The Buffalo Bills have an incredibly loyal fanbase. So does the Madden franchise. Bills fans are known for coming out and supporting the team no matter the weather, and no matter how they play. That’s what won them the FOX Sports award for “best fan base in the NFL”. It’s a title they were awarded back-to-back in 2020 and 2021. The culture transcends the sport itself. Every year, the start of Football Season is a huge moment for Buffalo.
For a lot of people, the moment that signals Football Season is the release of the yearly Madden NFL. Now, Madden 24 is finally out and no one is celebrating harder than Buffalo Bills fans. After such a long history with record breaking ups and downs, it’s been incredible for Bills Fans to see their team celebrated in such a big way. At the height of his stardom (so far), Josh Allen was recognized with one of the highest honors in Football. As a Bills Fan and Buffalo Kid, it feels incredible to see our Quarterback everywhere. With Josh Allen the Cover Athlete this year, you better Billieve Bills Mafia showed up for Madden 24.
Launch Night in Buffalo
When I went to go pre-order Madden 24 and the new Call of Duty, I was surprised to find out my local GameStop was doing an early launch event. Hoping for some nostalgia and to get my hands on the game early, I went. The store, which usually closes at 8pm, was open until 10 that night. They started fulfilling Madden Pre-Orders at 9pm, and when I got there I was pleasantly surprised at the turn out. In the 15 minutes or so I was in there, several individuals and groups from various demographics showed up to pick up a copy. There was an energy to the launch event that really brought me back. Folks were smiling, laughing, and engaging in lots of friendly banter. A few were playfully taunting their friends before they left to go home and face-off on The Gridiron.
Interview with Melvin Thomas
When I got to the event I was greeted by Melvin Thomas, pictured above. He has worked at a GameStop store in Buffalo for 8 years, and at the Bills stadium as well. Football is a huge part of his life. Each year, his store has done a late-night Madden Launch Event. Though it was a busy night for the store, he was so kind as to set aside a few minutes for an interview. He told me there was definitely more fan excitement this year among our community. I asked him if he thought the choice of cover athlete was a factor and he told me “this is the first Bills player on the Madden game, so yeah. Definitely. I’m just gonna be honest”. Though there was pretty big turnout on Thursday Night, Thomas told me he was expecting even more throughout the proper launch on Friday, especially since for a lot of people Friday is Payday.
Melvin Thomas is more of a Giants Fan than a Bills Fan, but living in growing up in the Buffalo Area, the spirit of the Mafia has rubbed off on him. He is definitely a fan of Madden as well. Melvin Thomas described himself as a “Huge Madden Player. Been playing since ’92, back in the Sega days, so I collect them”. When I asked him what he was excited about with the new entry, he told me has looking forward to improvements in graphics, and the updated roster. He also noticed “the juke moves and all that, and breaking tackles…they did improve a lot on this year versus last year”. Though he enjoys Madden, he recognizes that it having an affective monopoly on Football in Video Games is an issue. “Since this is the only Football game, you have to buy it no matter how good or bad. You’re gonna buy Madden, that’s just what it is”.
Bills Mafia “Shout” on Madden 24
(Pictured left to right) Gary Janish, Joe Swiatek, Brian Mocny, Jacob Janish and Joe Janish brave the cold to celebrate the Buffalo Bills.
I surveyed a group of Bills Fans (including those pictured above) with connections to the Buffalo area online. Unanimously, they were all more excited for Madden 24 than previous entries because of the Buffalo Bills being featured so prominently. They also touched on how Madden is a great way for them to connect with the sport as well as their friends and family. The Janish brothers both touched on this. Jacob mentioned how it’s “a platform to bond” every year during Football Season. “It’s Awesome,” his Brother Joe said. “[I] love competing with my friends and family while playing the best sport.
Domenico D’Angelo, a full-time Law Student in Albany touched on the good Madden does when “connecting fans of football together and experiencing competition”. He’s hoping that some improvements are made in this year’s entry. Domenico wants “fixes in bug issues, accurate updates for player skill rankings, and customizable teams”. Jacob Janish is looking forward to the new improvements and details in Madden’s Franchise mode.
A Focus on Community
One of the things that folks often said in my survey was how much the Buffalo Bills Community means to them. Joe Swiatek grew up in Buffalo, but moved to Florida with his wife Grace a few years ago. They still follow the Bills avidly to connect to their hometown. “If you are not from Buffalo, it’s hard to comprehend how close knit the community is and what football means to the city and surrounding areas. Every game day is a Holiday with your family and closest friends. The Bills are important even when they are not relevant, but when they are good, there is a euphoria around the city that is second to none”.
Jake Rudy, a SpaceX Engineer, reps the Buffalo Bills in Cocoa Florida
Jake Rudy is also from the Buffalo area and keeps the spirit of Bills Mafia alive in his new home in Cocoa Florida. He talked on how the Bills mean more than just Football, and he hopes Madden someday reflects that. The year the city of Buffalo had in the 2022-2023 Football Season was full of triumph in the fact of tragedy. Jake Rudy wants the game to be able to celebrate and spotlight that. He wants Madden to include “local stories that capture what the Bills and other teams do outside of football and for the community”.
Buffalo and the Bills: Together in Tough Times
Damar Hamlin with a young fan for The Chasing M’s Foundation Charitable Fund
The Bills are a way to celebrate and give back to the community, and it goes both ways. We’ve been together through tragedy. In May of 2022, Buffalo mourned when a white supremacist shot 13 people and killed 10 in a Tops Friendly Market on the East Side. The Buffalo Bills visited the site of the tragedy to pay their respects. The Buffalo Bills foundation also donated $200,000 to “support our local response efforts to the racist attack on the East Side”.
In return, the Buffalo Community rallied around its team when tragedy happened on the field. On January 2nd of 2023 when playing against the Bengals, Damar Hamlin made a tackle which nearly ended his life. He had a cardiac arrest on the field, and people at home and in the stadium watched for an hour as we relied on the broadcast announcers for updates. Thankfully, he made a full recovery and is getting ready to play for the Bills in the 2023-2024 Season. When he was in the hospital, folks all around the country rallied and prayed for him and his family. People came out in droves to support Damar Hamlin’s charity toy drive, with over 200,000 people raising 9 Million Dollars.
A Bright Future for Bills Mafia
Bills Fans have gone through a rollercoaster of emotions since the team was founded in 1960. We lost four super bowls in a row, and one of our most famous star players is O.J. Simpson. In spite of the chaos and heartbreak, Bills fans remain loyal and look forward to seeing their team play every year. Bills Mafia is alive and well, and it’s truly incredibly seeing a city and people that have gone through so much see such success. Here’s hoping this year is the one Buffalo takes it all the way. However, even if we don’t, know that Bills Mafia will fill the stands and tune in for every matchup like it’s the Big Game.
Madden NFL 24 is Available Now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
The Buffalo Bills First Regular Season Game is on ESPN and ABC at 8:15pm on September 11th.