For November's recipient of the 2021-22 Buffalo Bills Season Ticket Member of the Month Program, another long-time Bills game attendee has been selected. Mark Anderson is our latest honoree, as his step-daughter, Katy Bailey, nominated him after more than 50 years of Bills fandom.
Mark, a Hamburg native and Orchard Park resident, said he first began attending Bills games in the 1960s when the team entered the American Football League and became one of the dominant teams in the innovative and high-octane league. Although Mark's only been a season-ticket member since 2001, he was there when the Bills hosted the Kansas City Chiefs at War Memorial Stadium in the AFL Championship Game during the 1966 NFL season — one game prior to what is now known as Super Bowl I.
If he had to pick, Pro Bowl safety Micah Hyde would be Mark's favorite current Bills player. But with so much success happening for the team under head coach Sean McDermott, Mr. Anderson had a bevy of favorites to share from the reigning AFC East Champions.
"It's hard to pick one. … I'll give you three on defense and offense; Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer and Tre Day," Mark said, alluding to two-time All-Pro cornerback Tre'Davious White. "Josh [Allen] and [Stefon] Diggs and [Cole] Beasley."
Watching almost the entirety of the Bills' team history, Mark had many standout moments to pick from. One that jumped to mind was Bills Wall of Fame linebacker Mike Stratton pummeling San Diego Chargers running back Keith Lincoln with the "The Hit Heard 'Round the World" in the 1964 AFL Championship Game. Another was Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly's walk-off touchdown run as time expired in Buffalo's 1989 season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
Mark's wife, Mickey, also attends games with him and is said to be the bigger Bills fan of the duo. She's become so much of a fan, Mickey has even sent sympathy cards and notes to injured players, and even to former Bills players and coaches.
She recently reached out to Tre White after he suffered an ACL tear in the Thanksgiving win over the New Orleans Saints and notably got a response letter from former head coach Chan Gailey, who served in that role from 2010-12.
"When I first started going to [Bills] games I was a young girl, and you're just there looking around kind of learning the game," she said.
" … Just in the last maybe 10 years or so, you just know and appreciate how much work everyone puts into everything. And so when I see a player go down, it breaks my heart. And I have a daughter who suffered an ACL injury in college, so I kind of understand what that looks like. And somehow you just want to offer some encouragement, because you know that the game is everything, these are young players."
Mickey grew up in nearby Derby in the Town of Evans. Living in the South Towns throughout her life as well, Mrs. Anderson also had some noteworthy games in Bills history to speak on. She first attended a game in 1972, bought tickets for the first time in 1973, then became a season-ticket holder for the first time the following season.
Some moments, though, she just missed out on, like the famed 1980 season opener against Miami where fans pulled down the goal posts and spawned Van Miller's "fandemonium" call, due to having a baby. Mickey also missed the 20 points scored in 77 seconds for the Bills in their regular season win over the Denver Broncos in 1990. Her phone call seeking a babysitter was just a bit too long for her to get back in ample time.
But some moments that Mickey was on hand for were the AFC Championship Games the team played in during its historic four-year run of Super Bowl berths in the 1990s. She was also at the miraculous 32-point comeback effort the Bills had in their Wild Card win over the Houston Oilers during the 1992 campaign.
"That's something that I told Mark when we got married. We started going to games together and I said 'I don't leave, I just wait until the end,'" Mickey said. "I like to applaud the players as they're walking off the field, win or lose, doesn't matter. I sat through the 2-14 seasons with my dad, you know? It's our team."
Two others for Mickey were specifically from the 2017 season — first the "snow game" where the Bills prevailed over the Indianapolis Colts in a real-life snow globe portrayal, as well as Kyle Williams' send-off TD run and making it into the playoffs after downing the Dolphins and getting help from Cincinnati's win over Baltimore.
Mickey also noted Buffalo's Thanksgiving win over the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, which she feels brought in a new audience of Bills fans. One other game she discussed was last season's AFC Championship tilt with the Kansas City Chiefs — the team's first berth in the game in 27 years.
Mark and Mickey were two of the 6,700 Bills fans in attendance that day in KC. Getting to see the team advancing so far in the playoffs was a treat after many years without postseason success.
"They make me smile. I love the cohesiveness of this team, this current team. They're just the epitome, I think, of teamwork," she said. "And you can tell how much they care for one another."
The Andersons have not tailgated as much as they have in years past, but they would often check in with friends who had RVs in lots around Highmark Stadium before kickoff. Even away from Orchard Park, though, they've been able to keep in line with the team on the road to watch the Bills play in Los Angeles, Nashville, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Overall, football has become a family thing for the Andersons. So much so, even Mickey and Mark's children have the love for the game flowing through them. Their daughters, Katy and Julie Pezzimenti, have season tickets of their own and are fully entrenched in fantasy football.
"My oldest daughter [Julie] especially, she's the one. She knows like every team in the whole NFL, I'm like are you kidding me?," Mickey said. "I don't know how she does it, I can't keep track of all that stuff anymore, but good for her. I'm surrounded by a lot of good football people."