A Letter to Bills Mafia
Dear Bills Mafia aka #BillsMafia aka The Mafia aka Bills Family aka Bills Familia aka Bills Nation aka LET’S GO BUFFALO aka Best Fans in the NFL aka BITW aka Best In The World,
Dion Dawkins here, aka Dion From the O-Line aka DDawks aka “The Shnowman” aka #73 aka Dion — and there’s a lot that I need to write y’all about.
First things first and it’s a pretty serious issue.
It’s an epidemic sweeping across America.
It’s called “people wanting to jump on this Bills bandwagon.” No, for real — talk to your loved ones about it. Here are the symptoms: You see someone getting very bored with their current football team. They’re just not vibing with it like they used to. And then on the other hand they look and see what’s happening in Buffalo, with Bills Nation. They see a team on the rise, with an exciting core of young studs, two playoff berths in the last three seasons, and the best fans that ever lived.
And this is where it gets dangerous: Those people, they think to themselves, Man. I need to get on this Bills bandwagon for next season!! I need to become a Bills fan now. And they try to jump on.
I have an important message for those people:
DO NOT TRY THIS.
DO NOT — I REPEAT, DO NOT — ATTEMPT TO ACCESS THE BILLS BANDWAGON AT THIS TIME. WE ARE CURRENTLY AT CAPACITY.
THE BUFFALO BILLS BANDWAGON IS FULL.
Yes, you heard me correctly: The bandwagon is full.
We are no longer accepting new passengers. This is NOT a buy-low opportunity. Us real ones, we’ve BEEN here — been on this ride for years. And we’re GOOD. So to everyone else, everyone who’s trying to hop on in 2020??? Just know, We ain’t got nothing for you. Take it somewhere else. This wagon is full. There is. no. room.
Alright….. thank you.
I just really wanted that off my chest. I needed to start with that — especially coming off of this overtime loss to Houston in the Wild Card. Because I won’t even downplay it to you guys. I’ll shoot with you straight: Losing hurts, man. It just hurts. And that was a tough loss — pretty much as tough as any loss comes. We felt like we were right there, playing our game, had that W in our grasp….. and we let it go. It hurts. We’re a better team than what happened in that game, and you guys deserve better as fans than what happened in that game.
But here’s the thing — here’s what my big point is that I want to share with y’all: This isn’t the same old Bills.
This isn’t the same old Bills, you know what I’m saying?
I think people who haven’t been paying attention, who haven’t been noticing everything that’s been happening with this group, they see us take that L in the Wild Card — and they just think to themselves, like, Oh, alright. It’s these same old Bills. Good for them on even making it this far….. but the Bills are going to do what the Bills are going to do.
And I know that y’all in the Mafia understand what I’m about to say already….. but I still just have to say this out loud for everyone else: that if anyone reading this thinks we’re these same old Bills? Then they’re sorely mistaken.
Trust me on this….. because I’ve been here for a minute now. I’ve been here for both playoff squads. And listen: They were absolutely nothing alike. All due respect to that 2017 team — that was a historic run, we broke the playoff drought, and that was BIG and that’s forever — but we got gifted our spot in a lot of ways. It took nearly a miracle, by a whole other team (we’re Andy Dalton fans in this house), on the last day of the season, just to sneak us in.
It counts, man. Don’t get me wrong: it counts. And the dudes on that ’17 team, they were all warriors, and they earned those playoffs. But it was almost like, ending “the drought” — that was our championship that season. We made the playoffs, and then we were just sort of happy to be there. Losing to Jacksonville sucked….. but I don’t think it hurt, you know what I mean? It’s a difference.
And like I said: Houston hurt. Losing to Houston hurt bad. Real tears were shed in our locker room after — and I’m fine saying that. We took it hard. We were devastated. And it wasn’t just us being devastated, either. Wasn’t just a group of sad dudes. It was a group of sad unsatisfied dudes. Sad annoyed dudes. Sad angry dudes. And that’s the biggest difference to me, between these two years of Bills playoff squads. That’s how you know things are changing for the better around here: No one in our locker room expected our season to be over right now.
And everyone in our locker room expects our season to still be going at this time next year.
That’s what this new Bills wave is all about.
That’s the promise of the bandwagon that all these other fans are trying to jump on.
And that promise is real.
I saw that promise from all the way back in training camp — just the way our whole roster came together. Not saying we’re the first team to ever do team bonding, but this was a level beyond anything usual. Whether it was our Rookie Pizza Challenge that we invented (shoutout Boettger, shoutout Ford); or it was Bowling Night (elite bowler squad: myself, Quinton Spain and Ty Nsekhe); or it was any one of our countless famous Movie Nights (we’re all about these movies, man. Some highlights: Fast & Furious, Game Night, Good Boys) — the point is: This group just likes each other, for real. And that matters.
I see that promise with the way our defense has just kept on doing its thing. For as long as I’ve been here, our D has been a major strength. And I think what’s so rare about that unit, it’s not just how they’re improving within themselves every year. It’s also how they’ve taken on a larger role within our team as leaders. Like if we would have a three-and-out? You’re not seeing any eye-rolling from those dudes. No one’s out there with the negativity, mumbling we’re carrying these fools. They know if we went three-and-out, we must feel bad enough. And what you’d see from them instead is a group of guys raising us up. Keeping us positive. Letting us know that, if we’re going down, we’re going down as a full-on group. And that if we’re going to win this thing, it’s going to be by the same situation. It’s all together or nothing at all. And I admire them for that. They’re a big-time unit — they’re studs. But they’re always first and foremost about the team.
