I knew that going to an away game was going to have its ups and downs, but making the trip to Cleveland Browns Stadium was like traveling to a whole other world from the Ralph, which we all know and love. I’ve heard rumors of good and bad, but I wanted to write my account as one of the many Bills Mafia and Bills Family who made the jaunt down Interstate 90 to the Bills vs Browns game Sept 23, 2012.
My mother, boyfriend Kory, friend and I all left on Saturday evening to head to Cleveland. Despite the terrible rainstorms (leave it to Buffalo and Cleveland to have crappy weather for my very first away game) we made it safe and ready to chant “Let’s Go Buffalo” through the quiet streets of Cleveland. When we got there we instead realized that it was anything but quiet. Bills fans had taken over. Walking to The Winking Lizard, a local bar from our hotel (Hampton Inn and Suites) we discovered that not only was the bar at capacity: it was full of red, white and blue. The only people in the place wearing brown or orange were the servers.
As the night continued, while a small group of us Bills supporters were eating dinner in a back corner of the bar (this place was HUGE) a familiar song came over the jukebox and shortly thereafter everyone was chanting “HEY-EY-EY-EY!” of course. If I hadn’t known any better I would’ve said we were in Buffalo! (They even had Caribbean–style boneless wings that were not that shabby!) After several “Go Bills” high-fives to random strangers, drinks for all, and an interesting walk home filled with cold rain and a screaming pedestrian, it was bedtime. Because that’s how we do it in the Ralph; go to bed and get there EARLY!
Unfortunately, when we decided to finally leave our hotel after some delicious continental breakfast, it was around 9:30. At a home game, Ralph Wilson Stadium would be packed and people would already be loud, proud, and three bowling ball shots deep. In Cleveland, however, this was not the case…
Walking to the stadium in the cold and rain wasn’t the problem. However, the lots where people were “tailgating,” was. We walked to “Municipal Lot,” where we were told an abundance of tailgaters would be with fun to be had… This was not so. There were about two short rows of all Browns fans, not really any music, noise or excitement. Even taking into consideration it was the Cleveland Browns I would have guessed it would have been a little bit louder than THAT. We were called “a**holes” by the entire lot, which was not surprising, and I’m not offended. I more felt bad because not one person looked like they were enjoying their tailgate.
Eventually, after having to walk a good portion of the city of Cleveland, we found a lot (affectionately dubbed “Port of Cleveland Lot” by ourselves) with other Bills fans that we had known which was pretty fun! Had I not known anyone, though, this would’ve been a nightmare. We learned soon that you cannot have open cans or bottles, but your alcoholic drink must be poured into a cup; which honestly just led to more cans and bottles being strewn everywhere. I’m not even complaining though. Every city has their laws and that is fine; I just will never take tailgating at The Ralph for granted again! There is truly no place better!
Since the tailgate was nothing to write home about, even though there was a plethora of Bills fans and I enjoyed meeting some new great people, we decided to enter Cleveland Browns Stadium pretty early; and good thing we did.
The Browns stadium is set up so that anyone in the upper levels has to enter through the gate, wait in line for an escalator from the lower level to the mid level, then walk up a long series of ramps. However, once you get to the top of the ramp, arriving at the upper level where we had seats, you still have to climb up a steep set of stairs. Maybe it’s our fault for getting seats in the nosebleeds, but for $22 and fees?! I wasn’t going to complain.
Kory’s Note: The worst part, though, was that you had to literally hike these steps because they were so incredibly steep. It was simply not a great way to set up the stadium in the first place…
With that said, this was my only complaint. The Browns’ stadium was incredibly nice. With a Quaker Steak & Lube kiosk (Try the beer-cheese fries! You will not be disappointed!), along with several other food options, RWS should take note for their upcoming stadium upgrades.
The Browns’ staff were all overly friendly, one gentleman even pulling us aside and saying “Welcome to Cleveland.” It was very apparent that we were Bills fans but they treated us like true guests, not invaders. Even after our 24-14 win, they still were more than willing to give us a kind smile. I was actually very impressed with everyone in the stadium, including most fans.
Yes I said it, for the most part, Browns fans were actually nice! Several people would smile back at me when I would and some people even came to start up a conversation and talk to us about the Bills and football in general. Of course there were poor fans in some instances, especially during the heat of the game (and when I say “heat,” I mean intensity, because it was literally freezing.)
Kory: This was the coldest September day I can ever recall.. Thankfully, the location of our seats provided us with shelter overhead from the rain and hail that riddled the rest of the stadium. But I still wish I had brought a hoodie!
