i miss steroids.
The Barrister, feat. Scizz, Outlander and the Apologist
Shawne Merriman. No longer a Buffalo Bill.
Coming off a long and tiring weekend of prep for the birth of my child, I was considering penning a piece on fatherhood and sports and my anxiety level and my fear of becoming a shell of my former self once the sleep deprivation hits. I may still get into that at some point before or soon after Baby Barrister makes his way into the world, but not today.
Ripping on a has-been/maybe-never-would-have-been-without-the-juice and the similarly has-been/maybe-never-would-have-been-without-the-Juice-or-Jimbo team that employed him is way more fun. See what I did there? It’s only Monday and I’m already bringing the awesome.
Science made Merriman a great player. And science probably should have told One Bills Drive that Merriman couldn’t be a great player after being robbed of his special sauce and the behemoth abilities it brought him. Steroids help with recovery time, avoiding injuries, getting unreasonably huge. Without them, Merriman showed himself to be incapable of keeping up with the game. His “Lights Out” dances seem delightfully quaint now, like a high school player celebrating his dominance against a ten year old kid half his size. You didn’t earn it, Shawne, and you couldn’t hack it when the playing field was leveled. The Bills, for their part, look not just a little bit like they're wiping a $3 million egg off their face. Ugh.
Did I say “delightfully quaint?” ... I meant “utterly pathetic.”
In stores this September.
The Apologist I say, I say, I gone and done it.
It’s alright. I know your heart is telling you it’s too soon to fall again, but it’s ok. There’s reason to get excited, to believe. You’ve been hurt before, but this time, it really is different. We’ve truly never seen anything like this. So it’s ok to already be excited for the Bills’ season to start.
In the 20 years leading up to last Thursday, since the NFL implemented an unrestricted free-agent system, the most money Ralph & Co. had ever handed out was $7 million-a-year to Derrick Dockery. You know, the Derrick Dockery who has started four games in the last two seasons.
Ok, bad memory. But seriously folks, this time it’s different. The Buffalo Bills, owners of the longest playoff drought in the NFL today, went out and signed the top free agent at his position in the market to the largest contract for a defender in the history of the league.
Aside from the lift this gives the entire defense, Buddy Nix gets a huge boost in stature from this signing. In my eyes, this deal legitimized his leadership. All Foghorn Leghorn jokes aside, it cements his position as a straight shooter who sticks to his guns.
Maybe he won’t be able to keep that up. Life as a coach or GM in the NFL, or any other sport for that matter, seems to preclude the possibility of standing by your word (right, Boeheim? …too soon?). But he said he was going to find someone who had head coaching experience. He said they would always use draft picks to find the best athletes. He said he wanted Stevie Johnson back. He said he would make every effort to sign Mario Williams.
Done, done, done, and done.
Will he be able to keep it up by restructuring Fred Jackson’s contract and finding difference makers in this year’s draft? Only time will tell. But for now, you can’t find much to fault in the Bills’ GM.
But enough about the signing itself. After a while the luster of all those zeroes at the end of Williams’ contract will wear off and the big questions will still need to be answered. How good can this defense be? Will the 4-3 mask the fact that our linebackers & secondary are less than great? Is Dave Wannstedt the answer at defensive coordinator? Are we really going to pay Shawne Merriman $5 million to salvage his reputation?
I’m not sure I’m smart enough to answer any of these questions well. Obviously adding a player as talented as Mario Williams will only make us better, but how much better is impossible to determine with any certainty. No sport exists with more variables than football. Serious speculation is simply a waste of time. (Peter King’s 2011 Super Bowl Prediction: Falcons over Chargers. Oops.)
Simply let the excitement wash over you. Your Buffalo Bills made the biggest splash of the NFL off-season.
Hey. Mind if I take your job? / Ummm...
Ok, maybe not the biggest splash. But still, think back to where you were when the Bills’ season ended. Luckily for me, I don’t have to think too hard, because I vented all my rage here
. I was distraught and depressed. A few days after writing that, I had basically stopped thinking about the Bills. I refused to look at a single draft board or even consider the Bills’ chances of reaching the .500 plateau, let alone the playoffs.
Today? I’m excited for the draft. I’m excited to see what our schedule looks like. I honestly believe the Bills have a shot at a playoff spot.
Foolish? Probably. Fun? Definitely.
