating that “the Ralph” is a smoke-free stadium. We noted the irony of Erie County’s concern for its football patrons’ respiratory health while immersed in a human sea of insobriety.

We took our seats in the upper deck. Again, omnipresent drunkenness. I spoke with a happy young couple with glazed-over eyes throughout the game. Another pleasant young couple cheering for the Jets was comfortably numb for four quarters. A few sections away, an inebriated young man slid down the wall at the end of the upper deck and fell backward 40 feet to the lower level. His employer fired him the following day after seeing the viral replay. Later in the game, another disturbance broke out. A man with the bloodiest face I’ve ever seen emerged from the crowd escorted by Bills security.

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