ORCHARD PARK - Night games don't come around that often for the Buffalo Bills, but when they do, their fans know how to make the best of them, including the decent-sized contingent from the Dunkirk-Fredonia area that was on hand at the Red Carpet Inn on Thursday night.
"The primetime atmosphere is excellent," Fredonia resident Josh Tedone said. "There are a lot of great people out here having a good time. There are a lot of things being cooked on grills, just a very positive vibe in the air."
The last time the Bills hosted a night game was Nov. 17, 2008, a 29-27 Monday-night loss to the Cleveland Browns. I was there that cold November night, a night that was a lot colder than it was Thursday when the Bills hosted their hated AFC East rival Miami Dolphins. And much like that night, the fans Thursday were just as excited to watch their Bills in primetime.
"I absolutely love the atmosphere of night games," Dunkirk resident, and former long-time season ticket holder Tim Wdowiasz said. "It makes the NFL what the NFL is. It's all about the pre-game and the atmosphere. It's just the best of the best. And you're on national TV.
"You see people here at a night game that you don't see at a Sunday game," Wdowiasz added.
People come from near and far to watch the Bills, and such was the case for former Dunkirk resident Mike Epolito, who now lives in Charlotte, N.C., with his wife Tara.
"Buffalo's always electric regardless of the time (of the game)," Epolito said. "We have a good time. People should come out and see what a real tailgate is like."
Even though the Bills were 3-6 entering Thursday night's game, the decision to travel back north seemed like an easy one for Epolito to make.
"Because we're better than the record," Epolito said of why he came back home for the game. "And because we don't get that many primetime games, so you've got to live it up."
Living it up with Epolito was Dolphins fan Geoff Glapa, a former Dunkirk resident now living in Lakewood. Despite venturing into enemy waters, Glapa didn't feel the least bit out of place.
"I feel like nowadays, (Dolphins fans) almost equalize Bills fans," Glapa said. "There's almost the same amount of Dolphins fans as there are Bills fans now."
As much fun as everyone was having before the game, the Bills' lack of success is starting to weigh on fans' decisions to continue to commit money to a losing product.
"As much as being a season ticket holder makes me feel like I'm supporting the team, we're also paying for the preseason games," Tedone said. "Unfortunately, as the Bills haven't been a playoff contender in a while, you're also paying for the late-season games. So if you really add up for what you're paying for games that either don't mean anything, or you really don't want to go to, it might be more cost-effective to actually not be a season-ticket holder and just look for scalped tickets, or tickets on eBay.
"I feel like I would be more apt to support the team, as a season-ticket holder, if they were winning more," Tedone added.
When all is said and done, the majority of fans, including Tedone, and Dunkirk resident, Jim Rozen, appreciate the opportunity to be able to support a professional football team.
"I just think that everyone that comes here comes with a mission," Jim Rozen said. "They know what the mission is and they're going to have a good time at the game. The Bills are struggling this season, but it's still a good time and what else would you rather be doing in Buffalo on a Thursday night."