INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Typically Buffalo Bills fans are used to tailgating in the cold and snow — even a winter storm can't keep them away — but it was the complete hot and steamy opposite Thursday afternoon in Inglewood.
Roughly 2,700 people packed the parking lot in front of the Hollywood Park Casino for a tailgate, Bills Mafia style. There was music, food, and plenty of cold adult beverages, like $31,000 of Labatt ordered specifically for this party.
Despite the heat and humidity, Buffalo fans stood for hours, exchanging "Go Bills!" chants as they passed by and sharing stories of how they became Bills fans.
Ross Polen from Billings, Montana, became a Bills fan on the playground when he was 9 years old. He and childhood friends were picking what football teams were going to be their favorite, and Polen wanted to root for the underdog — the Buffalo Bills. That fandom has stuck ever since.
"I can tell you exactly where I was at every moment when we lost the Super Bowl. All four of them. I can tell you exactly where I was, and now the theme, like you said, 'Just burn it all,' that’s where we are at. Just burn it all. This is brand new. This is a different team. This is it," Polen said.
Polen referenced a recent Buffalo Bills social media post featuring outside linebacker Von Miller saying, "Burn it all," as in forget about all of the negative headlines, past losses, and fan heartache.
But for some, the tragedy and triumph in terms of sports is what make Bills fans tough and enduring.
"This is our year. This is it. The hype, everything. Ugh, [I get] just goosebumps thinking about this year. I don’t want to burn it all because I feel like that’s some of what makes our character. Our past. That’s what makes us who we are so. We just have to add some chapters to it. Finish, close out this chapter and add to the book to get that ring," said Nick Jackson, a Bills fans who traveled to Los Angeles from Tonawanda.
Niki Violino traveled to L.A. with her four children, so they could see their very first Bills game. She agrees with Jackson — don't get completely hung up on the past but focus on the future.
"I think the past for us, we just got used to being Bills fans. It made us tougher, stronger, and it makes the success of what’s going on right now a whole lot sweeter," Violino said.