Dennis Gleason is the FanSided Sports Fan of the Year


FanSided is proud to announce that Buffalo fan, Dennis Gleason, has been named the inaugural FanSided Fan of the Year.

We’d like to thank everyone who entered, especially our five finalists. Havok, Raeanne, Dawn and Hannah. All are fantastic people and everyone should check out their stories on our finalists page.

All five finalists will receive a one-year subscription to Sports Illustrated and Dennis will be featured in the magazine.

Check out our winner’s story below and be sure to read his writeup in SI.

Finally, a special thanks to everyone at Sports Illustrated for all their help in getting this award off the ground this year. We’re looking forward to continuing to honor fans.

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“Every day this side of worms is a great day.” It’s this kind of gallows humor that further solidifies Dennis Gleason as the biggest fan of all sports Buffalo.

Talking with Gleason is like opening up a sports almanac. There is hardly a game, a goal, a touchdown, a win or a defeat that he can not rattle off with little-to-no prompting.

Gleason speaks excitedly of “The Hit Heard Around the World” in the 1964 AFL Championship Game, and is quick to mention that he attended the 1965 AFL Championship Game at the old Rockpile (and that he can name the entire roster from that Bills team). He was at the Buffalo Sabres’ first ever game as a franchise, and can give the exact details of how Buffalo was able to select O.J. Simpson in the 1969 NFL/AFL Draft.

There’s also the heartbreak. Gleason doesn’t dwell on these moments as much, but he carries the emotional fan baggage of the “Skate in the Crease” game from the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, the “Music City Miracle” and, of course, Wide Right.

Even personal landmark occasions feel tangential to the sports world. Gleason proposed to his then-girlfriend via telephone while on his way to a Sabres-Bruins game in 1977. “The Bruins won, 4-3,” he says of that night, “and my wife and I are still married 38 years later.”

In 1975 Dennis Gleason was struck by a drunk driver while driving home. The crash resulted 32 surgeries and an extensive stint in the hospital. Nevertheless, Gleason would not let it deter him from supporting his teams. “I was the first person ever to demand TV in the ICU,” he says. “Remember, it was 1975, and there weren’t any in intensive care.”

When discussing the genesis of his fandom, Gleason matter-of-factly states that, “Sports saved me from an abusive childhood.”

It’s for this reason that Gleason has likely chosen to pay it forward with his extensive work throughout the community. He worked for over 20 years as a substance abuse prevention coordinator, and currently sits on the Niagra County Victims Council speaking to victims of drunk drivers. He’s also a youth pastor that has erected basketball courts around the community. The rules of the courts are simple: pray before each game, be respectful and no swearing.”

What happens if a player lets slip a four-letter word?

“One swear is a reprimand. Two swears is a personal meeting with me,” Gleason counts off, “and we’ve never had somebody curse a third time.”

For all the heartbreak that comes along with being a fan of Buffalo sports, Gleason chews it up and uses it as fuel for the community and the fan base for which he roots.

Profile by Jonathan Bass