An Open Love Letter to Ralph Wilson Stadium
Dear Rich…err, I mean Ralph Wilson Stadium,
I was born in 1991, less than five months after the first of four Buffalo Bills Super Bowl losses. While I didn’t witness “Wide Right,” I still cringe thinking about that moment. Maybe I was doomed to be a Bills curse (or is it loyal fan?) since I was in my mother’s womb. Seriously, I bring nothing but bad luck to this team -- but that’s another story for another day.
Ever since I can remember, my parents and uncle shared three Bills season tickets -- that is, until they were forced to choose between funding my college education and an always-losing football team. Apparently, education is more valuable than a team that breaks your heart every Sunday; who knew?
When I was younger, I only got to go to games that my uncle didn’t want to go to. My dad always chose my mom or one of his man-friends over me for the third seat. Why would he want a little girl tagging along? It’s not like I know enough about the rules of football to be the “son he never had.” I’ve only been to a handful of games in my 21 years of life, yet something about sitting in those red and blue seats is still magical to me.
When I was a freshman in high school, my Christmas present was going with two friends to the December home game against the Patriots. I remember it was the first time I was allowed to go to a game alone, and I thought it was the best (and most expensive) present I’d ever gotten from my dad. He REALLY must’ve loved me. (Actually, he and my uncle didn’t want to sit outside in a blizzard…).
We bundled up in as many layers as we could and walked the two miles to the stadium. It did blizzard that day, and I can’t remember why I had wanted to go watch a football team lose so badly in Buffalo’s notorious winter weather. We sat in our heated seats -- my family lived large with their season tickets -- and cheered on our team as best we could. And we were so close to winning that day; it's a game that my friends will forever call “the Christmas miracle.” The walk home seemed wetter and more frigid than the walk there.
I remember the little old lady who sat to the right of our seats; she used to punch my dad and curse at the top of her lungs if the team missed a huge play, but she hit him even harder when they got it right. I remember the time an opposing team’s fan was starting fights, and our entire section made him leave because he was being a bad sport.
I remember walking through the parking lot during a Dolphins game, and my parents shielded me the entire way to the gate; they were afraid I would get peed on. I remember watching my high school football team play under the lights my senior year, even if I remember it only because I painted my face red and thought the star quarterback was cute.
Every home game, I lose cell service in my neighborhood, and I can’t leave my house the whole morning before or for hours after because the traffic barricades my street, and all you see are sad faces (or the occasional happy faces) behind steering wheels. I still love having Sunday mall shoppers asking me if I know the score when I ring out their purchases.
I still bleed blue and red, despite having my heart broken week after week and season after season. I cannot give up on the boys I was born to root for. I may not be sitting in my beloved Rich Stadium (I will never be able to call it “The Ralph”) seats this year, but my heart is there.
I’ve grown up around this place, and some of my best memories stem from Sundays spent cheering on a losing team with my dad. Those gates hold many losses, but each season, they hold the hope of a new start. The hope of a winning team. The hope of bringing Buffalo its first Super Bowl glory.
I don’t know about you, but I’m already planning this year’s winning parade down Jim Kelly Boulevard. This is our year -- as long as I remember to wear my lucky t-shirt.