It started as a run-in by strangers in Bills gear at a minor league hockey game.
What evolved from that impromptu conversation was nothing short of a Bills fan's paradise (save, say, being at the game).
Jim McKay and Frank Fraas, co-founders of the Central Ohio Bills Backers in Columbus, met in the early 1990s and decided to start a club. But this wasn't just any club, and they didn't meet at just any bar.
The new friends and former Buffalonians talked a local restaurant owner into opening his steakhouse exclusively for Bills fans on Sunday afternoons. Membership grew quickly after word got out, and soon Michael Dominick's Steak and Seafood Restaurant was filled with upwards of 300 loyal Bills Backers each and every week. Fraas called it "the Glory Days."
"We made it a place where Bills fans could be with Bills fans," he said. "The only time we let opposing fans in was if they came with a Bills fan."
And Fraas was a man of his word. Often, fans of far-away opponents like Tampa would show up at the restaurant because they'd heard it was the only place locally they could see the game. As soon as they showed up, they were shown the door.
The Columbus group got so big, they even brought a souvenir stand into the restaurant during games. The owner made sure local favorites like wings and beef on weck were on the menu, as well as a special from the city of the opposing team.
"For the Miami game, we'd have fish fry," Fraas said. "It made Bills Sundays special."
When the steakhouse closed, the group was forced to shuffle around for a few years before it found its new home at Spoonz Pub, owned by another former Buffalonian.
Though they're no longer the only people allowed in, the Columbus Backers keep things exciting with Buffalo-born raffle items such as hot sauce, Bills jerseys and apparel, and items from the Buffalo News and Mighty Taco. With the money raised, the group plans to purchase a brick in the Tim Russert Plaza at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The bottom line, Fraas says, is that the loyal core of fans who come week after week, year after year, are what make the Central Ohio group so special. "When a city goes through what Buffalo goes through, you come together," he said. "We're all cut from the same cloth – hardworking people who love football." If you're in Columbus and want to join in on the fun, contact Frank Fraas and Jim McKay at email@example.com or head to Spoonz Pub at 7426 Sawmill Road in Columbus this Sunday to watch your Bills take on the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland.
Not in Columbus? Click here to locate your local Bills Backers club.