I was down south this past weekend visiting family and I decided to check out a local sports bar to watch the Buffalo Bills football game. A quick search for Bills gathering spots led me to RonDao’s, a pizzeria in Fort Myers. I rolled in around halftime and found cars parked on every inch of road within two blocks of the place; it was a game day feel before I even stepped through the door.
RonDao’s is a nice spot for transplanted northerners to enjoy their favorite team, a scene that must be common in countless cities across the country. That said, it was also a brand new subculture for me. In a sprawling room covered with LCD televisions and sprinkled with Bills posters, there were 400+ people decked out in Bills jerseys, Bills hats, and, in at least one instance, a Bills tattoo. If you squinted, you could have easily been in Buffalo…well, except for the tan lines.
As fans trained their eyes on one of the 65 LCD TVs, a cheery wait staff decked out in referee jerseys served food and drinks on any flat space: tables, bars, re-purposed pool tables, even a foosball table covered with a piece of plywood (bearing the Bills logo, of course). I shared a corner with Rob from North Buffalo, Rob’s girlfriend Cheryl, and Eddie from Cheektowaga. At one point, I asked Eddie about the wings, and he said “It’s no Duffs, but they’re pretty good.” Motioning towards a dish of wings, he then asked “want to try one before you order?”
As it turns out, RonDao’s has pretty good wings, and the fans are a lot like those in Buffalo. They are friendly and enthusiastic, they sing “Shout” after touchdowns, they complain about the refs, and they ring cowbells after big plays–which seemed to be really important to the slightly over-served guy in the Jim Kelly jersey. The atmosphere certainly mirrored the game day experience in Buffalo—but without the snow, and without a guy in front of me with a giant inflatable Bills helmet.
As the afternoon went on, Eddie from Cheektowaga bought me a beer, the Bills lost in a close game, and I won an appreciation for why people come to dimly lit bars on sunny Sunday afternoons. Familiarity is a beautiful thing–especially away from home–as is finding a connection to others. Perhaps the only thing more important is finding really good wings.