If you're a Bills fan -- and even if you're not -- you might have noticed the Twitter hashtag "#BillsMafia" attached to football tweets, especially during games. But if you're not a Bills fan -- or maybe even if you are -- you probably don't know exactly what it means.
Turns out, you're not alone.
Lifelong Bills fan Del Reid "co-created" the phrase, but he didn't know what it would eventually come to mean, or that what started as a joke between a few Bills tweeters would turn into a full-blown movement.
"The entire thing was an accident, to be honest. The term 'Bills Mafia' was an inside joke between @bre_88, @leslieanne94, @Billsfan99, @SAINTRHYAN and a few others following our being blocked by Adam Schefter," said Reid, known by the handle @mrdeadlier on Twitter.
So what did they do to ruffle Schefter's feathers? They teased him.
Remember Stevie Johnson's now infamous God tweet? Well, the NFL insider was a little late to the game that day and RT'd Johnson's tweet nearly 24 hours later and way after the rest of the football and non-football world was buzzing about it. Reid and his fellow tweeters started tweeting old news updates with the hashtag "#SchefterBreakingNews" at the end, poking fun at him.
Schefter didn't like that too much, so Reid coined the phrase "#BillsMafia" during that Follow Friday and it slowly took off among fans. When Nick Barnett signed with Buffalo, he started using it and the rest is history.
Now, players know it, fans love it and non-Bills peeps are starting to take notice. It's an easy, fun way for fans to interact with one another and for players to get in on the conversation, too. Sometimes it's a support system, with tweet threads looking like a therapy session. Other times it's virtual hi fives. No matter what, it's always a family.
And Bills fans have always been part of a special kind of dysfunctional family. But now, Bills Mafia has become something to grow that family even bigger and make that bond even stronger.
"While we may not agree on all things in other aspects of life, there's one thing that binds us together: our love and passion for the Buffalo Bills," said Reid.
He's not ready to take credit for forging a brand new generation of Bills fandom, though.
"It's humbling to have been a part of what helped launched this thing to begin with, but I truly believe that if it wasn't our 'Mafia' it would have been something else," said Reid. "Bills fans were ready to unite and become a force to be reckoned within the realm of social media. Call it zeitgeist."
And it's already gone beyond a social media mafia. The second annual Tweet Up is Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29 and 30. Besides being a chance for Bills fans to gather outside of the game and tailgating, it's also for a great cause.
From 3 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, head over to the Pan American Grill in Hotel Lafayette in Downtown Buffalo. There will be free food and a cash bar with 10 percent of its profits going to Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Exclusive merchandise, like hats and shirts, will also raise funds for Roswell.
On Sunday morning, join BF for a tailgate party in Hammer Lot before the game against New England. There will be a Chinese auction where people can try to win items donated by other fans, local businesses and some Bills players.
Think of the weekend as a chance to put a face to those tweets. If I could afford a plane ticket, I'd be there myself (jealous!).
"It's a great time to hang out with other fans in real life that you typically only engage with on your smart phone," said Reid. "(And) we donate all our profits to charity."
Despite its ever-growing presence, both online and in real life, some people still aren't sold and think it's just a cheeky name that desperate Bills fans give themselves. The numbers say otherwise. The official Bills Mafia twitter, @TheBillsMafia, has 8,684 followers (many of them former and current players), and climbing. The Facebook page, www.facebook.com/billsmafia, has more than 2,000 "likes."At billsmafia.com/store, merchandise is for sale with proceeds benefiting Roswell.
With such rapid and unexpected success, where does Reid see his accidental phenom in a couple years? He "has no idea" because now it's up to the fans.
"This whole thing was never planned but we're willing to let it take us wherever it wants," said Reid. "We'll allow it to get as big as it wants to get."
And it could get big -- very big.
Every team has its legion of fans but Bills fans have always seemed to have a little something more. Maybe, it's extra big hearts to handle the rollercoaster seasons or super thick skin to repel the hate thrown by media, other fans, basically everyone.
So, it's no surprise that when it comes to making a name for themselves with something like Bills Mafia, these fans (myself included) are in all the way.
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