A trip to blue-collar Buffalo

Published 9:32 am Thursday, November 16, 2017

By Joel McNeece

The temperature registered 30, but the cold, crisp, biting air said it was a different kind of 30. It was Buffalo.

Dr. Bruce Longest and I️, along with hordes of other New Orleans Saints fans, flooded the land of the Bills last weekend continuing our annual tradition of visiting every NFL city. New Era Field at Orchard Park was the 19th NFL stadium we crossed off our list.

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Among the first 19, Buffalo’s stadium was by far the most simple, to put it nicely. It’s an old stadium that has gone through a few renovations but was still absent of all the modern day amenities found in most other NFL cities.

The Bills and their incredibly loyal fans deserve a new stadium in downtown Buffalo where we stayed. Conversations with the Bills fans around us suggested that’s nowhere close to happening. I️ got the feeling they’re just happy to be able to hold on to their team.

There’s been a lot of conversation over the past many years of a possible move, including just a rock’s throw across the border to the metropolis of Toronto. Hopefully, that won’t happen.

Aside from the 20-minute drive to Orchard Park, we hung out in downtown Buffalo and the phenomenal Curtiss hotel much of the short time we were there. It’s one of the nicest hotels we’ve stayed in on all our trips. It was ultra modern, from the glass tiled walls, colorful fountains, rotating bar (like The Carousel at the Monteleone in New Orleans) down to the remote-controlled toilet complete with bidet.

That’s a conversation that needs to be had one day — the world needs more bidets and it would be a much happier place.

We ate at two fine establishments. Hutch’s was a small restaurant in the heart of the city packed with people and good food. Our second night we visited Buffalo Chophouse, a short walk up from the hotel, to taste the local beef offerings and they didn’t disappoint.

The temperature stayed around the 30 mark the entire time, but thankfully there was no wind, so it was very tolerable, especially at the game with five layers of insulation.

Buffalo can best be described by two words — blue collar. There’s nothing elaborate about the city or its people (except The Curtiss Hotel). These are hard-working, incredibly nice, prideful folks who don’t believe in doing anything the easy way. They were superbly hospitable, even after the Saints began drubbing their beloved football team to the tune of 47-10.

I️ haven’t seen the Saints play this well since their Super Bowl season. The Bills fans interacting with us at the game seemed to be in awe of Drew Brees and the precision of the Saint offense. They’ve been missing that ever since Jim Kelly’s retirement.

After the game, we drove back to Buffalo, taking notice how the landscape is covered with factories, steel mills, small duplex homes and a permanent feel of winter. This was early November and yet it had the feel of early February as a lingering greyness seemed to be settled in until spring manages to break through deep into next year.

You have to be tough to live in Buffalo, I surmised, and that’s meant as a compliment.

The Bills are a huge part of the community and vice versa. We found it most similar to what we experienced in Green Bay and Pittsburgh, although realistically the fans in Buffalo have had much less to cheer about throughout their history.

Yet they still turn out in huge numbers to support their team, no matter how tough times get. There’s nothing too tough for the people in Buffalo.

Joel McNeece is the publisher of the Calhoun County Journal.