Buffalo Bills playoff fever has been running non-stop since last weekend, when the team clinched its first National Football League postseason appearance for the first time in a generation. Given the 17 seasons during which Bills fans could only watch other teams contend, this weekend will be start of a new family tradition for many.
Business was brisk earlier this week inside the ground-level shop at the New Era Cap Company's downtown Buffalo corporate headquarters. Ernest Rainey was among those who arrived, many on their lunch breaks, to purchase newly-released Bills 2017 National Football League Playoff caps.
To Rainey, it felt like a sense of obligation, having watched his beloved Bills miss the playoffs since his son was just five years old.
"I've always been a fan since he's been younger. I've trained him how to be a fan of the Bills," Rainey said. "Therefore, he's really getting the jist of the 17 years right now. He was with me when we watched the game and he was the first person I hugged after it was solidified that we were making it. It was a special moment, like many I know around the world of Bills fans. I was a special moment for me and him."
For many lifelong Bills fans, it's a new experience for their younger generations. Greg Clark Jr. was just leaving the store, with his father at his side and his 3-year-old son in his arms.
"I remember going to games with my dad, even when I was three years old, standing in the parking lot and getting autographs, all the 1985 Bills' autographs. It's just amazing to be able to experience where I'm old enough to remember with my dad," Clark said.
His son may not necessarily remember the events this week, or perhaps the game itself, but he has the advantage of not having to wait nearly as long as many teenagers who are only now seeing the first Bills playoff game in their lives.
"I mean when I was younger, I really couldn't enjoy it then. But to be part of the drought and then be part of this now, yeah I can really enjoy it," Rainey said. "And then with the new millennium, the new people that wasn't around then, yeah it's definitely something wonderful."
"It's definitely something generational, passed down here from father to son for sure, even daughters," Greg Clark Jr. said.
Some older Bills fans do have clear memories of their favorite team's glory years, the "Super Bowl Era," though some also recall the bitter disappointment coming from that time.
"What I remember most about those Super Bowl years most was the heartbreak of 'wide right,'" said Greg Clark Sr. "Unbelievable, because they should have won that game and Thurman Thomas should have been MVP."