Professional sports are marked by peaks and valleys, ebbs and flows. Dynasties die, players retire and great teams do not stay “great” forever.
Due to this, droughts occur naturally in professional sports. With this in mind, we cannot discuss droughts without mention of the Buffalo Bills’ 2017-18 season.
The team’s Super Bowl drought began with the beginning of its franchise. Despite being the only team to make it to four consecutive Super Bowls, the Bills have never won a single one. The Bills have not made the playoffs in 17 years; this drought is the longest of the four major professional sports—that is, until this year.
The Bills spent the better part of two decades being not bad, but terrible. This streak earned the city of Buffalo the title of one of the longest-suffering fan bases in the United States. As a result of this, however, it became clear how impressive their fan base is in the wake of success—no matter how small that success may be.
Going into the final week of the season, the Buffalo Bills needed to beat the Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals needed to defeat the Baltimore Ravens in order for the Bills to advance to the playoffs. These games, thanks to some smart marketing by the National Football League, were being played at the same time on Dec. 31.
All was going well for the Bills, as they were ahead of the Dolphins, and the Bengals were beating the Ravens. Seemingly all at once, things started to fall apart—something all too familiar for Bills fans. The Ravens took the lead, the Dolphins looked as if they were mounting a comeback. From there, the tides turned.
The Bills were able to stifle the Dolphins comeback, defeating them 22-16. Once the victory was sealed, the attention of the city of Buffalo shifted to the Bengals vs. Ravens game. In the final seconds of the game, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyler Boyd to win the game 31-27, pushing the Bills to the playoffs. That is where the magic began.
After that pass, Bills fans wanted to thank Dalton for helping them to successfully make the playoffs, so they began to donate to his organization—the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation, which provides support for Cincinnati families with physically ill children. Bills fans donated around $345,000 to his foundation. The vast majority of the donations were for $17, representing the years of the drought.
The wild card game pitted the Bills against the defensive minded Jacksonville Jaguars. Immediately after the win over the Dolphins, Bills fans started booking their flights to Florida. The game in Jacksonville was a sea of teal; however, it was speckled with an alarming amount of blue and red. The passion of the fan base was extremely apparent.
After a back and forth game, the Bills fell to the Jaguars by a score of 10-3. The mood of the city, however, was that this game was almost secondary to simply ending the drought. Even after the loss, fans were waiting at the airport for the players to return so they could thank them. The city rallied around its team.
Seeing a city rally around its team in the way that Buffalo fans had been able to captivated the whole country. The players on the team gave the “Bills Mafia” fan base the recognition it deserves.