November 30, 2022
Hush—can you hear that? It's the distant sound of a man in a Stefon Diggs jersey body-slamming a folding table.
Every Sunday, in at least one parking lot somewhere across the nation, you can hear that defining sound of the Buffalo Bills fans, otherwise known as the Bills Mafia.
It's the sound of genuine, unfiltered passion for football. As one of the most dedicated and notorious fan bases in the sport, some argue it's not passion, but pure insanity.
The Bills Mafia is a movement created by fans and embraced by Buffalo Bills players, the city of Buffalo, and supporters from all over the country. Fueled by a tragic past (namely the 1991-94 Super Bowl losses) and defined by a love of the game, they're one of the most rabid fan bases in football—if not all sports.
But how exactly did they come to be known as the Bills Mafia? Sounds a bit, well... menacing, doesn't it? The truth is, it has little to do with organized crime or the likes of La Cosa Nostra.
Instead, it comes from a tradition as American as apple pie. That's right—bullying journalists online. Now gather round and hear the story.
Back in 2010, Bills receiver, Stevie Johnson, dropped a pass that would have given the Bills an upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He posted a tweet about it (placing blame on the big man upstairs: God), which was retweeted by journalist Adam Schefter roughly a day and a half later.
Known for "breaking news" sports takes, Schefter was considered pretty slow on the draw with his scoop. Johnson's tweet had already been discussed on national media prior—it was full-blown viral by the time of his post.
Hence, Bills fans took the opportunity to mock Schefter for evidently hitting the snooze button on his alarm that day. Tweets like "Man discovers fire #SchefterBreakingNews" and "Washington crosses the Delaware #SchefterBreakingNews" began circulating in an attempt to demonstrate just how ice-cold his hot scoop was.
It's unclear whether Schefter got the message. Still, it did clarify one thing: Bills fans had a knack for ganging up on those they deem to have broken omertà—or whatever the Mafia term is for the thing that makes you an enemy. Sorry, it's been a while since I've seen The Godfather...
Soon enough, the hashtag #BillsMafia began to appear. Bills fans united under this banner have long felt they were the league's bad-guy underdogs—known for not much else besides perpetually losing and being somewhat intimidating.
Come 2011; the Bills Mafia moniker took off with the creation of an online fan club of sorts by the term's originator Del Reid. Prized free agent linebacker Nick Barnett signed with the Bills, arguably partly due to persuasion by the Bills Mafia, and the Mafia became a known football entity.
Barnett paid his tributes to the Mafia in an interview, and soon enough, other players began following the Bills Mafia Twitter account. Driven by antics like the aforementioned table-smashing, a storied rivalry with the New England Patriots, and an uncharacteristic mid-season winning record for the team, the Bills Mafia's popularity skyrocketed.
Years later, the name hasn’t just stuck around—it’s grown more popular than ever.
So, you'd like to become a made man in the wildest fan club in sports? Well, luckily, the admissions process doesn't include having to clip anyone. Not as far as we know, anyway.
Bills fans are simply united under the name Mafia by their shared love for all things Bills. And perhaps one or two odd traditions involving ketchup and mustard.
Beginning as a joke online, it has become a nickname, a fan movement, and even a banner for charity. In 2018, Mafia members raised over $100,000 for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's charity. One fan recently cleared Josh Allen's driveway of snow to help him catch his flight to Detroit for their game at Ford Field.
Going back to the man who inadvertently started it all, Stevie Johnson has spoken highly of the Mafia. In an interview, he stated, "The fans actually make us cool... I think it's important to connect with the fans because I am a fan myself."
So while the name might sound sinister, the Bills Mafia's impact certainly isn't. They're just one big group of football lovers chasing the same dream: a Lombardi Trophy for the city of Buffalo.
Bills fans are some of the most entertaining fans in sports. We could watch them all day. Sometimes what's happening at the Bills tailgate is even more interesting than the action on the field.
Something about the fact that the Bills team itself being—dare we say it without jinxing them—good makes it even that much more fun to be a fan? Just don't call us bandwagoners. We've been circling the wagons for decades! This might just be the year Josh Allen, Von Miller, and company bring home the big one.
If you're from the 716 (that's the Buffalo area code for the rest of you) or just want to show your love for all things Bills, then what better way than by rocking some great Buffalo merch? Besides throwing yourself through a Bills Mafia table, that is.
Allegiant Goods has a top-notch collection of Buffalo gear, from tank tops and t-shirts to hoodies and mugs. Grab one for yourself—and one for your capo while you're at it.
Our Buffalo shirts are comfy as can be and made to last. That way, you can wear them through an entire season of wild Bills Mafia tailgates, which is no small feat, by the way. It takes some serious grit to tailgate in the dead of upstate-New York winter.
Bills Mafia fans don't mess around. That's why the BM lives up to its name. It's not just a fan base. It's a way of life!
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