It’s the night of New Year’s Eve. I’m standing in front of the flat screen tv in a hotel room in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Buffalo Bills just beat their divisional rival the Miami Dolphins. But that win does not keep the butterflies in my stomach at bay. The fate of my team’s playoff entrance lies in the hands of quarterback Andy Dalton and his Cincinnati Bengals. With 49 seconds left in the game, the Bengals have the ball against the playoff-hungry Baltimore Ravens. The current score is 24-27 and the Bengals are the ones losing.

It’s 4th and 12 and the game is on the line.

Dalton fires a 49 yard pass to his slot receiver Tyler Boyd who ran past the Ravens secondary and straight into the endzone.

The unthinkable has happened.

The Buffalo Bills have finally made the playoffs after 17 years. The longest active drought in the four major North American professional sports has been snapped.

For me, it was like watching a movie I had waited 17 years for a moment to finally happen and there were so many emotions as I tried to process the information.

It was surreal. I started tearing up. Well, happy tears that is. I was stunned. We actually did it.

With trembling hands, I reached for my phone and started to call my brother. He was only 12 years old the last time they were in the playoffs. He’s now 30.

I explained to him that I feel like a ginormous weight has been lifted. That 17 year old aggravating monkey is off our backs.

But we weren’t supposed to get this far to some at the beginning of the season. One USA Today projection had us going a pathetic 4-12. There were tank talks. Here comes an early first round draft pick.

But in football, anything is possible. The impossible is possible. Any given Sunday, right?

Why not us? Why not the loyal Buffalo Bills fanbase who exploded the second Boyd entered the endzone? Haven’t we suffered enough heartache and feelings of irrelevance and woe these last 17 years?

In response to Dalton’s heroic efforts of cementing their spot in the playoffs,the Bills die-hard fan base, known as the Bills Mafia, rallied together and paid it forward.

To show their appreciation, fans have been donating 17 dollars (one dollar for each year of the drought) to Dalton’s charity the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation. To date, there have been 14,000 donors and they have raised over $315,000.

Their charitable efforts have put Bills Mafia in the national spotlight. They are more than just the drunken fans smashing tables in those viral videos you see on Barstool Sports. After all, the city of Buffalo’s nickname is the “City of Good Neighbors.”

What else went viral were the videos of fan reactions that were so crazy, it looked almost as if the team had won the Super Bowl, not merely clinching a Wild Card playoff spot. It was a historical moment to say the least.

I saw some backlash from football fans who mocked and overtly criticized Bills fans’ feelings of jubilation of finally getting in.

In response to these criticisms, it’s not cockiness. It’s not overconfidence. It’s not too much hype. I don’t care where the experts rate my team. They can say we are the worst playoff team ever in the history of the NFL. As a long suffering fan, I have waited 17 years for this moment and I’m going to soak in this special feeling every step of the way.

At long last,  it’s time to circle those wagons again, Bills fans.

We’ve gotten rid of the ghosts of the controversial Music City Miracle. We’ve exorcised the demons of the torturous 17 year long playoff drought.

Enjoy the ride. It’s a new era in Bills history. It’s time to usher it in.

Win or lose on Sunday, there’s one guarantee: this team is moving in a positive direction.

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