There was a sense of hope, steamy breathing and gradually rising noise as Buffalo Bills fans began to fill a blocked-off area of Chippewa Street in downtown Buffalo Sunday evening. Fans were willing to brave the cooling temperatures to support the Bills and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
As several of those interviewed suggested, this was a quintessential Buffalo event and fans had two giant screens on which to watch the game.
There was such enthusiasm before the game. Nathan Mikoll spoke of the lean decades of the football team.
"The last time they did this, I wasn’t alive. So this a first for me," Mikoll said. "I got to witness my first Bills game in person last year, Dec. 29. They played the Jets, kind of phoned it in because it was before the playoffs. So Bills Mafia has taken off. Might as well start watching."
There also was a lot of that young enthusiasm, speaking of the last Bills championship teams.
Cassidy Foley was certainly in the running for the farthest-away fan attending the open-air party. Foley and her friends knew how important the game was, since they had driven six hours from Cincinnati to see a real professional football team, not their hometown aggregation.
"We actually came from Cincinnati and we are huge Bills fans and we felt like we needed to be in the city to see the game," Foley said.
Jordan said he had to come in from Rochester to watch the game.
"Bills haven’t been in an AFC Championship in what? Like 30 years. You got to be in Buffalo for it," he said.
WBFO also found a fan from as far away from Miami: a doctor arriving to cheer on the team in the city where he went to medical school.
Maybe it’s a Buffalo thing, but most of the fans appeared to be drinking cold beer at each of the dozens of tables filling the block between Delaware Avenue and Franklin Street. At least some of the partiers spent their time inside adjacent bars.
Soho Assistant Manager Elena Szmara said it’s important to the local bar business that people remember dine-in is again a thing.
"We’re really hoping that everyone is so excited to come back out," Szmara said. "Obviously, with indoor dining not being a new thing, we still have people that are going to be inside and outside. It’s really important for us to be opening back up because of the fact that COVID has taken a huge hand on all bars. So the ones that are still standing are able to open. It’s really huge that people come out and support because we have been closed for so long."