LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Eugene Tomaka welcomes family and friends to his “man cave,” to celebrate every Buffalo Bills away game, win or lose.
He has been a season ticket holder since 1987, and wouldn’t miss Sunday’s home opener against the Miami Dolphins for the world.
“Fasten your seatbelts,” he said, quoting retired Bills play-by-play veteran announcer Van Miller.
The basement of his Lackawanna home has been converted to a shrine to the team, with autographs proudly on display. He has a hat signed by Bruce Smith and a #12 jersey signed by Jim Kelly. He has bobble heads and a piece of 1990 Rich Stadium turf when the team won the AFC championship. His wife contributed hand-painted ceramic NFL teams masks, and tiny sports figurines hang from the ceiling.
“Everyone’s got hobbies,” said Tomaka. “Hunting, fishing, golf. This is my hobby and I love it.”
When the Bills score, he blasts the “Shout” song and dances to the beat. Friends and family join in.
“He comes downstairs before anybody gets here,” his wife Linda said. “He gets all the lights put on. He gets the music ready and has the beer on ice, and I’m upstairs doing all the cooking.”
Tomaka’s sister Sue Kowalski finds it all very entertaining.
“Oh, they’re nuts,” she said. “They’re jumping, screaming, yelling. They just go hog wild.”
His brother, Dave Sawicki, shares his enthusiasm and has remained a loyal fan, through thick and thin.
“When they were losing these past 14 years, I still watched them every Sunday. They’re a part of my fabric, a part of my DNA. I’m a die-hard Bills fan, period!”
Tomaka’s brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski remembers holding season tickets when the Bills played at the Old Rockpile. Tickets back in the early 60s, he recalls, were $3.50 to $4.00.
“It was a fantastic ride,” he said, “and I just hope we get to the Super Bowl before I get too old, and am not around any more.”
Before every game, Tomaka goes through a special ritual. He lifts the shelf holding NFL bobble-head key players and asks them in a most serious tone, “Are the Bills going to win today?”
He then drops the shelf, and they all shake their head,s “Yes.” That sometimes triggers another round of the “Shout” song.