Brawls, Balls, and Beer: A Year at The Ralph with Bills Mafia
We spent the season at Ralph Wilson Stadium to highlight the antics that go down on any given Sunday in Buffalo. There was no shortage.
Photo by Kirsten Schollig/Elite Sports Tours
This story originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.
(Editor's note: This is the last installment of Dispatches from The Ralph, our series that highlighted some of the most wild stories from Ralph Wilson Stadium this season. You can read all previous entries here.)
To be completely forthcoming: I absolutely love the smell of Ronsonol lighter fluid in the morning. I would eat it with my cereal if it weren't an acutely lethal poison. So it was a nice treat for the senses as I stepped off of the bus one last time this season to be greeted by the cold, snow-filled air, thick with the smell of everyone's favourite arson accelerant.
To the untrained nose, an atmosphere choked with the smell of fire-starter usually means that the tailgate barbecues are in full flame. To a nose educated in the smells specific to a Ralph Wilson tailgate, however, slight notes of nylon and polyester were also detectable. That's because a member of the Bills Mafia was engulfed in flames after giving a fiery folding table the ol' what for. Twice.
If for some reason you have been living under a rock, below is the video that we covered Sunday of Orchard Park's very own Saigon Monk. Although I'm not sure what he was protesting. Maybe the notion of having employment on Monday morning?
As the oft-magnificent Nelly Furtado once opined: "All Good Things Come to an End."
This unfortunately holds true to America's longest-running happy hour, the tailgate at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The New York Jets were in town, bringing with them an army of smug shitheads from the lower half of the state. They were an unruly bunch. That is, until the snowballs started flying.
Mother Nature, ever the great equalizer and noted Bills fan, provided The Bills Mafia faithful with ample amounts of ammunition to sling at those wearing Jets gear. Snowballs were cutting through the sky like TIE fighters in search of rebel forces.
In the bus parking lot (shocker) at the end of the game, some less-than-gracious Jets fans began to charge around the grounds, knocking over barbecues, taunting the less fortunate and generally engaging in an obnoxious level of troublemaking. Predictably, these actions were met with swift repercussions in the form of full, frozen beer cans being launched at the offending parties by Bills fans who had frankly seen enough.
A donnybrook of Billsian proportions broke out attracting the attention of the overworked constabulary. A fitting end to another glorious season in the trenches for John Law, Bills Mafia, and all those who braved The Ralph this season.
Aside from the man who gloriously and unselfishly lit himself ablaze for all to enjoy, the shenanigans at the tailgate mostly consisted of snow-related activities. As mentioned, the snowballs were plenty and anatomically correct, and extremely well-endowed snowmen dotted the landscape. Also, the 30-foot snow mountain in the backlot—dubbed Mount Flushmore—claimed many victims. Protip: If you are going to attempt to climb a mountain made of snow and garbage, it is always best to not have one hand holding a Bud Heavy. It's just easier that way.
One of my favourite scenes from all season (and there were plenty which we will get to) took place in the men's bathroom on the lower concourse. It was during gameplay so it wasn't very busy. Two extremely inebriated lady Bills Mafians burst in through the lineup and stood there bewildered.
Lady 1: I told you this was the man's room.
Lady 2: I don't give a fuck, I gotta piss so bad.
Random dad with his kid: This is the men's room, ladies.
Lady 2: She just said that. We JUST fucking said that.
Shitter stall door opens, and out comes a man bringing with him a stench one would expect to find in a coroner's office. Lady 1 goes for the empty stall. Lady 2 pushes her to the side.
Lady 2: "Fuck you, Tanya, I gotta piss more."
Lady 2 did exclaim that the seat was still warm, so she was somewhat placated, even though it "smells like ass in here."
I peed and got out before things could get weirder.
Moving forward, let it be known to all that I enjoyed the ever-loving shit out of this gig. Bringing you, the good people of wherever it is you live, the buffoonery, brawling, imbibing, public fornication, roguishness, and general lunacy that tailgating at The Ralph had to offer.
