Tuesday, December 3, 2013

On being a Buffalo Bills fan

     I've been a Buffalo Bills football fan for all of my life and I don't see it changing anytime soon.  If you aren't a fan, this will give you an idea of what we Buffalo fans go through and if you are, well you can commiserate with me. 

     Last night we lost a game, that we should have won.  A few bad calls and a fumble sent us into overtime and another fumble lost the game for us.  A game that we had been winning with our team really playing some solid football ended with a L instead of a W.  The sad thing is, I missed all the drama at the
I love to see Freddie run.
end of the game, I had left the house on a kid-run with us having a lead, and came back with us recording another loss and yet, I wasn't surprised, because I'm a Bills fan.  I see this almost every week.  As I say this, I'm not calling for any heads to roll or to have people be traded or benched, though admittedly I wouldn't cry if Gilmore was gone, but instead just to vent a little about a team that I love a lot, the Buffalo Bills.

     Before I talk any smack about what is wrong with the Bills, I have to give credit to what is right about them.  The fans are great, and since the 1990's have turned out year after year to support largely losing Buffalo Bills teams, because they are the home team and we are grateful to have them here.  The stadium was built a little too big for a market this size and yet for most games we sell the seats and if we don't the local businesses or Ralph Wilson steps in to buy up the rest.  Each year the stadium fills back up with these
Th iconic Ralph Wilson, oh with Jim Kelly
loyal and overly optimistic fans, that keeping inventing new terms so that they can bring hope into the stadium with them.  Tell me that it wasn't Buffalo fans that invented the terms "rebuilding year", "enviable draft position" or my favorite, "statistically still in the hunt".  We don't whip stupid towels in your face while you are trying to watch the game and our cheers are not offensive, just uplifting.  There's no better sound than the 12th man rocking the Ralph.   That's another thing we have that's great, our owner, Ralph Wilson.   Ralph turned 95 this year and was an original founder of the AFL.  He is the last of his kind.  He's the longest tenured owner (54 years) and he's credited with saving the AFL during it's tough times by lending money to the other teams to keep them afloat.  The AFL never lost a franchise because of him.  He grew up in a tough town, Detroit and went off to serve in the Navy.  After JFK was assassinated, Ralph lobbied successfully for all AFL games that Sunday to be postponed out of respect, while the NFL teams played on schedule.  He's a class act and we are lucky to have him. 

     The same can be said for the city of Buffalo.  We are lucky to have the "Queen City" or the "Nickel City" if you prefer.  Did you know that at one time Buffalo boasted a larger number of
The Ralph
millionaires per capita than any other city?  That time, however, is not this time.  Buffalo's growth times are likely behind her, a city that once ranked 8th in the US for population, now ranks 73rd.  In fact, Buffalo's current population is almost identical to it's population in the year 1890.  The Saint Lawrence Seaway stole her commerce, China stole her steel industry and other manufacturers and people just packed up and moved away, but the ones that were left were the die-hards, the Bills fans.  For a city now boasting fewer than 260,000 people. it still has great architecture, great sports teams, music,street festivals, art and a host of institutes of higher learning.  In 2010 Forbes magazine named it the 10th best city in America to live, which makes me wonder, how bad were those who left?  If I had to guess, I'd say that they went to Miami, or maybe to Foxboro MA, but it's only a guess.  I say good riddance, cuz you left a great city and some great fans behind and they know how to tailgate.

     Wow, another whole paragraph on what we do right?  Yep.  There are few cities that know how to tailgate as well as the Buffalonians and we invented some of the foods that other fans eat each week.  The Buffalo chicken wing has to rate first among these, only we can take something that was once
Beef on Weck
thrown away and make it delicious enough to become the most expensive part of the chicken.  Beef on Weck has to come in a close second.  That's a staple up here where you take rare roast beef, slap it on a Kummelweck (or Kimmelweck if you prefer) roll and serve it up hot with some horseradish and au jus.  Even our hot dogs taste better, they are less sweet than other markets, are spicier and are made for charcoal grilling, not boiling.  You've never really tasted a hot dog until you've had a Sahlen's hot dog, grilled over charcoal (I'll give Wardynski's a close second).  Sure we eat cheese steaks and soups and stews and foods made famous in other markets too, but when you are tailgating outside of the Ralph, you'll see these foods the most. You'll see the oddest cooking
Sure, why not use your car too?
contraptions set up outside that stadium too and they been designed to keep the food coming in spite of the blowing snows and winds that are so common to that area of Western NY.  Awnings and tents are handy too, that is, right up until Mother Nature decides to take them from you, an ever-present threat when tailgating at the Ralph.

I should probably talk a little about football in a blog about the Buffalo Bills, but as most of you are well aware, it's been some time since we've had any bragging rights. If you are a playmaker on another NFL team and you find yourself traded to the Bills, you can historically count on having a couple of mediocre years on this roster that can't afford you before you find yourself somewhere else where you are sure to start playing like you did before your Western NY trip. It must be our weather but we've fared much better by getting newbies and teaching them how to play
My family at a street festival this year
here than in trying to bring established talent in (think T.O. here). We seem to have more problems keeping players healthy too and as a Bills fan, I spend a lot of time each week perusing our injury report to see who is actually able to start for us. We struggle with finishing games, I'm not sure if there's a stat for teams that go into the 2nd half with leads only to be outscored by their opponents, but if there is, we surely are at the top of this list. It's become so common an event for us that my brain immediately starts going through each way we could lose the lead, as soon as we have one (don't call me a bad fan for this cuz I'll bet a lot of us do this and this just makes us better students of history). It's amazing how often I'll predict the blatant late hit or unnecessary roughness call that comes or the poorly thrown ball that falls into the hands of an opposing player but each time I do, I get a stony stare from the Bill's number 1 fan and cheerleader, my wife. Sorry Dear, but without becoming a little jaded you never last decades as a Bills fan. I do read my wife's Pollyanna predictions and pre-game postulations that she posts to Facebook each week, but as I do I'm practicing my platitudes for consoling her after the loss. Most weeks, it's time well spent.

     I'll close this blog in the way that I opened it, I'm a Buffalo Bills fan and probably will be for life. We are proud that we didn't steal our team from another market, and we pray some bigger, richer city won't do that to us (cuz then I'd have to be a a Steelers, Browns, or Lions fan). To my knowledge, we don't spy on other teams and we don't pay players to injure their competitors, but we do win fewer games. So many years we come off a 7-9 season anticipating a much better season to follow, only to find ourselves hoping mid-season to be able to finish at 7-9, sigh. That's the reality of being a Bills fan, one that we live every year, but Hey, at least we are statistically still in the hunt.

It was fitting that this blog end in de feet. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cute ending. I like your sense of humor. ...