IN THE BEGINNING
This whole thing was an accident.
When I coined the term #BillsMafia back on a Follow Friday back in spring 2011, it was a tongue-in-cheek reference to how several of us got blocked by Adam Schefter in November 2010, while sticking up for Stevie Johnson, for going a little overboard with Bre’s #SchefterBreakingNews joke (see the front page of this website for more information if you’re not up to speed on that).
So at the outset, I guess #BillsMafia stood for teasing or standing up to the national media about how it has always covered the Bills as an afterthought, and having the players’ backs.
A few months later, Bre coined the term #TeamBillsMafia, which stood for getting Bills fans to band together. Like most stuff on Twitter, it died down after a few weeks.
Then along came Nick Barnett (or rather, @MufasasHair) last August and suddenly, BOOM — the #BillsMafia hashtag was all over Twitter.
Many knew that this was an inside joke that we’d started. So people looked to us, and we saw an opportunity.
Honestly, I thought it would be gone by mid-season. That’s how Twitter works typically, right? Stuff blows up and then it blows over.
Like I said, we saw an opportunity to maybe do a little good and make some cash for charity while supporting the team in the process. So we started selling t-shirts and various types of merchandise, with proceeds going to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.
So by the time the 2011 season kicked off, #BillsMafia stood for:
- Standing up to the national media and supporting the team
- Banding together as passionate fans who “ride and die” with the team, hence the term “#FAMbase” which has gained popularity over the past year
- Being a positive force in the community
Somewhere along the way as we grew to over 8200 followers, people have begun to think that #BillsMafia means nothing but sunshine and rainbows. That if you criticize the team then that means you’re not “one of us.” In our opinion, that’s not the case.
Let me say that the idea of #BillsMafia (to Bre, Leslie, and I) is this:
We are a community of passionate fans, united through social media, who support the team while at the same time trying to do some good for the community in the process.
The question is, what does “support” mean? Well, to some it means blind faith. To others, it means buying merchandise. And to others it means being open and honest about your feelings about where the teams stands at any given juncture.
They’re all correct.
Yes, I (Del) personally have a pretty optimistic outlook on most things in life, which spills over into my sports fanhood — but that doesn’t mean I can project or enforce my typical mindset onto thousands of people. It’s not a cult we’ve got here.
BEING “IN” THE MAFIA
People often ask “How do I join #BillsMafia?” Our response has always been the same: “Do you bleed red, white, and blue? Eat, sleep, and breathe Bills? Then you’re already in.”
Now, all of a sudden, there’s a few people acting like they have gold membership cards, telling others they aren’t “in” because that person thought Fitz looked bad today, or showed concern after the game, or some other ridiculous “offense.”
Emphasis on ridiculous. This is Twitter we’re talking about here. This is professional sports we’re talking about here. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Part of sports talk is being critical, seeing things and saying “they can do better.”
Emotions run high during a game and immediately afterwards, and frankly a lot of people need to lighten up and stop being so sensitive. If someone says “Fitz is not a franchise QB” there’s no need to take it as though that person just insulted your mom.
Bre, Leslie, and I don’t act like we speak for everyone who calls themselves #BillsMafia, and frankly you shouldn’t either.
WHAT NOT TO DO
The only thing I would say is “outlawed” is getting after players personally by mentioning them in your tweets, especially if you’re dropping the #BillsMafia hashtag at the end.
It seems like it should be a general rule in life that if you wouldn’t have the guts to say something to someone’s face then you shouldn’t type it into your keyboard and direct it at them online. My guess is that 99.97% of all tweets that disparage players personally fall into the “gutless” category.
That of course includes calling someone the “n word” like was done yesterday, though I don’t know if that guy actually claimed to be #BillsMafia or not. Regardless, he’s an idiot.
Ok, we have something that is “outlawed,” but I’m going to add one more thing that is “strongly discouraged.” Constant ranting. No one wants to read “This team sucks. #BillsMafia” or “Same old #Bills. #BillsMafia” every time you tweet, I promise. The difference between constructive criticism and ranting? One promotes discussion; the latter does not. But go ahead and do it, just don’t be surprised if you have a hard time getting or keeping followers (if that even matters to you).
IN THE END
The three of us have invested A LOT of time into this community, this #FAMbase, on Twitter. We have ideals set up about what we’d like it to be about (supporting the team, banding together with fellow fans, and helping out in the community) but at the end of the day people are going to tweet what they want to tweet. They’re going to place a hashtag into whatever they want. That can’t be helped. It’s our hope that those who claim to be “#BillsMafia” choose to take the high road whenever possible and rep the other 8200+ members appropriately.