Let's take a look back, shall we, at some of the gems that the good people of Western New York, Southern Ontario, and Northern Pennsylvania—collectively known as The Bills Mafia—brought forth to Orchard Park this season.
This was the game that brought us the infamous country dump in the lower bowl. A conversation between a security guard and police officer indicated that somebody just dropped trou and let 'er rip in the stands.
The interaction between the cop and clearly overworked security guard (think Michael Douglas in traffic at the beginning of Falling Down) went like this:
Cop: So it's just a big mess down there? [gesturing to the lower bowl seats] A guy puke or what?
Security: Naw, he took a shit.
Cop: In the stands? Fuck off!
Security: Guy shit in the seats. In front of everyone.
Cop: Jesus Christ. Just an old-fashioned country dump in the stands...
Security: You got it.
In hindsight, this was probably a valid prognosticator of how the season would go, both on the field and in the lots. Taking a steamer in row 12 really raised the bar early, but Bills Mafia was just getting started.
This game also featured an old man knocking the snot out of a younger dude for stealing his post-game sandwiches. You just don't pull that malarkey, young buck, but your dentist thanks you.
This one was a particularly rowdy one and featured yours truly almost unholstering ol' thunder and lightning upon some Tonawanda Tough Guy. As it was the ALDS at the time, Blue Jays jerseys at this game almost outnumbered the Bills jerseys. This, of course, aggravated many Bills fans, and most took to our ears and face to air their frustration. I let sobriety and common sense get the best of me, so I'd be able to continue to cross the border for work, mostly. Nothing will set you straight like sitting in a Buffalo lock-up wearing Toronto sports gear. Or so I've been told.
This was the tailgate that really started to introduce the table tossing. We had heard whispers and seen some videos, but this game really fired it up. Tables were smashed, spinal columns were shifted, and crowd-pleasing anecdotes were created. Oh, and there were weirdos drinking beer out of the lint-clogged belly of a large man. It was absolutely horrid and I wanted to Ralph (pun intended). Another buddy also took an unopened can of Budweiser to the teeth in an ill-advised game of chance. That was also spectacularly gross. There were some beer showers and people Goldberg-spearing shopping carts full of empties. This tailgate checked off most of the boxes.
Figure-four leglock competition over a beer? Check.
Homeless Chuck Liddell peeing on the feet of Erie County police officers? Check.
Pissing next to two girls who decided to pee with the boys in the men's washroom? Big check.
Full cans of Tuna being flung at the heads of Dolphins fans? Check.
Thirty-person brawl at the end of the game to celebrate a Bills victory? Check.
Luchadores! Remember? Actual Luchadores rasslin' on the gravel in front of many unsurprised onlookers. That's a new item going on the Ralph Wilson Tailgate Scavenger Hunt List for next season. Along with dignity. That one will be impossible to find. This game also featured a guy getting his drinking boot thrown into the shit-abyss, and ended off with the largest brawl I've seen in all my years, complete with a police helicopter. Oh, and of course the man and lady hitching a ride to pound town on the side of someone's Chevy. There was an abundance of NSFW activities that took place this game.
There was, of course, thousands of crimes against humanity and party fouls that went unreported and unseen. It would be physically impossible to report on all the duplicitous behaviour that happens at The Ralph every Sunday without careening into madness. But we here at VICE Sports have done our absolute best, and hope you enjoyed the content and stories we brought.
Lost in all this merrymaking and hullabaloo, however, is the fact that I now have PTSD, and look like a 60-year old Florida woman who has been out in the sun too long. Science has requested to study my insides when I pass, which at this rate will be another season or two, max. But this is a cross I chose to bear, and bear it I shall.
It is with great sorrow, yet unwavering satisfaction, that I sign off for the season. We will see you again in September—provided God hasn't seen fit to smite that part of New York State by then.
All photos by Kirsten Schollig/Elite Sports Tours