The Not so Different Juggalo, The All Too Familiar Bill’s Fan
walked through a sea of painted faces, brightly colored pants and unifying shirts to the sounds of a jubilant fight song with a refrain of, not words, but utterances that much like the clothing, unify the cult like following consisting of blue collar, mostly men, rust belt prided fan base of a hip hop duo from Detroit, Michigan.
No strike that…
I walked through a sea of painted faces, brightly colored pants and unifying shirts to the sounds of a jubilant fight song with a refrain of, not words, but utterances that much like the clothing, unified the cult like following consisting of blue collar, mostly men, rust belt prided fan base of a National Football League team.
What a difference a few words make. One oozes the uncomfortable viscera of the Insane Clown Posse and their legion of face painted, oft alt dressed Juggalo family, and the other sounds a hell of a lot like the diehard alliance of the Buffalo Bills. Whether it’s “whoop whoop” or “heyyy-a-heyy,” these two fan bases are much more a like than different. They are the pillars of hope within their communities, they unify people and give them something to believe in. As for the rest of the world, they hate them. Both.
They aren’t the classiest people, although if confronted about the situation will plea their case. They are a symbol of the white middle/middle low class misfits of the music industry and professional sports. I know because I am one, well both.
I gravitated to ICP as a young teen. A poor white kid. Misunderstood, maybe. Looking for a sense of belonging, yes. I’m not white trash, but given my circumstances in life, some would argue I am. I hail from a medium city. Not a small town, not a booming metropolis. Rochester, NY, the place I found the clowns. The juggalo population is small, but proud to represent what they believe in.
As a young child, I wore red, white and blue Zubaz pants with the charging buffalo insignia embroidered onto the front. I had several shirts depicting some of the greatest football players to play the game (Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, Thruman Thomas, the list goes on and on), many of them enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Knit hats, snow jackets, jerseys, crew neck sweatshirts, and a plethora of posters, plaques, trading cards, and housewares surrounded me everywhere.
I would save my lunch money to purchase anything I could get my hands on to prove my alliance to the clowns. CD’s, t-shirts, hoodies, and everything else fore mentioned but instead of a charging buffalo, it was a running man with a hatchet. I collected news articles, magazines, and other media that validated their existence, although most times, negatively.
There’s something about the atmosphere of a home game at The Ralph. It’s electric. The fans of this franchise are the most dedicated, passionate, and loyal fans of any NFL tram. I can say that, I have no proof. I don’t need any. Just park in any lot outside the stadium and take in the scene. Music blaring, footballs flinging through the air, chants of “let’s go Buffalo,” complete strangers walking by each other offering a mutual sign of respect: “go Bills.” Three is no hatred here (as long as your colors are true), there is a fraternity of men, women, and children, regardless of creed, sexual orientation, or disability. Here, we represent a city on the verge of a rebirth. But, we never went anywhere. We’ve been here screaming, dreaming of the day we can rip down the uprights again.
As I walked the snaking line of clown painted faces and chants of “who’s goin’ chicken huntin’?” through a mist of Faygo pop, I realized that I’m one of many people who need this music to survive. It’s helped me through some dark days that’s seemed to last years. Everyone here respects everyone, we’re family. The Hatchet man tells the story of each us that links us to the next. It’s a beacon of hope. It comes in many forms: a bottle of water to someone who needs it, a beer, a shoulder to lean on, an ear to talk into, or just someone to rap with about life.
Buffalo is a city on the rise after many years of job attrition and crime. The people are proud. “This is the greatest city in the world” they will assure you. It’s a beautiful place. The architecture, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Delaware Park, Historical Linwood, the Harbor, so many hidden gems. To the rest of the world, Buffalo is a city masked in snow most of the year. “It’s cold there,” people tell me so certain of the climate that best mimics that of Chicago. It’s not a huge city, but the inhabitants pride themselves on chicken wings, Loganberry, hockey, football and an insatiable desire to drink outside.
“You like ICP? Those guys suck.” I was a junior in high school at the time. It was school picture day and the photographer didn’t much care for my Riddlebox shirt. I just looked at him perplexed. He snapped a photo and continued to barb me about my musical interests. He didn’t even tell me to smile, or elicit one by saying “cheeeeese,” the judgment had been handed down to me. I was subhuman because of a t-shirt depicting a band he had never listened to before.
“Bills suck!” Roared a man out of the driver side window of his car in Hell’s Kitchen at the intersection of 38th street and 8th avenue. All I could do was muster up an innocent wave. The season hasn’t begun yet, but somehow the Bills suck? Did he mean they sucked? Or was he just an obnoxious New Yorker who pledges his allegiance to one of New Jersey’s two teams? The public has made up its collective mind. The Bills suck. No matter how hard they try to break the stereotype, people have other teams they are passionate about. Fair enough, don’t take away others.
A song about magnets. A poorly edited computer generated universe. 2 clowns wearing all white rapping about looking at the world a little differently. Millions of hits later, and they’re the punchline of humanity. National attention for making a song celebrating the innocence of childhood eyes and making sense of the world around them. The world discovered Juggalos. And they hate them.
“They haven’t reached the playoffs this millennium.” The sentiment that often precedes the term Buffalo Bills. A team that lost 4 straight Super Bowls in the early 90’s. A team only known for their blunders and obsessive fan base. Their RV lot sells out long before game day. Fans who cook food on a Pinto and drink Polish liquor out of a bowling ball. A stadium which holds one of the largest capacities in the NFL and often sells it out. The world hates them, not because of rivalry, but because of what they represent.
I jumped up and down with excitement. Yelling and screaming every lyric. Every cell in my body erupted with joy. Here I am surrounded by thousands of people who believe in the same thing I do. People who, like me, depend on this sing along to give them fight. We sing and we scream, high five and hug and we do it all to the same tune. It’s our war song, our battle cry. Each utterance gives life to the monolith voice that is….