Western New York spots fans are some of the most passionate, knowledgeable, and loyal in North America. Unfortunately, they have also been the longest-suffering fans, having enjoyed not a single major pro sports championship since Jack Kemp (may he rest in peace) QB’d the AFL’s Buffalo Bills in 1964 and 1965.
Despite the lack of any highly-coveted championship commemorative posters (sorry, fans…1964-65 was the pre-poster era), Buffalo’s walls have been adorned with some great, and highly collectible, sports posters over the years. Here are our choices for the Top 10:
10. Doug Flutie “The Flutiemaster” – While some Bills fans will never forgive him for costing Rob Johnson playing time and acting too confident, Doug Flutie’s three-year run with the team in the late 1990s was nothing short of brilliant. In 30 starts, he recorded a 21-9 record, truly earning the nickname “The Flutiemaster” coined with this poster released during his miraculous late-season run to the playoffs in 1998 (limited quantity still in stock at SportsPosterWarehouse.com).
9. Buffalo Bills “Super Bowl XXVII” (AFC Champions) – Action Images 1993. This poster, published for sale at souvenir stands at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena on gameday (January 31, 1993), is a bittersweet reminder of what might have been, had Jim Kelly and the boys managed to win just one of those four early-1990s championship games. Imagine the word “Championship” under the artwork actually reading “Champions!” on a post-game edition. One can dream…
8. Dominik Hasek “The Dominator” (Old-School Uniform) – Norman James Corp. 1995 – While Dominik led the Buffalo Sabres to the Stanley Cup Finals in the new-school uniform (unveiled in the fall of 1996), he first rose to prominence in the old-school unis. This amazing poster, released by short-lived Canadian publisher Norman James Corp., gives you a glimpse at Dominik as he appeared during his earliest moment of magic – his role in the “Mayday” game against the Boston Bruins during the 1993 playoffs. This is, as far as we know, the only poster published featuring Hasek in this uniform.
7. Thurman Thomas “The Thurmanator” – Costacos Brothers 1991 – From the late-1980s, early-1990s heyday of Costacos Brothers theme posters, this one is still highly sought after by Bills collectors, and was such a great seller back in the day that the publisher came out with a sequel – “Thurmanator II” – in 1993.
6. Gilbert Perreault & Rick Martin – Sports Posters Inc. (Lewis Portnoy) 1973 – A Hall of Fame photographer for the amazing results his innovative arena strobe techniques produced in the early 1970s, Lewis Portnoy was a true innovator and entrepreneur. From 1973 to 1975, the St. Louis-based snapper marketed his own line of posters from his amazing library of images. The upstart Sabres had two entries in the series, pictured here: Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin. (Note: a limited quantity of these posters is still available from The Sports Poster Warehouse in The Portnoy Collection section).
5. O.J. Simpson Action Poster – Studio One 1973 – From 1972-78, the sports posters you could order from those “checklist” advertisements in Sports Illustrated magazine came from the Studio One corporation. SI-SO posters were printed on a very delicate paper stock, making it very difficult to find them in decent condition. Further, unlike some of the earlier SI posters published by the Renselaar Corporation from 1968-71, we are unaware of any major warehouse finds of this era’s posters, making many of them impossible to find in any shape! While most of us wish we never had to see O.J.’s guilty mug ever again, no one wants to forget the football magic he brought to Buffalo in the 1970s – especially the 2000+ yard 1973 season, the year this classic was published.
4. Winter Classic 2008 Panoramic Poster Print – Everlasting Images Inc. – If you are a hard-core Western New York sports fan, you were probably at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 1, 2008, at what will certainly be remembered as one of the most fondly-remembered sporting events in Buffalo history. From legendary panoramic stadium photographer Rob Arra’s brilliant Everlasting Images collection, this brings the day alive with class and style. (Note: this poster is still in print, available here from SportsPosterWarehouse.com).
3. Bob McAdoo Buffalo Braves Action Poster – Studio One Sports Illustrated 1974 – Few outside of Western New York have any idea that there was an NBA franchise in Buffalo in the 1970s…and the team was actually pretty competitive! The team was led by superstar Bob McAdoo, the #2 overall draft pick of 1972, who brought the high-flying athleticism of North Carolina hoops to the Aud (and Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens for a few games every year). This impossible-to-find poster found its way into SportsPosterWarehouse.com’s permanent collection via eBay many years ago…and we’ve never seen one offered for sale since! A truly rare historical relic.
2. “Buffalo ’66” Bills Theme Art Poster – Unknown Publisher 1966 – No, this is not from Vincent Gallo’s memorable 1998 indie film that weaved Buffalo football history into a bizarre Western New York-centered tale. This is a vintage original from the earliest-known full-sized (24″ x 36″) poster line ever published for consumer sale – a series of AFL and NFL team theme art posters published between 1966 and 1968. There’s no copyright info on the posters, no artist information, and we’re not even sure where they were sold; but the pure-’60s artwork is brilliant, and all teams of the era were included, including the Bills franchise that was still enjoying the glow of back-to-back championships. If anyone has more details about this series, please leave comments on this blog entry!
1. “Machine Gun Kelly” Jim Kelly Theme Poster – Costacos Brothers 1987 – To this day, we get more requests for this one than for any other Buffalo-related classic. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the kitschy 1980s Costacos Brothers theme poster line (yes, there were actual Costacos Brothers – John and Tock Costacos, Seattle-based entrepreneurs), but you can’t argue with success, and you can’t argue with public demand! Featuring the legendary Buffalo Bills QB playing off his on-field gunslinger reputation, this now impossible-to-find poster truly brings you back to the glorious ’80s – the style is unmistakeable, and man, does Jim look young! Thousands of you had this one posted to your bedroom wall back in the day, but how many survived post-adolescence or redecorating? We’re guessing – not too many.