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Bills' Rally Puts Chill on Valley Fans : Pro football: Local members of Raider Booster Club travel to frigid Buffalo, see playoff defeat.

January 16, 1994|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They traveled 3,000 miles, leaving behind the sunny and warm Southland climate, to support their favorite football team in sub-zero temperatures. You probably can't find more faithful Raider fans than these.

"It was freezing and into the game it got colder and colder," said Debra Zeldin of Canoga Park. "I wore tights, thermals, three pairs of sweats, three pairs of socks, boots, a jacket, a big coat and a ski mask. Oh, and two pairs of gloves."

On Saturday, Zeldin and 11 members of the Greater L.A. Raider Booster Club sat proudly in the stands at Buffalo's Rich Stadium, clad in multilayers of thick clothing and waving black and silver pompons during the Raiders' second-round AFC playoff game against the Buffalo Bills.

It was the coldest game in Bills' history with a wind-chill factor that dropped the temperature to minus-32 degrees. About a dozen doctors, nurses and paramedics were on hand to treat fans for frostbite and exposure to the cold.

The group of warm-blooded Californians, many of them from the Valley, survived the Eastern freeze by sticking together and sharing a large wool blanket featuring the Raiders' logo.

Zeldin, a 24-year-old Blue Cross employee, and her 61-year-old mother, Maureen Johnson, flew to New York on Friday for the big game. They stayed at the same hotel as the Raiders.

"It was the most important game of the year and we all felt it was imperative to be there," Zeldin said. "The Raiders needed us more than ever."

Zeldin and her mother have been Raider season ticket-holders for three years and besides attending all home games this season, they traveled to Chicago, Seattle and San Diego to watch the team play.

Johnson, a native of Canada who has lived in Canoga Park since 1964, said it got colder when the Raiders fell behind because the group did lots of jumping and cheering while the team was ahead.

The Raiders held a 17-13 halftime lead but lost, 29-23.

"When we started losing, we were just slouching down so it felt really cold," Johnson said. "Then we had to deal with the Buffalo fans pointing at us because we were losing. Some of them were nasty. They were using the F word and showing us the finger. They were just rude and it was very annoying to be in the middle of that."

Zeldin said a couple of unruly Buffalo fans tried to intimidate her group on its arrival at the stadium. She said, however, their antics didn't stop her from cheering loudly for the Raiders.

"When we first got there, a couple of drunk people threw some snowballs at me," Zeldin said. "And when we sat down, the people next to us said, 'We don't want any Raider fans next to us.' Then through the game, they would throw these big ice things at us."

At one point, Johnson said one of her arms and a leg got too cold for comfort. But it's not as if booster club members didn't know what awaited them.

On Friday, authorities for the Erie County Emergency Services announced that in addition to heavy clothing, boots and hats, spectators should be equipped with blankets, food, prescription medicine and a snow shovel because they may be stuck in traffic for a long time after the game.

"We were dressed for it, but it was just very wet," Johnson said. "That really made it bad. It made it tougher to stay warm. Luckily, we didn't get stuck in snow after the game."

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