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Meet The Mafia: "Pancho Billa"

"Meet The Mafia" wraps up with a trip to Dallas, the home of the man behind the mask who many would call the heart of the Bills Mafia.

On September 14th, 2018, at 9:00am, Ezra Castro boarded an airplane.

The El Paso native and 32-year Bills' fan headed to Buffalo on a trip that represents plenty of firsts.

It's the first time he'll don his traditional luchador mask, his sombrero, and his "Viva Los Bills" armbands since he announced the Bills' 3rd-round pick, Harrison Phillips.

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It's the first time "Pancho Billa" will appear in Buffalo since the team's playoff streak ended.

It's the first time he'll tailgate with his fellow friends and fans since he began his newest round of chemotherapy.

But in his mind, there's no chance it's the last time he does any of those things.

Pancho Billa will ride again.

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Back when Castro was 7-years old, his dad-- a Cowboys fan-- allowed Castro a choice of who he wanted to adopt as his NFL team.

"He pretty much gave me my own rights to choose a team," said Castro, sitting in the Hideaway Bar (more on that in just a minute). "I really wanted a team that had a Mexican color theme, but there's not one, and I went with the red white and blue, charging Buffalo logo over the Patriots."

The son of a Cowboys fan pledges his allegiance to the Bills over the Patriots; sounds like every Buffalo fan's dream, right?

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Castro's dream would be to have more time and energy to get to Bills games in 2018.

That dream is complicated by stage 4 metastatic adenocarcinoma of the biliary pancreatic-- Castro's cancer which was diagnosed last fall-- which would eventually metastasize throughout his liver, lungs, spine and lymph nodes.

But, as one dream seemed to dim, another brightened.

Just outside of Dallas, Castro found a Bills fan's home away from home at The Hideaway, one of two Dallas-Fort Worth Bills' Backer Bars.

They serve wings, Beef on Weck and Labatt Blue.

And most importantly, Castro said, they kick out Dallas Cowboys fans who come wandering inside.

"Cowboy fans come in here at kickoff time and they see this place just packed with red white and blue," Castro laughed. "They walk in say like, 'What the heck?'"

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There, he often tells the story about the day he stood on stage, hoarse-voiced but full of fire with his fellow Billa Mafia fans, as the Bills used his voice to choose Phillips.

"Fred Jackson tells me 'Hey, we're going to let you read the card,' and that's when Pancho's Pick really hit me, like, 'Don't botch the name!'"

Castro can laugh about it now; he and Phillips are tied together forever, and have kept in contact ever since.

And just like on that day, Castro will keep Pancho Billa's mask on for as long as he can.

Part of the reason? Tradition.

He wouldn't even take it off for his interview with me.

(And I flew all the way out to Dallas to meet him, for crying out loud...)

"That's totally against Mexican luchador rules," Castro smiled. "It never comes off."

The second reason that mask will stay on? Hope.

The love and support Castro has received from the Bills Mafia, he said, has transformed the mask into something that motivates him every day, every ache, every pain.

"I'm not ready to retire as Pancho, I'm not ready to give up on life, I'm not ready to give up on the medicine, I'm not ready to give up on the doctors," Pancho said, emotionally, acknowledging that in lucha libre tradition, taking your mask off is a sign of submission. "I'm just going to keep on fighting."

And once his plane lands in Buffalo, Castro will look down at his phone, flooded every day with messages from fans, friends, and family.

He even gets an update video every once in a while from the pee-wee football team down in Mexico that sings songs to a cardboard poster of him.

"The Buffalos de San Luis Potosi is their name," Castro said. "It warms my heart that these kids are winning championships now, and they're wearing the Bills logos. And they're like "Arriva Pancho Billa! Viva Pancho Billa! It's like I've become their official mascot or something."

In a way, maybe he's become all of our official mascot, so long as he refuses to take off the mask, the sombrero, the pancho itself.

So long as he refuses to stop being Pancho Billa.

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