I was walking through the center of Piccadilly Circus listening to The Beatles, trying my best to be the most cliché dude on the planet when I saw a man pushing his son in a stroller, both decked out in full Bills attire. I yell “Go Bills” and receive a high five… in the middle of downtown London.
This is just the tip of the Buffalondon iceberg.
Lets start from the beginning.
Thursday evening my family and I arrive at Toronto International Airport. Already the lines are flooded with blue. People are excited, anxious, even a little un-knowing of the travel expectations. We make our way through security and to the gate where the bar is full. I run into three people who I knew and one who I haven’t seen since high school. Everyone was beaming. There were so many questions…
“Where are you staying?”
“What is the exchange rate?”
“What time do the bars close?”
“Where can we tailgate?”
My sister had told me about this place near Wembley Stadium called “The Green Man Pub”. Apparently they had a nice beer garden, and open early for the “American Football Matches”. Everyone seemed to have heard whispers of this place.
“Ok, seeya at The Green Man…” would soon become the line of the weekend.
So, off we went. I spent the first day with my family and toured around town for a bit. The charm of London is undeniable, it is everywhere, in the small townhouses lining the streets, the taxis that are made to look like 1960’s style British cars, and in the endless politeness of the British themselves. You find yourself talking like them in no time.
My friends arrived the next day and I was told to come meet them at a tube (subway) stop downtown. The tube is very efficient, cheap and fast. The train comes to a stop – an robotic voice says in a polite British accent “Mind the Gap,” you step over the small gap and off you go. Its brilliant!
I pop up out of the underground and boom! I’m back in what appears to be a place that looks like pre game Orchard Park. “What kind of subway was that?”
The streets were packed with Bills fans. Every pub, every shop, lining the streets… there were blue and white jerseys. I walked around the corner and Jim Kelly was giving a speech to a cheering crowd. Highlights were being shown on a big screen in the middle of the street. It was amazing, right there in the middle of the age old city, once the center of the British Empire and the entire world, a whole herd of smiling Buffalonians cheered together. I felt so proud of our city.
I found my buddies and Hit. The. Pub. …. hard.
So much excitement and anticipation came together. We had a ball talking to the local British people who could not believe it. “So, you flew all the way across the Atlantic… for a football match???”
“Buffalo…there’s quite a bit of snow there isn’t there?”
“Right right… Cheerio”
It was a blast. Later on we went to the Bills backer party at pub called “Pipeline”. It was everything you would think it would be. Beer pong, shout song… and of course, U2 cover band. Haha. Ridiculous amounts of fun was had by all. Again, running into people I had no idea were going to be there – we shared cheers and smiles until I had enough. So I called it.
“Ok, seeya at The Green Man”… Cheerio.
My family and I awoke and caught the train to Wembley. It was so cool seeing the Bills banners hanging from the overpasses as we walked through the fanfare. Past the stadium and up in a quite hillside neighborhood lay The Green Man pub.
It was a nice sized British style pub with a large outdoor area that had tables and food trucks and different bars. It was perfect, and this was where the tailgating went down. The place was flooded by 10 o’clock with rowdy, ambitious Bills fans. Even “Ketchup Kenny” was there… you know, the dude who hasn’t missed a Bills game in 26 years home or away. Oh yeah… and before each home game he covers himself in ketchup. Dude is legit.
We didn’t get the ketchup display because it was an away game, but man did we have some fun. It was pretty much a standard Bills tailgate. Just a couple thousand miles away from the Ralph. Truth be told, you can make anywhere feel like home when you have the right people.
I’m not going to write about the game because besides the awesome rockabilly band that played at the entrance… there isn’t much to say.
But, after the game, everyone filed out to the tube. So there are around 80,000 people cramming into one pathway that leads to the underground entrance. Everyone is tired and drunk and pissed off. Then a man comes on the megaphone and says “I’m sorry there seems to be a problem with one of the trains – it will be a bit late.”
Groans rumble through the crowd.
Then one Brit yells out “Well sing us a song won’t you?”
The man grabs the megaphone and says “Whats that? You’d like to hear a song?”
“Yes sing us a song!”
So, the man puts his phone up to the megaphone and plays “YMCA.”
Boom. Everyone is back, singing and dancing.
These bloody Brits don’t know how to have a bad time.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip. Just seeing so many happy Buffalonians walking the streets of London together, and the fact that I did not meet one person from Jacksonville, goes to show how deep-rooted our town is. It’s something special.
Now… if we only had a quarterback.
Go Bills… Cheerio!