I see that promise in JOSH. People ask me about JA all the time. Everyone has questions they want answered about what he’s like as a QB — or whether he’s good enough at this, or that, or whatever. And it’s just ironic to me, because the only people who don’t have any big questions about Josh?? They’re the guys in our locker room. The world has to understand: We love Josh, man. We love that dude. You know how in football movies, the quarterback is usually separate from the rest of the squad — kind of this chosen one who gets put on a pedestal? With Josh, it’s like the complete opposite of that. He’s one of us — one of the boys. Period. Also, I don’t think people realize just how freakishly good of an ATHLETE Josh is. Like, even knowing what Josh can do on a football field, that still doesn’t tell you the total story. He’s one of these guys where, any sport in the world, you name it, and I think if you’d trained Josh for it right, he’d have ended up playing that sport professionally. My man is gifted physically in a way you just can’t teach. He’s a freak, he’s a winner, he’s a funny guy (but not as funny as he thinks), he’s a good guy, he’s a great leader — and you had better believe he’s our quarterback.
The world has to understand: We love Josh, man. We love that dude.
I saw that promise in how we stepped up and brushed off hater after hater after hater. Dogs in Week 1 against the Jets? W. Thanksgiving at Dallas, where we’re pretty much an afterthought? W, with a little sauce. Sunday Night Football at Pittsburgh, playoff spot on the line, and most experts are picking the Steelers? W. And that was this cool rhythm we found, all season long it seemed like. There were these games that kept happening — and you know them when you see them — that were these “games the Bills just don’t win.” But then we just….. kept on winning them. We kept on taking these old, lazy ideas of what the Bills are — and then week by week, putting them to bed. Or more like: Burying them into the d*mn ground. I’m so proud of this team for that.
And then last but not least, I see that promise in Y’ALL. I don’t even know what there is that I can say about Bills Mafia that hasn’t already been said better by someone else — but I’ll share one quick detail. My whole life, I’ve played football….. and I’ve even been pretty good at it. But let’s be real: No one really knows one O-lineman from another. So when I’d go out, you know, maybe I’d get recognized as “that football player.” But I’d never, and I mean never, get a shout from someone who actually knew me as “Dion Dawkins, from the offensive line.”
That is, until I came to Buffalo.
In Buffalo, man, it’s crazy. It’s crazy! Y’all are crazy. And I mean that in the best way possible. I’ll be at Wegmans, just shopping around, minding my business — and it’s not, “Big man over there, I think he might play for the Bills??” It’s not even, “Oh yeah, that dude, he plays for the Bills.” It’s, “DION!” It’s, “Shnowman!” It’s, “You already shnow!” And maybe that sounds like a small thing….. but I have to tell you, it’s really big. Those interactions, those moments with fans, those quick little hellos where the whole thing just lodges in your brain, like, Wow, what I do matters to these people? And they don’t just know me….. they know ABOUT me?? No lie: I cherish those moments. I will forever.
One thing I figured out pretty early on in my career is that every NFL season is self-contained. Every season in this league is its own thing — and has its own beginning, middle and end. And so most of the time, if you’re trying to draw too many connections from one season to the next, or if you’re trying to link up two, three, four, five seasons into this idea of an “era” or whatever, it’s going to be foolish. Teams change. Players change. Circumstances change. Being down and out — it doesn’t mean you stay down or out. Just like being up and coming, that doesn’t mean you stay coming or you stay up. Stability in the NFL….. I’ve learned it’s nothing you want to go around counting on. This league is a business. And businesses will break your heart.
But, man, at the same time……..
I’ll tell you what.
I noticed something the other day. It’s the wildest thing.
We’re all having babies.
No, I’m not playing!! We’re all having babies.
That’s a fact, man. It’s real.
Alright so don’t actually fact-check me or anything….. but I’m pretty sure this is right: In just the offensive-line room alone, there’s FIVE of us who are all in some stage of having babies with our significant others. Let’s see, O.K., we’ve got: My girlfriend and I just had our baby (that one you can fact-check). I know three other dudes — but I won’t blow up their spots — who are 100% all having babies, them and their partners. And then if I’m not mistaken I think there’s even one more of us with their partner who’s having a baby. And again: I’m talking just the O-line room!!
We’re all having babies.
And I bring that up, because—
Listen. So maybe you read that and you just gave it a little smile. Or maybe you read it and you hardly thought one thing of it. But let me share with y’all where my head is at about this O-line baby boom. And maybe you’ll think I’m a little crazy for this one….. or a little superstitious….. or a million other things. But here’s what I think:
I think it’s a sign.
I think it’s a sign of what this group is about, when it comes to this thing of ours that we’re all building here together as Buffalo Bills. I think it’s like….. we’re all putting down roots. We are putting some roots down, do you know what I’m saying? We’re putting down roots in this city. We’re putting down a spiritual foundation. We’re planting that flag. We’re saying, Yeah, man, we get it — this is a business. O.K. But that doesn’t have to mean WE aren’t a family.
And that doesn’t have to mean we can’t build this thing as families do.
So I guess that’s where I come down on all this. It’s like, yeah, on one hand — are we destined to keep this core intact, and turn it into a superpower, and start the NFL’s next big dynasty or what have you?? Nah, man. No one is. Things come together; things fall apart. It’s impossible to know the future.
But just because you can’t know….. that doesn’t mean you can’t have a feeling, right?
And it’s hard not to feel like we might have something special going on up here in Buffalo. It’s hard not to feel like we’re building something that might actually last.
It’s hard not to feel like, after all these years, we might finally have a Bills team that’s going to keep on getting better, and better, and better — until it does something great.
Or even Super.