My mind was burning, pictures were already being posted to Facebook. Friends smiling, blue and white jerseys flooding sports bars and house parties. Painted faces, cold beer and chicken wings, yes… “chicken” wings!
It was here, it was finally here. Game day.
However, I was not there.
It was certainly a tall order, Sunday night in Budapest, Hungary, I frantically typed buzz phrases into google “Watch American football in Budapest” “American Sports bar” “NFL game watch Budapest”…
Foot tapping and one eye on the clock, a small handful of pubs popped up as scattered dots across the Google city map…
Ok, let’s go.
I grabbed my bike and my Spanish buddy “Alejo” (who had zero interest in this excursion) and we hit the bricks. Buzzing through the streets, in and out of alleyways, across bridges and past opera houses and magnificent statues. Not stopping at any, it wasn’t worth it, wasn’t worth the precious time.
First spot we tried was in the basement of an old building down an empty street. The smell of urine as I walked down the stone steps made me think “this might be the spot!”
I turned the corner to see two big screens and a handful of people sitting in almost complete silence, I glanced up in excitement at the screens only to find … the Goddamn Jaguars.
Ok, let’s go.
Alejo and I spun through the city, hitting pub after pub only to find the same result. Jaguars and Packers… as if anyone from Jacksonville is out in Budapest right now. We saw their poor showing in London!
Anyhow, frustrated, we had one more dot to hit on the map. So, we rolled up to one last pub. I walked in only to find an interview of some soccer coach on the screens. I asked the bartender if she could look for the American football game. She was very sweet and started scrolling through the guide, but the drunken Englishmen were not happy about this and started yelling… She looked at me apologetically. “It’s ok, wrong game anyways. Thanks.”
As I was walking out, a large man whose accent I could not identify said “you might try ‘Udors’ it is right around the corner.
Well, I was upset and defeated and Alejo was bored. I said, “This is the last one, I promise.” So we roll up to the location he gave us and to my complete surprise and disappointment “Udors” was actually “Hooters” and of course… the Jags. “Fitting” I thought, I didn’t even go in.
As I scrolled through my phone one last time, Alejo peeked inside. Then something amazing happened. Alejo yells “Evan, is your team the “Ravens”?
NO!, … no…. But BUT!!!!!!!
Never before have I been so excited to hear that wretched team’s name!
I run inside and on the big screen and even on the sound system is our beloved “Buffalo Bills”.
Now, here’s the kicker.
I sit down and order perhaps the worst chicken wings I’ve ever had in my life. There are four other full tables in there. As the game goes along, certain cheers or gasps or fists hitting tables leads us to give “the look”… the “wait…are you?… from?” look.
And yes… We are all from Buffalo.
How on earth? Of all the gin joints… or, Hooters, in all the cities in all the world!
As it turns out Alyssa, a super friendly and outgoing UB grad and cheerleader, moved to Budapest five years ago. She invited some friends and from what I understand practically threatened the owner in order to get the game on. As for the others, one couple was walking by and heard the term “Anchor Bar” spoken through the window and decided to stop in. Another group was on a sightseeing tour of Europe and happened upon it.
This is not the first time this has happened to me throughout my travels, and I’ve heard many of other people’s stories and their “coincidental” happenings upon Buffalonians in strange and awesome circumstances.
It’s unique, and it has substance. There is something about our humble town that resonates within us to the point where we are almost drawn to each other. I can’t tell you how many high fives I get when I wear Bills gear in airports. I ran into a Lancaster guy while hiking through a Thai jungle. I was once in a pub in Vietnam and I responded to someone by saying “come onnn” and another person turned and said “Hey are you from Buffalo?”…IN VIETNAM!!! (apparently we say “come on” in a strange way)
Anyhow, while our teams may be just God awful, that really doesn’t seem to faze us at all. In my opinion it boils down to this, and I want Mr. and Mr. Ryan to know this…
What you have inherited is not a football team. It is a bloodline. It does not matter what you say, or what kind of truck you drive or what you have tattooed on your arm. This is our team, and what you do with it will be your legacy here in Buffalo. We were here long before you and will be long after you. Win or lose, we are unbreakable. We will show up. We’ll show up in Orchard Park, we’ll show up in Budapest. That is what we do. It is who we are. It is what makes us the greatest fans in the country. We’re doing our job, despite the suffering that we continue to endure. We are the 12th Man. We are Unconditionally Bills Fans.
So, from Budapest… GO BILLS!!!