Thursday’s loss to the New York Jets made for a painful home opener for Buffalo Bills fans.
But some endured worse.
One fan who leaped from the top of a Jeep crashed bottom first through a table.
A girl who was thrown across another table fell on her head. She rolled over laughing.
So begins the start of Bills tailgating season and the internet stardom that comes with it.
“I know we lost but man i can’t even remember the last time i had fun like that!” one fan commented on Facebook. “Nothing compares to tailgating in Bills Country!!”
The excessive tailgating activity by some appears to have contributed to a heavy workload for police.
“It started at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon and it was non-stop,” Orchard Park Assistant Police Chief E. Joseph Wehrfritz said Friday. “We’re still going.”
Orchard Park police handle calls outside of New Era Field.
“Much more active in terms of the fights, in terms of the traffic-related issues,” Wehrfritz said. “It seems like we had a lot more calls – fights, disturbances before the game. Normally, when the game starts, things calm right down, but we were still getting calls about fights and intoxicated people.”
Maybe it was the full moon.
“I just realized there is a full moon for this #Bills home opener,” Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said in a tweet before the game. “Oh boy, good luck to @ECSONY1 on what might be a busy night. Go Bills!”
He was right. The night turned busy.
Traffic, in particular, was a headache as Bills fans tried to get to the nationally televised game in Orchard Park in time. A vehicle fire on the Skyway and an accident on the Thruway, near Walden Avenue, slowed them down.
It also seemed to take longer than usual to get traffic flowing after the game, Wehrfritz said.
Orchard Park police issued 34 open-container violations, charged two people for selling goods without a permit and towed eight vehicles for illegal parking.
The department charged two people with drunken driving, although it is not clear whether the two were at the game. In one of those cases, the driver crashed into a utility pole, knocking out power for a widespread area of the village and parts of the town, Wehrfritz said.
The power outage closed South Davis Elementary School in the village and forced the district to send Orchard Park Middle School students home early.
Anthony Peters, 21, of Countryside Lane in Orchard Park, was accused of driving his pickup into a utility pole on Big Tree and California roads shortly before 3 a.m., then left the scene of the crash, Wehrfritz said. Orchard Park police pulled Peters over about 10 minutes later and charged him with driving while intoxicated.
The utility pole was a main transmission line requiring New York State Electric & Gas to replace the pole, Wehrfritz said. Crews were still working Friday afternoon to restore power, he said.
Some social media posts suggested tailgating for some started as early as 1 p.m., a full seven and a half hours before kick off.
At least one tailgate lot owner tried to curtail any drunken debauchery this year, posting a sign banning funnels, dizzy bats or table slamming – all things featured in videos that went viral last year, fueling Bills fans’ notoriety.
A sign warned that any violators would be ejected.
Videos posted online, however, suggest not everyone paid attention to the warning.
The website dailysnark.com featured highlights in an article titled “Bills fans are back and even drunker than last season.”
Bills tailgating has been a tradition in Western New York, but thanks to iPhone cameras and social media, some of the beer-fueled stunts have garnered attention across the country.
It’s been 16 years since the Bills made the playoffs. Last year fans earned recognition as the drunkest in the NFL.
The title followed a study conducted by Breathalyzer company BACtrack, which collected data from fans using an app on their phones that detects blood alcohol levels.
The study found that Bills fans had an average blood-alcohol level of .076 through the first seven weeks of the season, the highest among all NFL fanbases.
The horseplay that results from the heavy consumption is often well-documented on the internet, with videos of fans jumping off vehicles and smashing through tables – including one who caught fire – going viral.
Perhaps there is a connection between Bills’ fans tailgating title win and the team’s lack of on-field success.
“Now I understand why people tailgate 4 hrs before a bills game, this way they have an excuse for not remembering it,” one fan remarked on Facebook after Thursday’s game.
Meanwhile, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the game-day security in and around New Era Field, made three arrests inside the stadium Thursday night. That figure is about average, said Scott Zylka, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
“My understanding is there were a number of ejections, but it didn’t seem too out of hand,” Zylka said.
“Obviously, there was some heightened excitement and emotion, but I don’t think it really carried over to unusually unruly behavior at a Bills game,” he added. “If this wasn’t a home opener, if this wasn’t an AFC rival, it may have been out of the norm, but we’ve seen this before.”
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