As I’ve said time and time again, sports should be about fun. Splitting the hairs on Mario’s head is pointless until games are played. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the feeling that the organization finally cares and maybe, just maybe, has a clue. Yes, that says more about the level of my standards than anything else, but still, improvements were needed and they have been made, with more coming on the horizon. It's hard for me to find bad things to say about a team I shredded to the best of my ability two months ago.
Are things definitely going to be different? I don’t know how much, but they already are. The Bills of the last 12 years never made moves like this. These Bills resigned a true #1 receiver, then went out and got one of the two biggest jewels in the free agent market. And neither of them ever entertained offers elsewhere.
No one saw this coming. But it happened. So go ahead. Let yourself fall in love all over again.
For once, there’s a really good reason.
It really did tie the room together.
Welcome to your week 8 Bills preview. In honor of the most delightfully racist mascot in all of professional sports (except maybe the Canadiens), I pay tribute to the Dude's inability to understand the non-PC issue with the term "chinaman". Although the prick did piss on his rug.
This week the the Bills travel to Toronto to "host" the Washington Redskins, as they attempt to piss on Buffalo's metaphorical rug. Or not really because Buffalo's rug would be the Ralph, wouldn't it? And doesn't the Ralph already smell like piss from the years of grown men urinating in sinks during halftime? Huh? What was I talking about?
Oh right, football.
The Bills are still pretty banged up at receiver after failing to make a deal for Brandon Lloyd or Reggie Wayne at the trade deadline, and defensive stalwart Kyle Williams looks to still be weeks away from a return. Furthermore, roideriffic Shawne Merriman's season is over, and most likely his joke of a career in Buffalo. Back to long days of drinking Grey Goose and beating the fuck out of 90 pound internet models for him! You can hear us bitch about it more on this week's CrapTastiCast
In positive news, Demetrius Bell, aka Karl Malone Jr., will return to anchor the O-line, and the Amish Rifle himself enters the game with a brand spankin' new contract worth $59 million over 6 years. Daaaaaaaaayum! That is one expensive beard! Here's hoping it translates into a big game from the bearded wonder, and not a disaster, like the careers of other recent overpriced QB contracts. I'm looking at you Derek Anderson and Charlie Tavaris Whitehurst Jackson. With a huge pay raise in tow, look for Fitzy to come out firing on all cylinders, especially after a bye week and time to think about the atrocious picks he threw against the Giants two weeks ago. I for one would love to see Freddie Jackson to get 25-30 carries, and for Spiller to get 10-15, but we all know Chan wants to rack up at least 40 points, so let the heart attacks begin!
I SEE THE LIGHT! Oh wait, that's just the headlights of Marshawn's car.
As for the Redskins, their top wideout, starting TE, and go-to RB are out for the game. Santana Moss is nursing a broken interior cruciminary fibula bone, Chris Cooley is banging his hot wife
, and Tim Hightower was put on season ending IR for a burst eardrum and nagging nosebleeds. Sexy Rexy will NOT be gunning repetitive throws into Buffalo's secondary, and instead, assumed Mormon (insert sister-wives joke here) John Beck gets his second straight start after a decent showing in week 7 against the Cowboys.
That all seems to look wonderful for the Bills, except for the fact that Buffalo tends to play shitty against underdeveloped players that nobody has heard of. I see John Beck throwing for 400 yards, Roy Helu running for 150 and 3 TD's, and of course Art Monk will make his triumphant return to the 'Skins to put up 11 catches for 172 yards, all while taunting Andre Reed with his Hall of Fame jacket on. Not to mention, Brian Orakpo will be the first player to light up the Bills line by tripling the season sack total from two to six. He still remembers getting passed up for Aaron Maybin.
Alright, maybe I'm overreacting a taaaaaaaad bit. I just know Buffalo has played shitty in Toronto the past couple seasons, and it stirs up a rage storm inside of me every time it's called a home game. Fuck that! At least George Wilson finally stood up and called out the idea that this is some sort of advantage for his team. About time somebody spoke up. God knows that shitface Trent Edwards was always sucking up to the wasteland that is Canada. Stupid Canada, with their clean air, free health care, and incredible gun control laws. HA! Pussies!
Now excuse me while I breathe in enough toxins to kill a moose, look at a bill from Empire for $1300 for an emergency room visit seven years ago, and then get hit by a stray bullet on my way home from writing this. AMERICA! FUCK YEAH!
