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Bills' victory over Patriots unites expats with Buffalo; 'Fandelirium' spreads among former WNYers

In Ralph Wilson Stadium late Sunday afternoon, the scene perhaps could be described best as "fandelirium." Thousands of Bills fans just wouldn't leave. They wouldn't let go of the thrill of beating Tom Brady and his New England Patriots.

In much smaller venues across the nation, whether former Buffalonians watched from the comforts of home, listened online or gathered at a Bills bar, the ecstasy was just as intense.

And for current Western New Yorkers who have reached middle age, part of the thrill of the Bills' 3-0 start centers on the phone calls, emails or text messages from their grown-up children, whether they live in New York City or Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Monday was a day to share game-day stories, a day for Buffalonians, past and present, to reconnect via their football team after Sunday's 34-31 win over the Patriots.

The Bills bandwagon is crowded these days, and not just with people who still call Western New York their home. Many of the former Buffalonians say they've been on that bandwagon for years, even if it got a little lonely there.

Like Michael Jauch, 53, the retired police chief from Hubbard, Texas, a 1976 graduate of Amherst High School.

Jauch doesn't need a sports bar. Sunday, he was host to about 15 friends, mostly former Western New Yorkers, who watched the game on DirectTV in his home and munched on Bocce Club pizza and wings sent via FedEx.

Jauch's living room became a microcosm of Ralph Wilson Stadium after Rian Lindell's 28-yard field goal ended the Bills' 15-game losing streak against the Patriots.

"Everybody jumped up, screaming, high-fiving each other," Jauch said. "We had guys jumping in the hot tub. It was just euphoria."

But it's not just about enjoying a win by your favorite football team. For transplanted Buffalonians, it's much more.

"It gives you a piece of home," Jauch said. "A lot of us left for economic reasons, for jobs or whatever. It unites us. It brings back all of the memories from growing up. The Bills and the Sabres are my link to home."

Slightly more than half the comments attached to columns and articles on The Buffalo News website Monday came from outside the area, including Boone, N.C.; Huntington Beach, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; Boynton Beach, Fla.; Round Rock, Texas, and Fort Mill, S.C.

The Bills are a way for these transplants to reach back to their Buffalo roots, to reconnect to the place they will always call home.

Nicholas Zurek, 34, who grew up in Derby and graduated from Lake Shore High School and Buffalo State College, works as an online admissions counselor in San Diego.

Sunday, he watched the game at the Pacific Beach Ale House, where he has made new friends from Grand Island, South Buffalo, Depew and Amherst.

Zurek hasn't been back home since he moved to California in 2009. For him and others, it's clear that the Sunday games can cure any disconnect they feel with their hometown.

"You meet people from back in Buffalo, and you start talking about your favorite pizza place, or where you're from in Buffalo, or where you went to high school," he said. "You talk about the Sabres and Bills and missing the snow. You start thinking about things from back home that you miss the most."

Zurek cited one of the well-known phenomena of small-town Buffalo: When you meet a fellow ex-Buffalonian, it doesn't take long to find someone you both know.

"It's not six degrees of separation," he said. "It's always two or three degrees at most."

For some former Buffalonians, the Bills games are an emotional experience.

Jauch said as much in a written comment attached to Jerry Sullivan's column on The News website Monday:

"Swweeeeettttt, how about those 3-0 Bills. Savor the win Buffalo I just loved watching all the news and sports channels as they had to eat crow, and when Chris Berman brought out the Bills jersey and said 'No One Circles the Wagons like the Buffalo Bills,' it brought tears to my eyes."

For Jauch, the Bills' 3-0 start reminds him of the Super Bowl years, in the early 1990s. So, even though it's way too early, he noted that Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing the role of Jim Kelly, Fred Jackson is the new Thurman Thomas, and Stevie Johnson has become Andre Reed.


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