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The Origin of the (Bills) Mafia

By: Kyle Wekenmann

Sports mean many things to many people; entertainment, betting, exercise, community and more are all commonly associated with them.

Community is especially strong with sports because they are more than just the numbers of victories and defeats; they are an example of real-life application of strategy and teamwork, of sportsmanship and athleticism. Sports are a uniquely human concept, something that can bring hundreds, thousands, millions of voices to roaring applause that could put thunder to shame or send them into shocked silence that makes you think, if not for a moment, that everyone lost their voices.

And Buffalo is one of the most stellar examples of this because when you talk about the Bills, it’s hard to avoid talking about their ever-loyal Mafia.

From almost frat-like tailgates to Bills-themed alcoholic beverages (such as “Number 17” and “Number 14” from Brickyard Brewery, or “Pils Mafia” from Thin Man Brewery), the Bills Mafia’s enthusiasm and pride in their home team is loud and clear to all, and has earned them both attention and a reputation in the world of sports.

But how did it start?

It all began as a tweet in November of 2010.

After the Bills were delivered defeat by the Steelers, Steve Johnson – the Bills receiver at the time – made a post on Twitter in which he demanded of God to know why he dropped a touchdown pass that would have granted Buffalo a sweet victory over Pittsburgh.

The original tweet is deleted, but, NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk published an article on November 29 that quoted the tweet: “I praise you 24/7!!!!! And this is how you do me!!!! You expect me to learn from this??? How???!!! I’ll never forget this!! Ever!!!”

After some media backlash, Johnson said that he didn’t blame God, but rather just “cried out and asked why?”

The next day, after ABC News’ “The View” discussed the online outburst, Adam Schefter of ESPN retweeted the original tweet, which was still up at the time.

But by then, it was a day-old tweet that had received quite a bit of attention in the short time that it lived. On account of this, Schefter’s retweet was met by a torrent of mocking by Bills fans, sarcastically likening it to man discovering fire.

There were three fans that especially got to Schefter: Del Reid, Breyon Harris, and Leslie Wille. The mocking didn’t sit too well with Schefter, so he blocked the trio.

That action backfired, however, because the trio knew that they were considered to be the “bad guys” in the story by Schefter. Taking inspiration from their status, they created #billsmafia.

The hashtag gained a lot of traction when Nick Barnett signed on with the Bills, saw the hashtag, and used it himself.

Now, we have the Bills Mafia – one of the most wild and loyal sports fans in the world today.

Buffalo Pride at the Bills Store

Photo credit: Kyle Wekenmann

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