From as far as Japan and Spain, ‘Bills Mafia’ shows up big in Detroit after massive snow in Buffalo

DETROIT, MI – The Buffalo Bills may have a history of Super Bowl heartbreak, but one thing is certain.

Their fans know how to tailgate, and they don’t care how far they have to go to do it.

Bills fans showed up at Ford Field in a big way after the Bills game Nov. 20 game against the Cleveland Browns was moved to Detroit due to a massive snowstorm that dumped up to 6 feet of snow in metro Buffalo.

Frank Portasek had traveled from Spain to New York to visit his family and planned to watch the Bills home game against the Browns. After the game was moved, he traveled 10 hours from New York to Detroit in his car.

“I’ve been a Bills fan since I was 10 years old,” Portasek said, who will head back to Spain on Nov. 28. “I have visited 35 states in the U.S. I love coming here.”

The Bills fanbase, nicknamed “Bills Mafia,” packed the area around Ford Field around 7:30 a.m. and showed why it is considered the most loyal and passionate fanbase in America.

Fred Lahie drove from Quebec on Friday, slept overnight in Ontario and attended the Michigan-Illinois football game on Saturday for the 10-hour trip.

He was originally planning to travel to Buffalo where he attends a Bills game once or twice a year.

“It was either cancel our weekend plans, or come here,” Lahie said. “And I saw there was a Michigan game and we decided to go to that too. I became a Bills fan 12 years ago when I attended my first game.”

Tim Glynn has family in Rochester and flew from Tokyo, Japan with his wife to attend today’s game along with the Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Lions.

He flies in from Japan to attend a Bills game once a year.

“We’re going to have an even bigger crew for Thursday because my brother is flying in from Germany,” he said. “And wife flies in from Japan on Tuesday.”

Blair Genther traveled from the Syracuse area with his best friend Kellen Murphy.

“This is a home game for us and we couldn’t allow the Browns fans to take over,” Genther said. “We bought the tickets in the last minute. Bills Tailgating is the best because the stadium is right by people’s homes and we’re sitting on people’s lawns. And part of being a Bills fan is understanding you’re going to have your heart broken. But you still accept it, come out and support.”

It was a noticeable difference that Bills fans outnumbered the Browns, but Jackson Wonders was among the Browns fans in attendance.

“I try to make two games a year,” he said, traveling from Stryker, OH. “It’s been a disappointing season, but maybe one day I’ll see a Super Bowl.”

Lifelong Bills fan Scott Heber lives in Michigan with his three children, and was born and raised in Buffalo.

“I’ll be back here for Thanksgiving,” Heber said. “I love the Bills. I saw four Super Bowl losses. I kind of got away from them, but my kids got me back into loving them.”

Riley Bealer has attended every home Bills game since 2018. He traveled from Buffalo with his friends and family for roughly a six-hour drive.

While Bealer was not smashing through tables, or participating in ketchup dousing like some other famous Bills tailgaters, he spent the entire morning shirtless in frigid temperatures.

And made a prediction.

“We’re going to the Super Bowl,” he said.


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