Hitchhiking & Football


A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on Profootballhof.com.

If you’ve called yourself a NFL fan for most of your life, undoubtedly you remember some great moments. And, if you’re like me and have been going to NFL games since your early childhood, you probably connect many of the memories to events that surrounded you attending the game. However, sometimes the facts get a bit murky as the years pass.

If you read our weekly Throwback Game of the Week, you’ll see a note about the Washington Redskins vs. Buffalo Bills preseason game that opened Rich Stadium (now Ralph Wilson Stadium) in Orchard Park.

I was there. But, considering I was only nine years old at the time, there are only a few memories I still have of the game. Here are my three (and now four) “vivid” recollections:

1. A cheap looking “gold” plastic coin was given to each fan as we entered the stadium for its inaugural game. Of course, at age 9, it was one of my most valuable possessions for years to come. Perhaps there’s an outside chance it’s tucked away in a box in my basement but I’m not banking on that!

2. The opening kickoff was returned by the Redskins for a touchdown. I always remember the play and thought what a bad omen for the Bills. I was right that indeed the opening kickoff in Rich was run back by the Redskins. But, I incorrectly recalled the player being Mike Bass. It was actually Washington’s Herb Mul-Key who took the football 2 yards deep in his own end zone and returned it 102 yards.

3. The most vivid memory from the night for me was a “non-football” moment from that game. The traffic was absolutely at a standstill as I think back to that Saturday night some 38+ years ago. In reading accounts of the game the other day, the articles refer to the traffic before the game that kept thousands of fans from getting into their seats until late in the first quarter. I recall getting to the game early but it was afterwards that the traffic jam provided me with the memory. I went to the game with my dad, uncle, cousin and two brothers. Considering my father was incredibly inpatient (in case you care, he still is today at age 89), he sent my oldest brother and my cousin to get the car. The remaining four of us set out by foot to start our trek home. We covered nearly two miles (and what I remember as being hours!) along 20A in Orchard Park where my father introduced me to hitchhiking. Most cars that came by were filled with Bills fans and had no more room for more passengers. But, finally a car pulled over and just as I entered the back seat, my brother and cousin drove up behind the car and picked us up. I had to wait a bit longer in life to begin hitchhiking!

4. Here’s the one memory that I recall but had not associated it with this game. We had (and some family members still do) Bills season tickets located behind the visitors’ bench. I always enjoyed seeing the interaction on the sidelines by different teams. One particular moment I remember is when troubled running back Duane Thomas engaged in a scuffle with fans. After reading the articles this week about the ’73 preseason game at Rich, I learned the incident had also occurred that night.

Well, there you have it. Football memories still burn bright. Now, I'm going to go home this weekend and hunt down that coin.

Do you remember correctly?

We all have memories of the NFL games we attended. Sometimes, however, time causes the moments to get somewhat embellished. Go ahead and post a comment about a NFL game you attended early in your life and see if the facts are right. Our Research staff will pick some out and I’ll post the real facts in next week’s blog.

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