Sportress of Blogitude

Buffalo Bills Fan Has To Fight For His Right To Tailgate

In his own words, Buffalo Bills fan Ken Johnson, who has been tailgating in the same lot outside Ralph Wilson Stadium for 21 years, “saw it coming a long time ago” that the NFL and the Bills have had just about enough of his unique brand of pregame revelry, in particular his tradition of passing out shots of Polish cherry liqueur in the thumbhole of a bowling ball to passers-by . You see, according to Jeffrey Miller, the No Fun League’s director of strategic security programs, the league desires a tailgating experience that is “inclusive to everybody” and not solely an “adults-only, R-rated experience.” Lame.

Johnson is a legend in the Buffalo area. In addition to his communal offering of cherry liqueur, he is known for his red 1980 Ford Pinto, on the hood of which he grills meat. He also has a pizza oven made out of a filing cabinet and a chicken wing fryer constructed out of mailbox, and these things, at least as far as the NFL is concerned, do not conform to the family-friendly environment one should experience when attending NFL game. You know, that family-friendly environment the NFL creates which consists of fistfights in the stands, over-served, inebriated, foulmouthed morons and vomiting. Lots and lots of vomiting. Innocent, sanitized stuff like that.

A kooky character, who spends nearly $4,000 per year on his tailgate, has even been featured on The Food Network and has become something of an institution of the Buffalo tailgating experience and has a good time the same way he has been doing it for decades? That sir, cannot be tolerated in the Disney World-like atmosphere one is provided at a typical NFL game.

Last Sunday was the day of reckoning for Johnson. A league official threatened to shut down his party, primarily because of the bowling ball shots and an alleged crowd control issue. Johnson plugged the bowling ball and decided right then and there he was moving his pregame festivities out of Lot 1, which the NFL is apparently attempting to turn into some sort of G-rated oasis, and into a lot across the street where his so-called drunken, hedonistic activity will not be so much in plain view.

Via an AP report:

“It disappoints me that I have to move away from a lot where I’ve been for about 20 years, but I saw it coming a long time ago. I have known for a long time that they want to sanitize Lot 1 and turn it into a family lot.”

“In my case, I do push the limits, so I can’t scream too loudly,” Johnson said. “But you wonder how many people go to games because of characters like me. I think I add to the experience.”

The above-mentioned NFL director of strategic security programs, Jeffrey Miller, who just by reading quotes from his has all the appearances of probably being the biggest, tight-assed buzzkill on the planet, asserts the NFL’s view:

“The NFL absolutely embraces and supports tailgating. And we also support the responsible use of alcohol,” Miller said. “We want people to come and have fun and enjoy themselves and have a great time with friends and family. But we don’t want to make it an adults-only, R-rated experience. We want it to be something that’s inclusive to everybody.

“Irregardless of the fact that he may have been doing this over the course of a number of years, it doesn’t make it right,” Miller said. “People taking shots out of a bowling ball actually has the effect of repelling families.”

No, it repels people who are boring as all get out and have little or no ability to let loose a little bit and have a good time. It’s not like the shots were being administered by topless waitresses in the midst of a Caligulan orgy of sex and  other activities typifying carnal overindulgence. Miller stated that Johnson’s experience with security last Sunday was, according to the AP report, “an extension of a fan code of conduct policy Commissioner Roger Goodell introduced two years ago to reduce unruly behavior due to drunk fans.” Further, while it is unclear whether it is or isn’t technically a violation, Miller nevertheless accused Johnson of violating state law by dispensing liquor without a license. Johnson insists that he has his servers check identification before serving shots.

And did Miller use the non-word “irregardless” in his condemnation of all that is fun about the tailgating experience? What a friggin’ jagoff.

Great job, NFL. You’re doing a heckuva job out there saving fans from themselves…at least while they are still outside the stadium, because once they are in their seats, as anybody who has been to a game recently can attest, it’s Thunderdome.

NFL draws line on tailgater’s bowling ball shots [AP]