Cali boys: Zo, Shareece call Buffalo fans one-of-a-kind; breakdown NFL in LA
ORCHARD PARK – Buffalo and Los Angeles are more than 2,000-miles apart, which also happens to be a good way to describe both of their respective fan bases.
Bills fans are known for braving sub-freezing temperatures to root on their team, even when eliminated from the playoffs. And let’s face it, there’s a national infatuation as well, for better or worse, in terms of those select Bills fans doing… interesting… things like jumping through innocent folding tables.
Los Angeles fans are known for hitting the beach rather than hitting the stands. Buffalo Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and cornerback Shareece Wright, of course, play for the Bills.
Both are also natives of The Golden State and within the last two years the Los Angeles area added two teams, the Rams and then the Bills’ (5-4) opponent on Sunday, the Chargers (3-6). The meeting will be the first time the two have met since the Bolts left San Diego.
Neither the Rams nor Chargers are off to a hot start in terms of attendance in 2017. The Rams, at 7-2 have hope for improved interest, but according to a recent FiveThirtyEight report, the team is suffering a big attendance decline.
It’s not much better for the Chargers who struggle to fill a 27,000-seat stadium in the StubHub Center while their new stadium in Inglewood is being built.
“I wouldn’t call LA a sports-based town, it’s an event-based town,” Alexander, a Berkeley native said.
Wright, logistically, has a little bit of a closer tie to LA as a Colton native, which is approximately an hour outside of LA. But he agreed with Alexander and added the market already being filled with sports teams also make it difficult on the new kids, or pro sports league, on the block.
“So many different teams. You got hockey teams, basketball teams, and baseball teams. I feel like there’s a lot going on. And in LA, it kind of like, takes away from sports teams when there are so many things to do like you can go to the beach in October instead of going to a football game,” Wright said.
Alexander, whose hometown is more centrally located in Cali, said that’s not just specific to LA.
“That’s with most California cities, too,” Alexander said.
But both said there’s one formula to reverse that: win.
Growing up a San Francisco 49ers fan, Alexander said he has noticed the Northern California struggles.
“(The 49ers) have a great fan base when things are going well, but right now it’s hard for them to fill that stadium. They’re out in Santa Clara now, there are a lot of reasons why, but it’s just the other things people can do in California,” Alexander said.
Unlike Alexander, Wright grew up a college football fan, not a pro football fan. The USC alum actually said he had a choice coming out of high school. UCLA or USC for football. He went with USC because when he was seven, he saw USC beat UCLA at his first game he attended between the two.
Wright said those two colleges also draw away fans from the NFL teams. In addition, the Oakland/ Las Vegas/ LA Raiders still have a stranglehold on the market to this day, according to both, despite skipping town in 1994. Why? Super Bowl titles in 1980 and 1983, proving Alexander’s & Wright’s logic.
Just win, baby.
“Honestly, it’s going to take a lot of winning,” Wright said. “Everyone came onto the Clippers when they started winning and started beating the Lakers in the NBA. I’m sure they’ll do that for the NFL.”
But wait… something’s not adding up. Winning = fans? Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs in 17 years. Both Buffalo defenders are well aware. Then what’s different? Both didn’t know, until they lived it.
“(LA’s) not like Buffalo where this team is ingrained in the culture. Same thing with football in Texas,” Alexander said. “I’ve been with some teams with some passionate fans, but here, it’s just so connected. It’s all in one. This is a Bills town. It’s definitely different. “
Even Alexander’s children in fourth and first grade recognize it.
“I always tell people, my kids go to school and on Friday’s before they leave the kids are signing the ‘Let’s go Buffalo’ song,” Alexander said. “W weren’t doing that about the ‘Niners or the Raiders.”
Wright’s realization about Buffalo fans came on a more personal level.
“Barely getting here and people recognize me all the time. They know who their players are out there,” Wright said. “There aren’t a lot of people who come from other places and live in Buffalo. They’re all people from here so they’re die-hard, born and raised, Buffalo fans. In LA, you have a lot of people who migrated from other places to LA.”
“You aren’t going to see too many Chargers fans in Buffalo,” Wright said.
We’ll find out how many Charger fans show on Sunday, as the Bills and Chargers are slated for a 4:05 p.m. start.
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