As Buffalo prepares to play Jacksonville tomorrow in their first playoff game in 18 years, one thing is for certain—Bills fans are everywhere.
Multiple bars in Jacksonville will be hosting events tonight and tomorrow in support of Buffalo. Charleen Morency is the owner of Wing It, a Bills backed bar for over 20 years. She said right now it’s like crazy town trying to get ready for the game.
“We have a feed on Facebook where we can see how many people are coming,” said Morency. “Everybody is talking about our place. ‘Make sure you have enough beer… make sure you have enough wings… don’t run out of anything.’ Just the excitement of all of it is just crazy. We’re just so excited to have all the Bills fans here.”
Wing It is expecting around 1000 people to come and watch the game. Morency bought the restaurant 20 years ago and said the Bills fans came with it.
“The lady that we bought the restaurant from is from Buffalo. So it was a growing concern. So we inherited fans from her and we just kept it going.”
The fan base identifies itself as a community. Close to $300,000 has been donated to Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton’s charitable foundation this past week after his game winning touchdown pass sealed the Bills’ playoff fate. Much of that money came from Bills fans. Morency said the team embodies endurance through hardship.
“Bills fans have been very very loyal to us,” said Morency. “I’m very attached. I’m friends with a lot of these people. It just means everything to us to see this drought end.”
Maureen McGuire is a Buffalo native who now lives in Jacksonville and is a frequent Wing It customer. She said the team represents more than just who you root for.
“You get them together in Florida or Georgia… they’re just Bills fans,” said McGurie. “Most of them are blue collar workers, they’re good people. Even if they have great white collar jobs, somebody in their family is a blue collar worker and they’re just great people. You make new friends every day you walk in to a Bills bar.”
Buffalo backed bars appear to be more common than you would think in Florida.
“Buffalo’s got a huge following. I mean, huge,” said McGurie. “Not just here in Jacksonville where we’re getting ready to play the Jaguars, but you go to Clearwater, you go to Tampa, you go to Miami, there’s a Bills bar.”
For McGuire, Wing It and Bills football is a home away from home.
“Coming here, it’s all Bills fans,” said McGuire. “You walk in the door, the emblem on the front door is go Bills. You come in there’s photos of Bills. Their jerseys are on the wall. It’s like being back home. It’s just warm and fuzzy being a Bills fan. You walk in and just know you’re gonna have a good time.”
18 years of pain. 18 years of close calls. 18 years of there’s always next year. Finally, the drought is over. Now, it’s a team and fan base that can finally call themselves playoff caliber.
Kickoff is at 1:05 Sunday afternoon.