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By. Max Liebel
The year was 2009. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was sitting with my father waiting to watch college football when a news story came over the television. The story was covering the Buffalo Bills’ recent inability to sell tickets and, as a result, some games would be blacked out. The reporter stated that this was partially a result of “fair-weather fans”, a term many Bills loyalists would become all-too-familiar with in the coming years. Like with any team having success, “fair-weather fans” are often found trying to hop back on the bandwagon.
In 2008, after a 5-1 start, fans around Western New York had bought into what the Bills were selling. Unfortunately, the team finished 2-8 over their last ten games and it was more of the same for Bills fans. For the third consecutive season, the team finished 7-9. This led many fans to decline renewing their season tickets, and overall ticket purchases dropped dramatically the following season.
Fast forward ten years and the parallels between this year’s Bills team and the 2008 squad are shockingly similar in many ways. As if staring into a two-way mirror, both teams started the season 4-1; field(ed) a talented defense; are/were led by seemingly promising young QBs. The differences, however, are striking. The 2019 Bills are quite simply more unlike that 2008 team than they are similar. This year’s team boasts a roster strong in character and rich in culture. With all due respect, Sean McDermott is not Dick Jauron. Brandon Beane is not Russ Brandon. Similarly to 2008, the 2019 Bills are a team convincing those same fair-weather fans once again buying in.
This is not a hollow 4-1 that the Bills somehow managed to stumble into. This 4-1 was built and there’s a tangible culture that Bills fans see week in and week out from Buffalo’s coaches and players. Whether it’s Josh Allen screaming “I [bleeping] love you” to Duke Williams in the tunnel after a nail-biting victory, or Sean McDermott opening a press conference giving his condolences to WGR’s Jeremy White and his wife after the loss of their children, the team has embraced a winning culture both on and off the field.
In 2008, the Bills were more likely to give up game-winning drives to opponents than to have any of their own. There’s no question at this point whether the current Bills’ defense is elite and carrying this football team—something you couldn’t say of the ‘08 Bills. Last, but maybe most importantly, Bills fans waited more than a season to use the tag of “Captain Comeback” alongside Josh Allen’s name. You may recall the same something no one hesitated to say about Trent Edwards.
There is a new air around One Bills Drive. The national media is slowly but surely beginning to acknowledge what’s being built in Orchard Park. However the real validation comes from seeing those same fans who left all those years ago return with a renewed hope. If we are to thank the drought for anything it is Bills Mafia—a community of fans ready to welcome you back as if you never left.
Originally published by SB Nation’s Buffalo Rumblings