32 Fans. 32 Countries: Paolo Miranda, a Buffalo Bills Fan in Italy

32 Fans, 32 Countries is a look at the global reaches of the NFL. For this project we have attempted to interview 32 different fans of all 32 teams in 32 different countries all around the world (UK, Canada, and Mexico excluded). As readers will find, the paths to fandom are as varied as the cultures and customs of each country. Check back every day for a new profile.

Venice, Italy has a number of nicknames – The Floating City, City of Water, City of Light, City of Bridges. With a beautiful spirit embedded in the glow of the Grand Canal, Venice is the perfect place to fall in love.  Paolo Miranda did just that – but not with a girl or a job or a nice bottle of Brunello. Miranda’s soul mate turned out to be the Buffalo Bills.

Raised close to Genoa, Miranda moved to Venice about sixteen years ago for university and never left. He runs a successful yacht company and is deeply embedded into Venetian culture.

Circa 2003, a girl caught his eye, and the two started dating. She was American, specifically from Rochester, New York. And it was her brother and his severe fandom for the Bills that piqued Miranda’s interest.

“Listen, in Italy we’re famous for soccer. I’m just wondering about this American football and I want you guys to bring me to a game,” asked Miranda of his girlfriend’s family.

So on only his third trip ever to the United States, Miranda was treated to an American football experience.

The year was 2004. It was the home opener against Jacksonville. The Bills lost on the final play of the game. But the outcome was irrelevant to Miranda.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life.” he said.

Miranda had heard stories about tailgating but the actual experience blew his mind.  Even an Italian was impressed by the droves of early morning drinking and barbequing. The communal experience was unlike any he knew in Italy, even with the legendary raucousness that is synonymous with European soccer.

“In soccer, fans are separated. Home fans are on one side of the stadium and opposing fans on the opposite side,” Miranda said. “It’s a very different spirit.”

After his first experience at a Bills game, Miranda needed more. He learned the game by playing Madden and discovered a small community after starting an official Bills Backers club in Venice. Fans throughout the country emailed him, and although some live as far south as Rome, they try to get together from time to time to cheer on their Bills.

Still, Miranda sought a more personal experience, and has thus devoted most his travel budget to attending Bills games in the U.S.

Two years ago he traveled to Miami and last season he traveled to the San Francisco game, a 13-hour flight. This season he plans to travel to Buffalo’s Week 8 game at New Orleans.  Not bad choices for some Americana to go along with the football.

Miranda befriends the “enemy.”

And, of course, he has made his way to a multitude of games at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Five to be exact.

But most of his visits have had nothing to do with the American girl he met a decade ago. They broke up after two years.

“You never forget your first love. My first love was the Bills.”