Decades of dynasties with a desire to win: The connection between the ’60s, ’90s and ’20s Buffalo Bills

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Playoff runs aren’t new to Buffalo. In fact, they connect generations of Bills fans. From the AFL champion teams of the 1960s to the Super Bowl era in the 1990s to the present-day Bills, this team’s dominant stretches mark unforgettable chapters in the city’s history.

Football has changed significantly since the first Bills team was fielded in 1960. The advent of social media and a continuous news cycle has increased the hype around the team since the ’90s. Tradition, passion and “fandemonium,” as Bills longtime play-by-play announcer Van Miller famously said, connect these distinct dynasties despite them being decades and generations apart.

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Some fans had a taste or two of a championship run, and others are still waiting for their chance to experience that thrill. Through the ups and downs of this team, family stories have been passed down and superstitions shared, cultivating new generations of fans when the team wasn’t at its best. Even when it didn’t see the playoffs for 17 years, Bills Mafia stood by, anxiously waiting for a new era of greatness rooted in the foundation created by their grandparents.

“If you want a fan base to be supportive of your team, then you better win, and that’s something the Buffalo Bills have done over the last 62 years,” said Booker Edgerson, the former Bills cornerback and Wall of Fame member.

Edgerson started his career with the Bills in 1962. The team was still in its infancy, but he says there were a lot of passionate, young players ready to make their mark at the old Rock Pile. Shortly after the team was founded, it started winning. Edgerson notes it hasn’t always been an easy road, but he looked forward to when the team would rise again.

Steve Tasker started his career with the Bills in 1986 and was on the team when it won several AFC East titles and made four straight Super Bowl appearances, which is still a NFL record. He remembers how difficult it is to win a playoff game and how much harder it is to win a championship, something that alluded Tasker in his career.

With time comes new players, new coaches, and new leadership. Although it took the team decades to find the right recipe that rivaled the likes of Marv Levy, Bill Polian, and Ralph Wilson, the Bills are now in a new era with four consecutive AFC East titles and six playoff appearances in seven seasons.

“[McDermott, Beane, and Pegula] have really gone a step above where it has been,” Tasker said. “It’s a very prominent era in Bills history that will rival those Bills teams of the ’90s and certainly, the Bills teams of the 60s. You have to be a certain age to remember that stuff. Now more than ever this is the zenith of the franchise for a couple of generations of fans.”

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Winning has always been at the forefront of decades of success and fan devotion. That obsession with winning is shared between all of the teams on the field, and those cheering them on.

“You go to win. You don’t go to just say I’m playing the game,” Edgerson said. “I think a lot of fans feel the same way. I’m not going to just to see a game. I’m going to see a win.”

Threading all of these decades, wins and losses together are the fans who sit through the rain, wind, and snow for a team they love. It not only connects them to teams of the past but generations of family members who practiced the same pregame rituals and sat in the same seats every season.

“The Bills Mafia connects everything because it really is a family. I think whenever you get any of the alumni together, whether you played with those guys or not, whether they’re younger than you or older, there’s a kinship and camaraderie there that’s pretty cool,” Tasker said.

Sharing the ‘fandemonium’ has been a unifying force in Western New York for decades. It has also brought together hundreds of players that maybe never shared the field, but are now all watching with bated breath as this team takes on the playoffs again.

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“They’re all on board with having this team be successful and the franchise because of what it means to the city and what it mean to them when they were here and some of them are still here,” Tasker said.

“It is part of your story. You want that part of your story to continue to be successful and to know that you had a part in it.”

While time passes and players move on to new teams and opportunities, Buffalo and the Bills connect them with fans from every town, village, and city in the region. Now, it is their turn to cheer for a team and community that gave so much to them.

“This is what I’m hoping: that they will carve a new notch into Buffalo history and the Buffalo Bills because not only does the team deserve it, but the fans do because they’ve been terrific,” Edgerson said. “The fans are going to be there pulling for these guys and I’m going to be one of them.”

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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.

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