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Bills Tailgate Report: Spikeball, the New York Regrets and a dog in a tutu

Seen and heard outside New Era Field before Bills vs. Jets …

A new sport for tailgaters: There is a new – well, sort of new – backyard game threatening to challenge the supremacy of Cornhole and KanJam in Western New York, and it was on display Sunday morning outside New Era Field.

Spikeball, a once-obscure game dating back to the 1980s that has gained newfound popularity in recent years after a 2015 appearance on the ABC show “Shark Tank,” involves a small ball and a circular net that is positioned parallel to the ground, and only a few inches above it. The rules are similar to volleyball, but Spikeball is otherwise unique.

“It’s absolutely perfect for a tailgate,” said Joseph LaTona, who was playing Spikeball with three friends before the Bills’ Week 1 matchup with the New York Jets.

From left, Russell Wayne, Matt Newton, Mike Vlahoff and Joseph LaTona play Spikeball before the Bills' Week 1 matchup with the New York Jets. (Luke Hammill/Special to The News)

LaTona said he only learned about Spikeball about two months ago and realized it would be a great addition to his tailgate party.

Participants pair up in teams of two. Gameplay starts with a “serve,” as the player tosses the ball into the air and hits it downward into the net. The ball bounces back up, and a player on the other team has to either “spike” it back into the net or tap it to his teammate. Like volleyball, team members can only touch the ball three times, and the same person can’t touch the ball twice consecutively. Possession switches every time the ball hits the net, with teams trying to keep the ball from hitting the ground while they have possession.

Cornhole fans need not worry – there were still far more Bills fans playing the popular bag game Sunday morning.

The New York Regrets: The popular wisdom among Bills fans before Sunday’s game was that no matter how dire the Bills’ prospects may be for the 2017 season, the team should still beat the hapless Jets in the home opener.

At least one Jets fan seemed to agree. Matt Keramati, 40, of Albany, altered his Darrelle Revis jersey so that the back reads “REGRETS.” Revis, formerly a star cornerback for the team, is now a free agent.

Matt Keramati, 40, of Albany, shows what he thinks of his team, the New York Jets, with the alterations to his jersey. (Luke Hammill/Special to The News)

“I’ve come here every year for the past 12 years for this game,” said Keramati, who was with a group including both Bills and Jets fans.

Asked what he thought of the state of the Jets’ franchise, Keramati simply said, “My jersey speaks for itself.”

Dressed-up dogs: There were, of course, many pairs of Zubaz pants and lots of Bills jerseys, hats and shirts. But the award for sharpest-dressed Bills fan goes to Zeus and Stella, a pair of 3-year-old Siberian Huskies sporting a Bills scarf and tutu, respectively.

Bills fans Zeus, left, and Stella, 3-year-old Siberian Huskies. (Luke Hammill/Special to The News)

It was the first time the dogs’ owners, Laura and Rob Kozlowski, of Corfu, brought them along for the tailgate party.

“They just turned 21,” joked Laura Kozlowski, referring to their age in dog years. “So now they can. They’re legal.”

Circling the wagon: A group of fans weren’t waiting until the beginning of the game to start circling the wagons – literally.

In a nod to the classic Bills phrase, Southtowns residents Bobby Whalen and Kevin Robinson have brought a cooler disguised as a covered wagon, complete with Bills logos to home games since 2014.

“It’s a giant, super-heavy, terrible cooler,” Whalen said with a laugh. “It doesn’t work. It just looks cool.”

Fans nearby cheered as Whalen used a rope to guide the wagon in a circular path, perhaps a good luck charm for Tyrod Taylor and Co. before the game.

Bobby Whalen stands with a cooler disguised as a Bills covered wagon before the 2017 home opener. (Luke Hammill/Special to The News)

For Whalen, Robinson and their friends, the wagon’s return was a triumph after a flat tire kept it out of commission for a portion of last year’s Bills campaign.

“The wagon was out with a lower-body injury for at least a third of the season,” Robinson said.

The wagon even has its own Twitter account:

Next tailgate: The Bills’ next home game is in Week 3, a Sept. 24 matchup with Denver.

Follow Luke Hammill on Twitter: @lucashammill.

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