BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB-TV)– It was the 2020 aesthetic of the sports world. Cardboard fan cutouts filling empty stands. That’s continuing in 2021, but at least for the Buffalo Bills playoffs, fans in the flesh get to see the games in person.
“In 2016, she passed away shortly before we broke the 17-year drought. I just kind of made a promise that I’d keep them in her name, and keep her name alive as a fan, and here we are today.”
Joseph Flanagan’s grandmother never saw a recent playoff game. She was a season ticket holder since 1974, and he knew she would have wanted to be there. A coworker suggested a cutout, and local printing company Print2Web delivered.
“He called me and emailed me and was like ‘hey man, it’s all done for you, it’s all set,’ and I was pretty stoked, and then when I got there, the finished product, it was amazing.”
Gene Szerbiak of Print2Web is making fan cutouts for the Sabres, but he says orders like this are special.
“I’m honored even more so to help someone out in that personal way.”
Joseph ended up among the two percent of ticket holders who tested positive for COVID, so he couldn’t go last week or Saturday, but he says his grandmother is still his best friend, and he’ll take her to every game in the future.
” She created this. I wouldn’t be a Bills fan who I am today like this if it wasn’t for her. I just inherited every trait that she has as a Bills fan, so I’m just going to keep it alive for her.”
Tiffanny Kilian had a similar idea.
“My sister and my mom originally had tickets, and obviously with her passing, I took her seat, and we just kept thinking, if we can get tickets, how can we make it a little better or more meaningful? And then doing a lot of work to see if I could get a cardboard cutout of her.”
She lost her mother just before the pandemic began, and now, thanks to the cutout, Susan will be with her daughters at the playoff game.
“It’s going to be a lot of emotions and of course excitement.”
Kilian is thankful a local company could make her idea a reality.
“There are so many people, who, if they were here, would obviously want to be seeing this too, and I know my mom is up there watching.”
Gene from Print2Web said he felt so touched that customers trusted him to make cutouts of their lost loved ones, he wanted to do something special too. He’s donated half the proceeds from Bills Stadium fan cutouts to the P.U.N.T. Foundation, which is a local organization founded by a former Bills punter to help local families with children who have cancer.
Erica Brecher is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.