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Kansas City man, Bills fan reflects on the fandom's traditions

The Bills play the Chiefs Sunday in KC
Kansas City man and Bills fan
Posted at 4:26 PM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 17:27:55-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — John Rood had no choice.

"You don't choose to be a Bills' fan," Rood said. "You're born into this."

But Rood, a Rochester, New York, native and Kansas City transplant, wouldn't have it any other way.

Rood heads up one of the Buffalo Bills fan groups in the KC area. And, as you might expect, this week he's part tour guide.

"I'm excited to see how many make this trip and welcome them all here and show them the town," Rood said.

The Bills play the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, the site that was the end of the Bills' playoff journey last season in the AFC Championship game.

The Bills are enjoying a renaissance these past few seasons after 17 years of not making the playoffs.

They have visions of a rebirth similar to what Chiefs' fans have seen in Kansas City with the arrival of Andy Reid and then eventually Patrick Mahomes.

"There's something about teams that have suffered for so long and then having success," Rood said.

But something happened in those 17 years of losing football.

Bills' fans started breaking tables. Not with an axe or hammer, but with their bodies. Crashing down onto tables off of truck beds, RVs and even rooftops.

"The earliest I can remember it is 2014," Rood said.

Maybe it was the boredom, maybe it was the cold, but this thing became a tradition and now it's become a phenomenon.

"You knew you weren't going to get the product on the field, so you had to go for the product in the parking lot," Rood joked.

Hundreds of "Bills' fans breaking table" videos littered social media.

"The social media movement has made this a 'I'm going to one-up the guy who did it last'", Rood said.

It's gotten so out of hand that Bills team personnel and Erie County are now policing "table-smashing" before home games. Fans could be ejected from the game or face criminal charges.

Of course, there's internet everywhere so Bills' fans have continued to smash tables just on their own property, and not just for Bills' games.

Gender reveal parties, after beating cancer and weddings have all been stages for Buffalo fans to engage in one of their favorite pastimes: breaking tables.

It's "one of" their favorite pastimes because another habit of the Bills Mafia - what their fan base refers to itself as - is being charitable.

Like over-the-top charitable.

When the Bills defense knocked Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson out of a game with a concussion, the fanbase donated over $500,000 to Jackson's favorite charity.

In 2017, the Bills needed a Cincinnati upset of Baltimore to make the playoffs -- and end the drought. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw a last-minute touchdown pass to do just that. And, you guessed, Dalton's charity got over $400,000 donated to it by the Bills Mafia in appreciation.

The next season, Cincinnati played in Buffalo for a preseason game. Dalton -- the opposing quarterback -- got a standing ovation.

But nothing beats their generosity displayed when their own quarterback's grandmother passed away.

Patricia Allen, grandmother of Bills QB Josh Allen, died last year.

Bills' fans donated over $1 million to a local children's hospital in her name.

Locally, Rood has tried to do the same. Their group raises money for schools and has recently worked with the group Guns N Hoses.

"We live here and this is our community too now so we want to make sure we give back," Rood said.

That means carrying on all traditions, including table-breaking, which is what Rood did while the KSHB 41 cameras were rolling.

"You always want to buy the cheapest kind of table," Rood said. "You're going to break it anyway."

Again, he didn't choose this life.