By traveling emmet
People from Buffalo are different from you and me. At least I like to think so. It could be the endless winters and the persistent “Lake effect snow” that blankets the area each year.
It could be the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are perennial losers and hold the distinction of losing four straight Super Bowls. Even Red Sox fans pity the Bills.
Somehow, for eight home games each year, 70,000 Bills fans fill outdated Wilson stadium, even in the winter. The place is so old that it still has horse-trough urinals last seen in a Dickens novel.
To make up for the team and approaching winter, Bills fans party like it is the end of the world. But nobody parties like Kenny “Pinto” Johnson.
Where do we start?
Johnson drives his wheezing 1980 Ford Pinto to each and every Bills home game and most away games. That’s bad enough.But he covers the Pinto with homemade cooking devices and gives away free, if questionable, food for all comers.
There is a wooden barbeque (yes!) on the hood for burgers. He cooks bacon on an old hand saw. He cooks chicken wings in a military helmet, pizza in a recycled filing cabinet and shish kabobs in a discarded Craftsman tool box. The Buffalo crew cooks pancakes and omelets on a shovel, grilled cheese sandwiches on a rake, stir fry in a hubcap with beer cooling in an old toilet. Bon appetit!
Precisely 90 minutes before kickoff, Kenney dances around with his hamburger, begging for ketchup. Three or four of his madcap assistants climb to the top of an RV and cover Johnson with ketchup from gallon-size ketchup containers and even caulking guns. (I swear to God.)
Johnson emerges from the (fake) blood bath for an impromptu shower out of a five gallon water jug.
Johnson used to give away Canadian Club shots with his free burgers and chicken wings. One year the whiskey traffic was so hectic that all the shot glasses were broken. Luckily, bowling balls are always at hand in Buffalo. The Johnson crew put the ball into service by filling the finger holes with booze.
Perhaps you don’t understand how much Buffalo hates our Tom Brady. He has beaten the Bills in 12 of the last 14 games. To add even more fuel to bonfire, Brady praised the loyalty of his father in a magazine article earlier this year. “And even when I started my pro career, he traveled to Buffalo. I don’t know if you guys have ever been to the hotels in Buffalo — they’re not the nicest places in the world — but he would still travel to those.”
That was the talk of the tailgating party.
In a voodoo ritual that has developed over the years, Buffalo fans now approach the Pinto counter in the tailgating parking area for their free booze held by the mighty bowling ball. They stand on a Tom Brady jersey and wipe their feet all over the garment. They raise the saliva-and-booze covered ball, drink their shot, then slam the bowling ball on the Brady jersey, in a Buffalo attempt to turn the football tide.
Needless to say, the bowling ball is never, ever cleaned for the next participant. The saliva and booze glisten in the Buffalo sun (when it comes out four times a year).
On Sunday, a petite Castine woman who begged to remain anonymous approached the ball. The thumb hole was filled with Canadian Club. She grabbed the ball and raised it over her head.
The slippery ball fell out of her tiny hands and the liquor spilled.
“Penalty shot!” everyone screamed.
Apparently, the rule is that if you spill, you have to do another shot. She accepted her penalty and downed the second drink without apparent spillage, then slammed the ball down on the Brady Jersey.
That wasn’t the end.
Just before the horde headed for the stadium, the tattered, beaten jersey was placed on an appropriately dried Christmas tree. (Don’t ask.) I bet you see this coming. The tree was set on fire and it exploded in flames along with the jersey. Needless to say, the Bills fans roared their approval.
Johnson takes no money for his free food and booze. I like Canadian Club as much as the next man. But I passed on the saliva-covered bowling ball. I must admit that I did take a free hot dog off the Pinto hood. Wasn’t bad.
Of Course the parking lot voodoo ritual of the Brady jersey burning had no effect on the game. Our Hero threw three touchdown passes, the Patriots scored 52 points and the Bills lost again.
It’s going to be a long, long winter in Buffalo. It always is.