LA Chargers News

Our man in Buffalo: A road trip experience

By Dennis J. Hassell
ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 16: Buffalo Bills fans cheer during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at New Era Field on September 16, 2018 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 16: Buffalo Bills fans cheer during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at New Era Field on September 16, 2018 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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ORCHARD PARK, NY – SEPT. 16: Derwin James #33  sacks Josh Allen #17   (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY – SEPT. 16: Derwin James #33  sacks Josh Allen #17   (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Much has been said about how Los Angeles Chargers home games were overrun with visiting team fans.  I thought I would try to turn the tables at the Bolts’ first road game of 2018.

There would only be a handful of us Charger fans amongst 60,000 Buffalo Bills fans.  But perhaps by the fourth quarter, the odds would even out.

Not only did I cover the Bolts vs Bills in Buffalo, New York on Sunday Sept. 16,  I DROVE there.  Phil was surprised to see me:

Impressed?  Don’t be.  I  only drove from Toronto, Canada, about 2.5 hours by car.  That’s including getting frisked at the border crossing for bootleg maple syrup.

The Road Game Experience

I met up with Jake Tyler, an old friend who  first introduced me to the Chargers in 1978, when we both toured out of So Cal.  He taught me how to throw and catch with a little technique, because Jake had previously been a quarterback at Houghton College NY.  Back in the day,  as a bow-legged, pot-bellied, preacher’s kid,  Jake could throw a football about 60 yards.

Fast forward decades later, driving to New Era Field last Sunday,  Jake explained that sitting high up can be a literal advantage — as a vantage point.  You can see the big picture, as a high perspective reveals plays developing, and holes opening up, in a way that lower seats and TV closeups often do not.

An uniformed Boy Scout flagged our car (in semaphore?) towards some friendly folks’ improvised parking lot in their back yard ($15, did you hear that StubHub?).  We walked half a mile through a sprawling tailgate experience, and then up Mount Kilimanjaro, at least that’s what it felt like, hiking up to the topmost deck.

Despite being in upstate New York in mid-September, heat was an issue, for the fans, if not the players.  84 degrees plus humidity. Fans carried their own mini-misters:  dollar-store spray bottles filled with water  — is that a thing at StubHub?

Bills fans are noted for being among the rowdiest in the NFL, but in our experience we found people to be friendly, with good-natured ribbing:

Me:  “Can you please tell us which gate takes us to section 312?”

Bills Fan: “Walk towards Lake Erie until your Chargers hat floats”

We resisted the pizza logs, pretzels, buffalo wings and overpriced beer at the stadium;  but after the game went to an authentic Irish Pub — that served pizza logs, pretzels, buffalo wings and overpriced beer.

We had an occasional breeze up  there in Section 312 of the Himalayas, but it was still hotter than El Centro in July.  I wore long pants but I wished I had worn my birthday suit.  I’ll give you a moment to erase that mental picture.

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