Bills Mafia Traditions, Explained

Bills Mafia Traditions, Explained

September 16, 2021

Ketchup. A bowling ball. A 28-year-old bottle of milk.

Is this a bizarre grocery list? No, this is just a small sample of the supplies in Pinto Ron’s trunk. Since 1988, the Buffalo Bills fan has attended every single game, be it home or away. The result of this three-decade-long devotion? A set of uniquely Buffalo traditions that have joined the canon of Bills fans’ tailgate rituals.

Despite some encouraging seasons in recent years, the Bills are not necessarily as known for their plays on the field as much as they are for the antics happening outside of it. The Bills Mafia is one of the most passionate and dedicated fan bases in the NFL, enduring all sorts of weather to show up for their team.

Every fandom has its quirks, but Buffalo brings it to a new level. Keep reading for a breakdown of their most beloved traditions. Does this all sound like a typical Sunday to you? You must be a member of the Bills Mafia. Pick up your t-shirt, and we’ll see you at the tailgate. 

A Breakdown of Bills Mafia Traditions

Man eating buffalo wings in a Buffalo Mafia t-shirt

When we say mafia, we mean mafia, and so before we get into the traditions, we’d like to pay our sincerest respects to the family. No one does it like you guys. It’s hard to list out all the ways you bring your love for the team to every game. We’ve tried our best here to put together an overview, but as always, we defer to the experts. 

Every lot outside of the stadium has its own traditions, so if you really want to see everything the fanbase has to offer, you’re gonna have to brave the winter in Buffalo and see for yourself.

Alright, now that we’ve kissed the ring, let’s get to the good stuff.

1. Make Room: It’s Body Slamming Time 

If you follow the NFL closely, you’re probably aware of a few viral videos of Buffalo fans recklessly throwing their bodies onto folding tables. Though the team has technically banned the practice, the folding table body slam doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. It started in the last few years as a response to some electric wins and promising seasons. While Bills fans are still waiting for their Super Bowl trophy, table slamming is only becoming a more common sight outside of Highmark Stadium.

Bills fans are earning points for creativity, with fans jumping off vans onto the tables, doing flips, or even introducing fire to the mix. We can’t exactly recommend this tradition as we want to keep our customers in one piece, but if you’re ever at a Bills game, don’t be surprised if you see some broken tables. 

2. The Man, the Myth, the Legend: Pinto Ron 

You know you’re a real fan when the entire league has heard about your loyalty. As we mentioned before, Pinto Ron is a diehard Bills fan who has been going to every game since the late 80s. The night before a tailgate, Pinto Ron shows up in his beat-up red Ford Pinto, the same one he’s been driving for decades and starts to set up for the day’s festivities. 

Among other things, Pinto Ron is known for cooking tailgate food out of unique cooking trays like wings cooked in a helmet and a pizza cooked in a filing cabinet. You have to check your food sanitation at the door for these kinds of delicacies, but the Bills Mafia will tell you it’s well worth it.

Pinto Ron also has an assortment of Bills games souvenirs, like the gallon of milk from the day the Bills beat the Oilers in 1993 or a jar of pickles from the day they beat the Colts. Gross? Maybe. Dedicated? Definitely. 

3. Cheers! Drinking Shots out of Bowling Balls 

Woman in New York drinking at the bar

Another tradition of Pinto Ron’s spread throughout the Mafia: drinking shots out of bowling balls. Generally, this involves highly alcoholic liquor. Fans take the shot out of one of the finger holes, drop the ball on the ground, and blow into a vuvuzela.

Yes–people line up for this. 

4. The Ketchup and Mustard Tailgate Ceremony 

Pinto Ron (has one man ever had such an influence on any other fandom!) is probably best known for his infamous ketchup and mustard ceremony. We’re gonna repeat that — the man is known for his infamous ketchup and mustard ceremony.

At some point during every tailgate, even in the coldest of temperatures, Pinto Ron will appear before a group of fans with an open hamburger. He’ll offer the bun, asking for some ketchup and mustard, and then get sprayed in the face — absolutely soaked, head to toe — with condiments.

People have started coming to games dressed as ketchup and mustard bottles. The crowd that gathers for this event is dizzying. And speaking of dizzying…

5. Not Your Childhood’s Version of Dizzy Bat 

The Bills Mafia is also partial to the tradition of Dizzy Bat. Fans will drink a beer out of a whiffle ball bat, spin around with their heads down, rotating around the bat, and then do their best to hit a whiffle ball pitched in their direction. 

Spoiler alert? Most don’t hit the ball. 

6. Above All Else: Loyalty and Sportsmanship

Buffalo 716 Area Code

All antics aside, one tradition that the Bills Mafia has perfected is charity and sportsmanship. The fanbase has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for fellow Bills Mafia members (and their families) who have been in need when they’ve passed away. They’ve even raised money in the names of their critics.

After a Chicago sportscaster called the Mafia, “the laughingstock of the NFL,” the fans responded by raising money for a cancer center in Chicago. So when push comes to shove (and yes, there can be some shoving outside of Highmark Stadium), the Bills Mafia keeps love at the center of their sport. They stand by their team — even through the disappointments — and shrug off criticism with a sense of humor.

If you get it, you get it. If you don’t, you don’t. The Bills Mafia is gonna do its thing no matter what. Just do your best not to get in their way.

Feeling the love for the 716? Pick up our area code t-shirt to show what you’re made of.

We’ll Raise a Bowling Ball to You, Buffalo 

Through thick and thin, the Bills Mafia joins together to support their players in blue and red. While their traditions may seem a little bizarre from the outside, they’re built on a history of dedication and passion that few other franchises can rival. Whether you want to get a glimpse of Pinto Ron drenched in ketchup, try to survive a bowling ball shot, or maaaybe just watch someone else dive into a folding table, the Mafia is welcoming to all. Head up to Highmark Stadium in Buffalo for a once-in-a-lifetime tailgating experience. Oh yeah, you can also watch a football game after you do.

Ready to show off your love for Buffalo sports? We have a whole collection of t-shirts, flags, and maps for you.

Sources:

The Bills Rack Up Wins. Folding Tables Get Wrecked. | The New York Times

The Unexplainable, Undeniably Entertaining Rituals of the Bills Mafia | The Ringer

Bills Mafia blends ketchup, mustard and, this NFL season, a shot of hope | ESPN


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