I try, as a sports journalist, to keep a certain sense of professionalism in my work. I maintain a specific style and keep certain things out of what I write. I don’t use possessive first-person terms such as “I/Me/My” and most of what I write sits within a specific genre of reading. This article, I’m sure you’re aware by now, doesn’t match. It’s a bit of my own history I never intend to forget and, since everything you put on the internet lasts forever, where better to keep it?
My father has been a Buffalo Bills fan since the ’80s, going so far as to travel from London, England, to L.A. in 1993 to witness the massacre that was SuperBowl XXVII. He supported them through the bad days pre-Kelly, the Superbowl Bills, and every day since. When we moved to Canada in 2009, we found ourselves 3000 miles closer to our beloved Bills. Obviously a huge fan of that golden era, we were thrilled when a friend of ours referred us to a Meet’N’Greet hosted by NFL Canada in Toronto. The guest scheduled to appear was former Bills RB and Hall-Of-Famer, one-time league MVP Thurman Thomas.
Needless to say, I knew my Dad had to meet him. I called around, went online, everything I could to get a reservation, but it was a no-go. So what’s a Bills fan to do? Simple. Arrive 7 hours early. It was rainy, cold, and still dark when I arrived, but it was worth it. After a few hours by myself, the staff appeared and began to clear up the venue. A few hours later and some more fans arrived, including but not limited to, my Dad. When the place finally opened up, we were sat in a corner booth and given a few piles of loot. Shortly after, the woman running the event came over and introduced herself, and asked us for our story. We’ve been on a mission to see our squad play every other team in the league since 2011, which is a tall order for 2 British immigrants living in Canada, but the Toronto series of Bills games gave us a head start. We took that start and ran with it, traveling as much as we could to home and away games. We’re over halfway there now, but there’s a long way to go; It’s more about having fun with each other, making memories, and supporting our team than anything else. She asked us to send her our story (alongside many pictures) so she could share it with her colleagues.
The story could have ended there, watching the Bills lose (rather comfortably) alongside Thurman Thomas, but it didn’t. A few months later, in early January 2019, our new friend got back to us and said that her colleagues loved the story and wanted to meet us. She invited us down to the NFL Canada offices for a tour, and we were all too happy to accept. Dressed in our finest Bills gear (literally head-to-toe), we were led around to meet everyone who makes the NFL work in Canada. It was great, truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As we finished our tour, we were sat in their board room, telling the tale of an ill-fated trip to Orchard Park that began with a scramble for a lost passport and ended with buses missed, a car rented, an impromptu drive south, and a blowout loss in poor weather. Suddenly a screen flickered on in the corner and we were face to face with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Assuming it was a video, we watched intently. Turns out it was a video call, and we were just staring at the commish. He wanted to thank us for being such devoted fans to such a downtrodden franchise (whilst he didn’t explicitly say that it was implied) and mentioned our trips to see the Bills play in both regular and preseason games. He then asked us if we had the time to fit in a trip to that year’s Super Bowl; We froze up for a moment, before answering with an emphatic yes. Airfare, Hotel rooms, and tickets to the game and events around the city of Atlanta were all included.
Needless to say, we had the time of our lives. From visiting the SuperBowl Experience, attending the NFL Honours, and making new friends all along the way, to SuperBowl 53 itself. The city of Atlanta had a lot to offer and we took it in. We’re never going to forget this experience, but just in case I need reminding, I got a lot of it on video. If you’ve read this far, thanks for sharing in my journey. It was an incredible ride, and only made me a bigger fan than ever, as well as giving me some wonderful memories with my Dad, which is what it was always about.