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Spreading Bills fever around the world; Distant clubs prove just how far fans will go for the team

First, you have to fly, or sail, to Dominica, a small island in the Caribbean, between Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Then find your way to Salisbury. Walk up the one road in town, past the playing field covered with goats munching on grass, then past the free-water pipe. A place called Ma Clem's Shop will be on your right.

Welcome to the Bills Backers chapter of Dominica, one of the most remote outposts where Bills fans can celebrate their Buffalo roots and/or their love for the team.

Unlike most the homes of most Bills Backers clubs, this isn't your typical bar. It's actually a rum shop that sells bread, soap, sugar, beer -- and rum. And the Buffalo Bills rarely are shown on Ma Clem's TV, which carries a weekly National Football League game.

The chapter is the brainchild of Erin Sozanski, a 26-year-old Tonawanda woman who's in the Peace Corps in Dominica. The gatherings don't exactly draw standing-room-only crowds on the island, where cricket is the popular sport. On her Bills Backers International application, Sozanski has listed the names of 10 avid Bills fans on the island.

"We've been working hard at our Buffalo Bills spirit," Sozanski wrote in her blog. "Thus far we're having a little trouble with 'the Bills make me want to shout,' which comes out more as 'da bills' and with a calypso beat But we're doing great with 'yous guys,' 'Squish the Fish,' and 'We're not scared of the Patriots, Tom Brady has long girly hair!' "

Sozanski's not the only Buffalonian trying to spread Bills fever and Buffalo culture across the globe. There also are Bills Backers chapters in Afghanistan, Alaska, Ontario, Mexico and Italy.

Add those to about 100 chapters in the continental United States, all of which can be found on a locator map on the Buffalo Bills website.

That's a lot of places offering chicken wings, Buffalo-area beers and the Bills "Shout!" song.

It's only logical that the Bills have such a large nationwide following, with clusters of chapters in New York City, Florida, the Carolinas, Washington, D.C., along the Eastern Seaboard, and in Arizona and California -- in other words, the places where transplanted Buffalonians go to find good jobs or retire.

One typical Bills Backers club can be found on the north side of Chicago, at Delilah's.

This is no huge sports bar with dozens of TVs. There are just five monitors, all of them showing the Bills game. This is a rock bar, with 500 brands of whisky, that former Town of Tonawanda resident Mike Miller opened in 1993.

More than 90 percent of those present on a typical Sunday wear Bills, Sabres or some type of Buffalo garb.

"We're starving for anything Buffalo," Miller said of the mostly native crowd. "We live in Chicago, but our pride is with Buffalo. When we get together Sunday, we eat chicken wings and drink Labatt Blue or Genesee Cream Ale."

Not every Bills Backers bar can offer those Buffalo artifacts.

Two weeks ago, the day the Bills trounced Kansas City 41-7, the Bills Backers bar in Dominica was open. The Bills game wasn't on, but Sozanski wore her Bills shirt and booed the other teams.

"We kicked off the season with the Dominican equivalent of chicken wings -- spicy chicken back stew," Sozanski wrote. "It was delicious."

Why did she establish the Bills Backers chapter?

"The Peace Corps' second goal is helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served," she replied in a brief email exchange. "What's better for that than sharing my love of the Buffalo Bills?"

Closer to home, in Chicago, Miller, a 44-year-old graduate of Kenmore West and the University at Buffalo, has created some of the trappings you might find at a game-day tailgating party outside Ralph Wilson Stadium:

When the Bills play the Miami Dolphins, whether at home or away, the folks at Delilah's take a stuffed papier-mache dolphin outside and burn it in effigy.

When the Bills need some kind of big spark or inspiration, someone fires up the battery-powered barbecue fork, which spits out the play-by-play highlight of the Frank Reich comeback win over Houston in January 1993: "Bills Win. Bills Win."

And during the "third-quarter stretch," just before the start of the fourth quarter, the crowd of about 100 Bills fanatics sings its signature song: "Take me out to Delilah's / Take me out to get plowed / Buy me a Blue or a shot or two / This is the home of the Buffalo crew."

Miller started out by distributing fliers at local Chicago sports bars, where Bills fans had to watch their heroes while surrounded by Jets or Patriots fans.

Slowly, the Bills-only crowd grew to include the usual cast of colorful regulars, including Buffalo Dave, Albany Mike and a guy named Raspy.

"Over the years, we've built a group of charismatic characters," Miller said. "On Sunday, it's not just going to watch a game. It's an event."

Visitors have included former Sabres player Brian Campbell and close relatives of former Bills coaches Marv Levy -- who has Chicago roots -- and Dick Jauron -- who used to coach the Bears.

Miller, armed with his master's degree in the study of modern poetry, adds his own artistic touch to the televised Bills games.

When the commercials come on, the audio goes off. Then the Bills fans listen to the "Talking Proud" song, old Rick Jeanneret Sabres highlights, Goo Goo Dolls songs, the "Shout!" song and even the "Eyewitness News" theme from the 1970s.

And when the Bills need a spark, or a change of fortunes, one fan yells out "New TV. New TV." That's the cue for everyone to turn and look at a different TV monitor.

It's all about community, about a shared purpose and common roots.

"The overall sense is, 'I'm from Buffalo, I'm surrounded by people from Buffalo, and I'm here to celebrate my Buffalo heritage," Miller said.

"I don't know anyone from Buffalo who's not proud to be from Buffalo."

email: gwarner@buffnews.com

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Alaska Bills Backers

Peanut Farm (new side)
Old Seward Highway Anchorage, AK

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The Bills Backers Bar of Dominica

Ma Clem's Shop (Upstairs)
Past the playing field and water pipe, Island of Dominica

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Bills Backers of Afghanistan

Please contact billsbackers@bills.nfl.net for more information

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ISAF Bills Backers

Please contact billsbackers @bills.nfl.net for more information

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Bills Backers of Melbourne

Crown Casino, Sports Bar
Melbourne, Australia

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Bills Backers of Italy

Margaret Duchamp Bar & Pub
Campo Santa Margherita, Venezia

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Bills Backers of Sydney

Star City Casino Sydney, Australia

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BillsBackers of New Zealand

The Bog Irish Bar & Restaurant, Manukau