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My First Psychosis

The Buffalo Bills.

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Being born and raised in Western New York starts you out in life with an automatic psychosis. It’s not one that you earn, but one that you’re simply stamped with right out of the gate — one that occurs irrespective of but just may in fact enhance whatever other psychoses you add on to it later on in life. It’s a psychosis that some moron claimed to have been a cause of the the Oklahoma City Bombing. It’s a psychosis that has caused Tim Russet of Meet the Press, Wolf Blitzer, and even CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor to break script on air and proclaim two simple words that to us, admittedly pathetically, mean everything:

“Go Bills.”

Our psychosis stems from an irrational love for a football team, and while we all know that it’s stupid, it’s our stupid.

“Go Bills.” That’s how we say hello and goodbye. But “Fuck Tom Brady” is usually an acceptable stand in.



Psychosis is an abnormal condition of the mind that results in difficulties telling what is real and what is not. Symptoms may include false beliefs and seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear. Other symptoms may include incoherent speech and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation. There may also be sleep problems, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and difficulties carrying out daily activities.

I’m a Bills season ticket holder. I have two seats in the Rock Pile — a section of the stadium subsidized by the Labatt beer company so as to offer a particular breed of fan the cheapest tickets in the NFL. I guess I’m of that ‘particular breed.’

People often ask how that works: “How can you be traveling the world and going to Bills games too?”

My response: timing. I make sure I come back and visit my family at least once per year … and not coincidentally I try to come in autumn. However, I know this doesn’t really make any sense. Psychoses tend not to be rationale.

These games are a reunion of sorts. I join up with old friends from pretty much all phases of my child and young adulthood. F’ck, I see people that I can remember peeing their pants in kindergarten, I see dudes who I out-competed for their girl friends, I see guys who once beat me up. We’re all doing the same thing now: drinking Labatt clad in red, white, and blue, filled up with the delusion that we’re going to win.

Our little secret is that Ws and Ls have little to do with this.

Away games

While most football fans feel the need to go to at least one home game per year, for Bills fans this is a gimme: you get no prizes for doing what everybody is doing. No, to get cred as a Bills fan you need to go to all the home games and at least one away game per year.
The ‘one away game per year’ has become a thing. When the season schedule comes out we look at the dates and scan the cities, picking one that we will go to. Any game within a ten hour drive of Western New York is going to be packed with Bills fans.

There is also a cultural element to this. When the waves of factory shutdowns hit Western New York many people became economic refugees and moved away. Many went to North Carolina; many went to the Washington DC area; many went to Florida. They brought the Bills with them, and not finding proper places to watch the games locally they opened up their own Buffalo style bars, which would serve as the epicenter of the migrant community. So when you go to an out of town game there is a good chance that there will be this local community of WNY transplants who run the show and do what they can to make you feel … at home.

What is a Buffalo style bar? Wide open, long tables, super communal. Everything about Buffalo style bars is set up to facilitate free flowing conversation. Groups get mixed up in these places, the lines between your group and that of others blurs fast. The people that you leave with will probably not be the people you came with. They are a social free for all.

As a kid, I thought that all bars were like they are in WNY, that what I saw was some kind of standard — that how we did it was how everybody did it. Only when I left was I able to see the contours of my culture.

I missed all of last season. I was in Asia, and even a heavy dose of the psychosis was not enough to justify the travel expenses going back and forth or significantly re-routeing “the path.” This year, my wife is working on something in WNY … so we’re here for the first part of the season.

So far, I have two away games planned. Hannah and I drove to Baltimore last weekend and next weekend I’m flying out to Minnesota. There’s games in Green Bay and Houston that I should be in the USA during … but traveling to those is going to require someone to call my bluff when I invariably get drunk and say something dumb like, “Dude, we should go to Green Bay! All we have to do is get in a car and drive straight west …”

Yeah. That’s how I end up traveling to half the places I end up going.


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Filed under: Buffalo Bills, Culture and Society, New York, Sports

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

2 comments… add one

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  • Rob September 15, 2018, 10:00 pm

    That last picture….Wow!

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    • Wade Shepard September 20, 2018, 1:54 am

      Haha yeah. That’s how much we love this team. I didn’t take that one though haha.

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