Even though I was in the very back section (Section 516) of the stadium, I picked the right one. Throughout the entire section I think there were approximately 3 Browns fans. Bills Mafia took it OVER! After T.J. Graham’s 9 yard touchdown reception from Ryan Fitzpatrick and a 32 yard catch and run TD by RB C.J. Spiller, we went completely nuts and basked in the glory of the team shutting Browns fans up so much, they didn’t even want to “Get Loud,” as the JumboTron told them to, on a Bills 3rd down.
Unfortunately, of course, no sports game is truly over until the game clock strikes 00:00… Following two Cleveland touchdowns their fans celebrated. It actually made me sick to hear a crowd roar when my team did something wrong, but then I remembered “This isn’t the Ralph.” The funniest part was when Browns fans, obviously frustrated with how many Bills fans were in attendance, were making obscene gestures and cursing at specifically my group after scoring their second touchdown to shorten the Bills’ lead to just three. They acted like they had just won the game in the last minutes, when there was a whole quarter left to be played. Clearly, they haven’t learned from their past (The Fumble, The Drive) like Bills fans have, to keep your mouth shut until the very end. Be excited yes, but the trash talking shouldn’t start when you’re still down by 3 with a whole quarter left. Soon, “Fitzmagic” and Stevie Johnson shut them up for good. This had most Browns fans heading for the exits. Really? With several minutes left, only down by 10, you’re going to dart out of there?! As a Bills fan, I take pride in staying until the end no matter what the circumstance. It made me sad for the Browns players and the loyal fans who stuck it out but it was honestly a completely exhilarating moment, and anyone who was there knows exactly what I am describing.
Shortly thereafter, us Bills fans serenaded the exiting Browns supporters with “Na Na, Hey, Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam, and the atmosphere completely changed. One thing I will never forget is Mark Anderson pumping up the crowd to make noise in the closing minutes. That is something that you never ever see a player doing at any away game, but at that point, Bills fans were the only ones left! We honestly made just as much noise as any amount of Browns fans did the entire game. The few Browns fans who remained decided to call it quits after a second interception thrown directly to the hands of Bryan Scott by Brandon Weeden. The place went nuts.
I knew there were going to be a lot of Bills fans there, but we really did take over. It was natural for us to celebrate, but some Browns fans did not like it. A girl in the very back row, clearly upset with her team’s poor performance, threw her drink down the extremely steep seats to all of us Bills fans. Totally uncalled for, but I know it would happen in Buffalo too. Even though sometimes Bills Mafia, and Bills fans in general, get a bad rep, there was nothing but “Buffalove” filling that stadium in that fourth quarter. It gave me chills to see how the players fed off the unexpected growing energy in the crowd. (If we could have more people from our Bills family go to more away games, our road loss count may not be as high. It’s just something to think about.) I don’t think the 12th or 13th (Bills fans) man (men) had much to do with the outcome of the game, but when Bills fans were cheering louder than Browns fans in their own stadium, that has to make our players feel supported; especially our new additions. It screams: “Come play for Buffalo; because we have the best fans in the world!”
Throughout the long walk back down the stadium and then to the hotel, only a few people talked smack, to which we simply replied “Scoreboard.” But other than that, most fans were really respectful. It was such a nice feeling to be able to walk around that city and stadium and hear our Shout Chant EVER-Y-WHERE! I literally would hear one to my right and one to my left, and then create my own. It completely took over! It was something that united us; in the tailgate lots, in the stadium, and the city of Cleveland. It’s a really unique and amazing feeling to know that even though you’re not at home, there are other people around you that feel so passionate about your team with you.
Home games are amazing, but this was much more rewarding. I walked around Cleveland with my head held high and proud to say I was a Buffalo Bills fan and I was a part of Bills Mafia. If anyone would try to smack-talk me, I would just say “Look at the scoreboard.” No trashing talking was needed, especially not petty talk.
I appreciate all of the people who made the trip. Of course it wasn’t made for me or for other fans, it was made for those players who are out there grinding every day trying to fulfill what we’ve always wanted and needed from our team: full commitment and drive to win. They worked like a team, and utilized their skills even after Spiller was out to erase the Browns hopes of winning. (Yes, it was only one game, we did not win the Super Bowl, there is much work to be done, yadda-yadda, I’ve heard it all – I KNOW!) There was nothing better than seeing how passionate our fans are for our guys, and how much love our guys have for us fans. They are working hard always to be their best for us. Honestly, we have all been patient enough! This is our time! Even though it’s only game three, we know this is going to be one hell of a season!
Thank you to everyone who made my first away game experience a success: To the amazing fellow fans, to the great hospitality of Cleveland, OH and especially to every single Buffalo Bill: You guys are why we are still here, loud and proud… Now NFL just prepare yourselves, ’cause as we all already know:
“NOBODY CIRCLES THE WAGONS… Like the BUFFALO BILLS!”