Recently, I traveled from Knoxville to Buffalo, NY to see some friends and get out of the south for a little bit. And while they don’t care for college football much, their fandom and support for the teams they have is absolutely wild.
I’m not sure how much you know about Buffalo teams, but they’re all owned by the Pegula family. The Bills, the Sabres, their AHL affiliate, a professional women’s hockey team, and a professional lacrosse team (plus all kinds of facilities and restaurants, yada-yada-yada), all of it. So imagine the Haslam’s and how Jimmy was funding lots of things at UT, then expand that by a lot, give real ownership, and add in a good dash of success. It’s nuts, but they do a lot to keep their city involved and connected.
Lucky for me, I was there during week 17 of the NFL regular season, and got to watch the Bills take on the Dolphins in a heated rivalry matchup that ultimately meant nothing except “how good of a draft pick can the Bills end up with?” since they had five whole wins during the season (should have been four. looking at you Titans….). Everybody wanted them to tank until Kiko Alonso landed a dirty hit on their lord and savior Josh Allen. After that, all anyone wanted was a lights out game against Miami, and that’s what they got. These people stay fired up about Buffalo football no matter how good or bad they do. Those wild table-smashing tailgates you see videos of every Sunday? That’s just normal to them.
Even luckier for me, I was able to go to a Sabres game and find out how people do Eastern Conference hockey. They played a Thursday night game in front of a sold out crowd (including Josh Allen) to watch them play the Panthers, the real red-headed step child of the NHL. Now, the arena isn’t near as rowdy as Nashville. They don’t have fifteen different chants like we do. They don’t heckle goalies like we do. But the people love it. The arena was packed the whole game, the crowd was into it the whole game, it was truly a great experience.
No matter where you go in the city though, all you see is support for their teams. Pet stores have jerseys for dog, every bar has a Bills flag flying, and everybody HATES the Patriots.
Knoxville is a great sports town, and has all kinds of roots spread out in professional sports, but nothing beats the passion and love we have here for the Vols. We the fans think we run things even when we don’t. Right now we have a red hot basketball squad, and hope in a new season of football to not be at the bottom of the SEC.
So from one solid sports town to another:
Thank you Buffalo, you were great, but it’s warmer here, and we didn’t have to deal with Nathan Peterman as long as you did.