A Buffalo native myself, it's rare to see the word "Best" associated with my hometown, especially in the realm of sports. Sure, there isn't a better place in the world to get some wings (they're only called Buffalo wings if you live outside Western New York and most people negate that title the moment they use Ranch instead of Bleu Cheese), the skiing there is top notch (usually 7 months out of the year), and there is a surprising amount of culture (we've got a Philharmonic) and a thriving art scene. A land of frosty wonder, of gorgeous summers, of tasty (often fried food), and bars so packed full of sports fans you stay warm all throughout the cold months (so many months), reveling in the shared misery and Canadian whiskey.

Yep, for all its beauty and history, the thing Buffalonians find dearest to their hearts is also the thing that most often breaks it: sports. We're talking die-hard here, folks. A group of people dedicated to the most well known losers in the entire NFL, the Buffalo Bills. Though they were dominant during the early 90s, the Bills are rarely known for being the best at anything. The best at losing Super Bowls, sure, and they are definitely the best at false hope for their fans (see this season... and just about every other), but when it truly comes down to it, the Bills haven't been the tops at anything for quite some time (going on two decades here).

Well, now it seems we've found those Bills suddenly atop the pile again (well, almost...), lording it over all the other teams as they were given the honor of "Best Cheerleaders in the NFL". You read that right, the best cheerleaders in the entire NFL. Better than Dallas, who actually have their own television show dedicated to picking their girls. Better than Oakland, where the girls can barely stay in their uniforms. Better even than Miami, located in the state most likely to be named "The Nation's Cheerleading Capital".

Nope, those girls wearing skin-tight red and blue head to toe, the ones with fleece headbands keeping their ears warm during the driving home game snow storms, the affectionately named Buffalo Jills are the NFL's top cheer squad for 2011. The winningest aspect of the entire Bills franchise at this point, the Jills now stand alone atop the pyramid, with 36 young ladies who this season encapsulated perfectly what it is to cheer. Their energy, their pep, their short skirts in the warm months (the first week of September) and their second skin stretchy pants the rest of the year are (apparently) the thing by which all other cheer squads now have to look up to. Can you imagine the conversations in Dallas today? Angry women just amazed that they got beat by the Bills' cheerleaders. Do you think they all went to Jerry Jones and gave him what for?

And what are the qualifications for best, I wonder? Are there categories? Best use of Pom Poms (10% of the score)? Least revealing outfits (seriously, they wear down jackets and their faces are the only thing exposed after September)?

Regardless, this bevy of calendar beauties should be given recognition for managing to maintain that beauty on the sideline in the face of driving winds and negative temperatures come game time. Spending a good chunk of the season actively trying to cheer themselves warm during games, it is perhaps this constant dedication to the Bills and the surrounding city that makes them so good (not just good, the BEST).

In addition to being out there each home game come snow or ice, they also are HEAVILY involved in community outreach, in money raising for charities around the area, and spend the year bringing smiles not just to men and sports fans, but the children and needy of Buffalo. More than just calendar girls (though they do take a damn fine picture), there's even a non-performing aspect of the Jills (8-10 girls who make up the "Professional Jills") who go out into the community for outreach, an elite squad of stunning girls looking to give back to the city that supports them and their team. Whether it's signing calendars, visiting hometown Buffalo soldiers overseas in Iraq, or feeding the homeless during the holidays, the Jills effortlessly work to make the lives of fans in Buffalo better throughout the year.

They also help to ease the pain of watching the much beloved Bills drop out of the running each year, a pretty little distraction to keep fans from detroying flat screens and rioting during home games. Seeing those athletic young ladies dancing around trying to get some blood flowing during November/December home games... well, it can really get the blood flowing and makes up for the sometimes (often) lack of excitement being provided by the players on the field.

Good job, Jills. Now, see if you can infuse that winning attitude into the players next year.
THE BILLS MAKE ME WANNA SHOUT... The Jills make me wanna cheer.
(oh and enjoy the pics... bet you all thought Buffalo cheerleaders would look like Russian immigrants, huh?)