YNN's 12th Man: From the Rockpile, to the Ralph
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GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. -- "My first game believe it or not was 1968 when I was five,” remembers John Boutet. “The Bills were having a terrible year that year. They had not won a game. They actually picked off Joe Namath 5 times."
Countless gamedays after that, Boutet cultivated his love for the Bills at the old Rockpile, and he almost always took something home with him.
"It was a way to actually bring a piece of the game home with you,” said Boutet. “Whether it's a ticket stub or a program, it was a way to almost prove to yourself and prove to your friends in school that you actually went to the game."
Years later Boutet is still collecting.
"Knick knacks, some ticket stubs and things like that," he said.
His massive collection helps remind him of memorable games and his favorite players.
"Those older players back in the day, the Jack Kemps and Mike Strattons and Tom Sestaks and Booker Edgersons, they really played for love of the game," said Boutet.
He says friends will come over for hours at a time to look at posters and papers or leaf through old programs.
"I have every Bills program since their inception in 1960," said Boutet.
And even some of those players he grew up idolizing have shown up at his door to check out the collection.
"When I meet guys like that for the first time, I go right back to being a little kid again," said Boutet.
But after decades of collecting, scouring the internet and memorabilia shows, Boutet says he doesn't want this stuff in his house anymore. He and a few other people have plans to start the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
"It's great for your friends to see and all that stuff, but you know, there's over a million people in Western New York that love to see this stuff," said Boutet.
Those million plus kindred spirits deserve to see it, he says, because of their undying affection for Buffalo sports.
"It's that never say die attitude. It's next year. It's always next year in Buffalo," said Boutet.