Many NFL teams have fanbases that become famous in their own regard and often transcend the squad they actually root for in terms of notoriety.
The Steelers obviously have Steeler Nation, a proud fanbase that likes to Twirl Terrible Towels at Heinz Field and talk smack on Twitter. The Browns have the Dawg Pound, a raucous fanbase that enjoys wearing dog masks and barking like them while attending games at FirstEnergy Stadium—and annoying Steelers fans on Twitter. The Seahawks have their 12th Man, a fanbase that’s really loud at Lumen Field—and also on Twitter when complaining about Super Bowl XL. The Packers have the Cheeseheads. I’m sure even the Jaguars have a fanbase. What is it known for other than being very quiet during Jaguars games at TIAA Bank Field—and very noisy on Twitter when talking about the previous day’s Florida Gator’s matchup? I think that’s it, actually.
The Bills have a famous fanbase, one that’s grown in notoriety and popularity over the past few seasons, thanks to Buffalo’s ascension from NFL doormat to Super Bowl contender.
I’m talking about the Bills Mafia, a group of fans whose frontline soldiers love to do things like crash through flaming tables while tailgating before games.
What does this prove, other than alcohol is one helluva drug?
I think that’s it. But, also, it shows that this Bills Mafia really believes in its team for the first time in a while and is super-excited to show it.
Perhaps it’s also meant to intimidate.
I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty darn intimidated if I was an opposing fan watching these yahoos do their thing.
Intimidating the fans in opposing jerseys might be one thing, but it’s a totally different story to intimidate the opposing players when they visit Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.
The Bills opened their 2021 season by hosting the underdog Steelers on Sunday, and the Mafia—including thousands upon thousands who were in attendance for the Week 1 showdown—made the visitors an offer they thought they couldn’t refuse: “I invited you to my home for one reason: to finally show my family the proper respect, capisce?”
You see, it wasn’t supposed to be an actual showdown between the Mafia and Steeler Nation. It was expected to be a coronation for the Bills and the next step toward them becoming untouchable “Made Men” and Super Bowl champions.
But the Steelers went ahead and refused the Mafia’s offer to lie down and play dead for 60 minutes. Instead, Pittsburgh slapped the Bills in the face right in front of their mothers, fathers, sisters, great aunts, cousins, everyone wearing the Buffalo horns, etc.
It was a show of utter disrespect by the Steelers and a reminder that, to quote Frank Costello in The Departed, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” This was in response to Billy Costigan saying, “Yeah, I could probably be you, but I don’t wanna be you, Frank.”
Do the Bills actually want to be Super Bowl contenders? Do they want to wear that heavy crown? The Steelers have worn that crown. Heck, they’re still trying to wear it, even though many have been trying to encourage them to alter their appearance and go into witness protection.
It’s not easy being a Super Bowl contender. It’s not easy having those expectations. It’s not fun to lay an egg in Week 1 in front of a bunch of people who don’t mind throwing themselves through flaming tables for the sake of YouTube.
The Bills Mafia found out one thing this past Sunday afternoon: The rest of the NFL—including the Pittsburgh Steelers—isn’t ready to bow down and kiss your ring just yet.