Matt Kabel (left) and Matt Soreco tailgating at Giants Stadium before a Bills-Jets game.
When Matt Kabel and Matt Soreco founded the New York City chapter
of the Buffalo Bills backers, a home-away-from-home organization that gets Bills fans together in various NFL cities, they were happy enough to be able to watch Bills games with a handful of fellow fans.
In just two years, however, the group has mushroomed into over 500 people
, packing McFadden's on 42nd and 2nd so tight that the overflow crowd spills into the bar next door.
It has turned into more than just a place to watch games without fans of New Jersey teams giving them crap, it has become a group that reunites old friends and tries to serve the greater community.
As a former fan of the week
, joining such luminaries as MSNBC's Tim Russert
and other Bills fans
, I can say that Sunday afternoons are a blast when you're watching a game with a few hundred of your fellow Bills fans.
So without further ado, here's my Q&A with Matt and Matt, the co-founders of the New York City Buffalo Bills backers:
1. How did you go from 50 Bills fans in a bar to 500?
SORECO: We got the word out. Matt Kabel and I both have backgrounds in marketing, which helps us tremendously. We simply created a web page to start, then made sure people knew to look there. We’ve partnered with some great websites and traded links, made news, and encouraged members to help spread the word. We keep people engaged by sending weekly updates to members to keep them aware of anything new and interesting.
KABEL: It took a lot of hard work. We posted info about the group on message boards, traveled to different bars around the city to recruit fellow fans, and had different articles written on us like buffalobills.com, The Buffalo News, and the Orchard Park Citizen. On several occasions we even stopped random Bills fans on the street and would tell them about our group. I actually just did that 10 min ago on the elevator coming to work when I saw a man wearing a Canisius jacket! Also, the weekly e-newsletters we send get forwarded on to other fans, and I think that was the biggest recruiter for us.
2. What is your favorite Buffalo Bills moment?
KABEL: Anything not involving the Super Bowls! Ha! But I would have to say the Houston Comeback. I remember listening to the game on the radio because it was not televised. I still can hear Van Miller screaming, “It’s Fandamonium!”
SORECO: My favorite is the game against the Jets in 1988 when the Bills clinched a playoff spot for the first time in years. At my age back then, that was at the height of my sports fandom, and being able to strut into school the next day and rub it into Jets fans - who gave me lip for years - was fantastic.
3. What can NYC Bills fans expect when they go to McFadden's?
SORECO: They can expect to watch the game in the company of hundreds of fellow fans. They can expect to cheer together with each score and yell together at each goof. They can expect some Buffalo favorite foods and beer to top off the good time.
KABEL: That you’ll either celebrate a win with hundreds of Bills fans, or mourn with them. Its definitely a family-like atmosphere in there, and anybody that has roots in Western New York will feel right at home. It really is about celebrating Buffalo and Western New York as much as it is about the Bills. Especially when you can sit down and have a Labatt Blue, Sahlen Hot Dog, or a beef-on-weck.
4. Are you hopeful at all about the rest of the season?
KABEL: I’m an eternal optimist. I won’t rule them out until the fat lady sings. (Knock on wood)
SORECO: I’m hopeful that the rest of this season will serve as a springboard for improvements to be made in the 2005 off-season. They’ve showed some signs of life, and I’m proud that there is no quit in this team. Just a few more improvements will make for an exciting 2005 playoff team. Did I just avoid the question???
5. You've done some fundraising for a Buffalo charity. Tell me a little about it.
SORECO: Matt and I decided that we should use some of the momentum we created and do some good with it. Why not benefit a charity? This year, we raised funds for Roswell Cancer Institute. I loved being a part of it, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback because of it.
KABEL: This year we raised $1,100 for Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, and last year we raised $1,000 for Drew Bledsoe’s Parenting With Dignity foundation. Buffalonians are gracious people, who like giving back to the community, especially when it involves a Buffalo-related charity. We are still new at it and learning how to best raise money. There are ways to do it, and not ways to do it, and we are trying to get better at the former!
6. Any crazy things going on at McFaddens on Sundays?
KABEL: I think the whole atmosphere at McFadden’s is crazy! It’s crazy seeing so many Bills jerseys in Manhattan. Its crazy seeing people you knew as kids all grown up. It’s crazy when after a touchdown, a fan will stand on a barstool and take his removed t-shirt and whip it around. It’s crazy when fans go outside at halftime to play touch-football on a crowded sidewalk in Manhattan. There’s nothing normal about watching the Bills games at McFadden’s, and that is what brings hundreds of fans there!
SORECO: Crazy? How’s this… Two gentlemen walked into McFadden’s yesterday and started watching the game right next to me. I knew they looked out of place and were probably not Bills fans. Anyway, Takeo Spikes intercepts a pass and the place erupts into the customary “TKO!” chant. One of them chants along with us, and when the crowd dies down, asks someone next to me “What’s TKO?”
It turns out the gents were in from South Africa, and this was their first American Football experience! I think it’s nuts that they’ll go home and tell the story of the passionate fans chanting and cheering in unison, NOT knowing that NYCBBB is NOT the norm, rather we set the bar for fandom sky high!
The Buffalo Bills play the Seattle Seahawks at 4:15 PM this coming Sunday, November 28th. The doors at McFadden's (42nd street and 2nd avenue, Manhattan) open at 12:00 PM, with the drinks and wings specials starting at about 2 PM.
More information on the NYC Buffalo Bills Backers (and other chapters):
The New York City Buffalo Bills Backers Website
NYC Bills Backers Transform McFadden's
(BuffaloBills.com, October 7, 2004)
New York City Buffalo Bills Backers
(BuffaloBills.com, October 24, 2002)
Bills fans know how to tailgate in New Jersey
Also, check out my other Q&As
Join us for a Bills game on 42nd and 2nd.