ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Where else would you rather be than Highmark Stadium Monday night? Hall of Fame head coach Marv Levy asked fans the same question pregame.
The Buffalo Bills hosted the Tennessee Titans at home on Monday Night Football and fans were ready for a party. Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith and Levy were on hand pregame. Smith spoke about “Choose Love” in a moment to remember the 10 lives lost during the racist mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue. Kelly and Levy led the charge with cheers.
Fans returned to the stadium for the first time since the January 15 playoff game against New England. They were excited, loud and it was all captured under the bright lights of primetime.
“This is like Christmas in September for me. I’ve been waiting for this for so long. To have this kind of set up, to have this kind of atmosphere, only in Buffalo,” Patrick Sullivan of Hamburg said.
The home-opener follows a week one win on the road against the Los Angles Rams, which was the opening game of the NFL season. Fans from near and far traveled to Orchard Park to enjoy tailgating, the atmosphere and the game.
“First game I ever watched was when the Bills were down in the playoffs, and they had that miracle. I was like 12 at the time and ever since then I’ve been a Bills fan,” Bryan Letwin of Calgary, Alberta said.
Letwin brought his entire family to the game. They said they flew here just to see the Bills play in person and this was their first Bills game.
It was pure fandemonium. Fans described the energy around Orchard Park as electric. They said they were excited to feel the atmosphere inside of the stadium.
“I think it’s going to be absolutely electric. Even today at work, everybody was talking about the Bills game, wearing their Bills gear. I think it’s going to be super exciting for Buffalo,” Olivia Linke of Wheatfield said.
Some fans began tailgating over the weekend and camped out to start the party early. Fans say this is a playoff-like feeling.
“The energy level is going to be off the charts. It’s going to be like it hasn’t been in the last 20 years. The Bills are so hyped up. Opening day, the weather cleared. It’s going to be something for the books,” Sullivan added.
The Buffalo Pod hosted a tailgate for fans hours before kickoff. Owner Brian Dibb says the idea for the Pod was developed during the pandemic and now fans can enjoy each other pregame in a new way.
“Being gone for so long and being back as Bills Mafia and the community, it just really comes together,” Dibb said.
Being a member of Bills Mafia is more than wearing the blue, red and white or going to games. It is family.
“I think it’s unprecedented. How many organizations have fans that give to the charity of our quarterback. I think it’s just amazing and shows the true heart of Buffalo,” Linke continued.
The expectations for this season have never been greater. Bills Mafia is hoping for an undefeated season, a Josh Allen MVP win, and a Super Bowl championship.
The Bills travel to play the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, September 25 at 1 p.m. This is the Bills first divisional game of the season.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.