NFL Stadium #16: Ralph Wilson Stadium

Sunday morning I set out for Buffalo from my parent’s place just outside of Cleveland. It should’ve been a quick three-hour drive, but there were a few snow flurries along the way that slowed me down a bit. Ralph Wilson Stadium is south of the city and sorta in a more neighborhoody area, similar to Green Bay. Parking was either in large tailgates or along Abbott Rd. There were lots of signs forbidding street parking and not wanting to risk getting towed (that’s a big bummer), I settled for parking in someone’s lawn on a side street for $5. They said they had family in Cleveland, so I knew they were good people. As I walked up the street toward the stadium with other Bills fans, the weather took a turn for the worse. I had been complaining the week before in San Diego that I was too hot (it was 90 degrees and humid) and this was God’s answer to that- pelt you in the face snow. Can a girl just get a nice 70-degree day once in awhile? No.

Walking through the tailgate lots, I wasn’t surprised to see they were full and fans were heavily drinking. There would be heavy drinking today to offset the cold and perhaps make them forget they were Bills fans. We share a lake with these people, I know their pain. As I closed in on the stadium, I was surprised by how small it seemed and how white it was. In my imagination, I expected dirty bricks or a concrete hunk, but Ralph Wilson was white washed and giving off welcoming vibes. It was going to be a good time. I circled around looking for the ticket windows, as I was meeting my team contact, DeMario in the offices. They were across from the stadium in one of the team’s facilities and if I hadn’t asked where to go, I probably would’ve walked right by them. While I was meeting DeMario, I overheard a gentleman saying he was having issues with a ticket he purchased off StubHub that day. My ticket was also from that site and instantly I started to worry.

With kickoff only 45 minutes away, I hurried to the gate near the team shop which looked slightly less crowded and waited impatiently to get into the stadium. I breathed a big sigh of relief after my ticket scanned without a problem. In the line, I had gotten myself all worked up over nothing. One of the only cons to traveling alone- no one to talk you down from your crazy. Sometimes you need a pal. The stadium is surrounded by a large outer concourse that has a bunch of crazy little paths up and down, depending on what section you’re headed to. I veered down towards the field level and walked through a small, tighter concourse lined with concessions and out to the stands. The welcoming vibes I had felt outside were amplified on the inside, this field felt homey and intimate. Though the place was old, they had done some renovations and downsized. I liked the red, white, and blue theme, though I would’ve liked more Ralph Wilson Stadium signage on the stadium instead of company names.

Like most games, I ended up talking to the fans near me and they told me to stay down with them until their friends showed up and claimed their seats. I’ve been amazed at how nice people are to a visiting fan and that people show up to games so late. If I had lower bowl tickets I’d be there way before kick for sure but to each their own! I ended up staying for the first few drives and caught the first Bills’ touchdown. The fans shoot off confetti and the whole stadium sings “Shout,” with alternative Bills lyrics (video below). They got rid of the Jills (wanting fair pay is too demanding) but did keep four dudes who run around with Bills flags and wave them in the end zones. At the end of the song, the top of the flags fire off a spray of pyrotechnics. Those were the coolest flags of all time!

The excitement over the Bills was fairly short lived because they were playing the stupid Bungals, I mean the Bengals and they’re so f-ing good. Seriously, I can’t stand it, they’re awesome. I was hoping the Bills could do the Browns a solid and hand the Bengals their first loss, but that wasn’t happening. Andy Dalton was all like, “hey, look at me, I’m a competent quarterback.” right in my face. Disrespectful. By now I had walked up the ramps and sat down in my seat in the 300 level. There weren’t a ton of Bengals fans at this game, but the ones that were were getting noisy with their “Who Dey” cheers. I would like to go to a Saints/Bengals game someday and listen to the Who Wars. That I imagine, would be pretty entertaining.

Though the stadium seemed small from the lower bowl, the upper bowl felt farther away from the field than it looked. The stands were more sloped outward and not as steep as some of the other stadiums. It was probably for the better as I saw a bunch of fans tripping up the steps as they walked up to their seats. I made small talk with the guy to my right, a middle-aged Canadian named Ron. He loves coming down to the states for football games (and NASCAR) and said he doesn’t want a team in Toronto. It’s an American sport and needs to stay put in his opinion. I didn’t inquire about the CFL. During the second quarter, a cute guy my age came and claimed the empty seat to my left. I immediately perked up, sorry Ron, and tried to strike up a conversation about the game. Of course, he wanted nothing to do with me. My fantasy of finding a boyfriend at a football game was put on hold for another stadium. I guess if I’m going to find love in a hopeless place, it won’t be Buffalo. He left at halftime and never came back.

The snow had stopped and when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds it was perfect football weather. The third quarter flew by and I decided to get a coffee and explore the stadium a little more. Cincinnati has been responsible for the two least exciting games I’ve attended. Perhaps if I was a little less biased against them, I would think otherwise, but I’m not so they were. I headed back down the ramps and watched Buffalo score again from some standing room in the south end zone. While I was over here, a drunken fan told me about a buffalo statue in the concourse and I was amazed I had missed it walking around. I asked a few stadium employees about it after the game had ended and they said it had been taken out and no one knew where it was. I searched high and low for it, finding a statue of Ralph Wilson, but no buffalo. Frustrated, I went to meet DeMario and asked him where this statue was hiding. He didn’t know what I was talking about. It may exist, or it may be a joke they tell people in hopes of sending them on a wild goose chase. Maybe you have to be on Bills fans levels of intoxication to see it. I don’t know, but I left without seeing a buffalo statue.

Remember I am raising money for the Ronald McDonald House in Central Ohio. Please donate by clicking here.

Special thank you to DeMario for his time and assistance during my visit! 


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