#56... not worth the sweat off of Darryl Talley's balls.
The BarristerLet it never be said that I can't admit when I've gone a little bit off the rails. It may take me a little bit of a ramble, but I'll explain...It's tough as a realist Bills fan. You want to be able to talk honestly about the boneheaded shit that comes out of One Bills Drive, but you are immediately contending with a dumb-as-shit contingency of
the fan base who would rather defend the team than admit basic truths of the franchise. With the rise of Twitter and other social media, the battle between realists - who necessarily live in with at least some
level of cynicism - and the "true fans" has gotten more heated as people rush to one up each other, all the while throwing in an @ mention to one of their favorite players. When Donte Whitner was going through his twitter implosion, there were countless fans - on both sides of the issue - who felt it necessary to engage in some direct contact with him, whether in support or not, and with each other. It got vicious, and when all was said and done, Donte rose above it to prove that he was as the cynics suspected: a big old bag of douche.This summer, when Patrick Moran of Buffalo Sports Daily published a hasty story about Shawne Merriman possessing steroids during a border crossing, there was a legitimate debate about journalism and ethics and sources and - in the end - Mr. Moran was roundly criticized on a number of good points. He ultimately apologized for the story, and that was largely the end of it.
There was another dimension to the story, though. One that pitted Bills' apologists against Bills' cynics. Those who, on the ends of the spectrum, see Super Bowl until the playoffs are out of the question against those who see 0-16 until that first win. For some fans, the Moran "story" confirmed suspicions about Merriman, and for others it simply triggered a knee jerk defense of #56 - who, at the time, had barely played a lick as a Bill and who, by all reasonable measure, appeared to be a shadow, much less a very injury-prone version, of his former, over-medicated self.
I fail to see any downside to steroid use.
This kind of conflict and bickering is nothing new to the fan base. Indeed, the chorus of cynics - reasonable cynicism, often, but sometimes a cynicism borne only out of fear and loathing and past sins - creates a frequent backlash of those members of the fan base who would prefer to enjoy their football without burdensome negativity.
Listen, I can certainly appreciate the desire to enjoy sport without hashing out arguments that, at their core, imply a certain hopelessness and wastefulness. If the Bills are, as they have annually been, a fucking trainwreck of an organization, then what we do on Sundays is, as my wife often points out, a waste of energy and time. And the way that some fans, myself included, feel when we point out the obvious - or at least the likely- truths of Buffalo Bills football can easily be interpreted as a sort of easy elitism. It's easy to point these truths out, and by doing so, we give ourselves a pat on the back that we've come to some sort of smart conclusion about the way that the Bills have so thoroughly wasted out time over the last decade.
That said, and I say this all with full recognition that these Bills are 4-2 and that there are plenty of reasons to have some
hope about where the rest of the season might take us, but... COME THE FUCK ON. Merriman's signing and the predictable path he has taken as a Buffalo Bill - at least predictable to those fans who chose to look at the science of steroids and the improbability of Merriman's long-term good health - has been an utter waste of money for a franchise that pinches pennies at every turn. We like to think, perhaps as a justification for a day of drinking every weekend, that the Bills have turned a corner, but then shit like this happens. Shit that confirms beliefs of the cynical side of out fan base, and it behooves all of us to take a minute and think about what, if any, optimism about this team is reasonable.
And, yes, this applies to me as much as anyone. Loving this team over the past two months, as I have, has been as fun a time as I've had as a sports fan, but it's also been horrendously foolish and has - as I'll admit now and as I've admitted a little less publicly over the past couple weeks - ignored the basic tenets of my Bills fandom, which - at their core - value a guarded sense of wariness and expectation of that other shoe dropping. In other words, I've certainly learned from the experiences of the past twenty years, and these past seven weeks have been nothing but a rash abandonment of those twenty years of Bills truth. Honestly, that win over the Pats made me into the football fan equivalent of an 11 year old girl with Bieber Fever, and now that I've come back down to earth a little bit, I feel plenty silly. To illustrate the point, as was discussed in CrapTastiCast #15
, I love to point out that my prediction for the season was 8-8. Not because that prediction will be proven right - in fact, right about now, 8-8 seems pretty far away - but because, as I've been swimming in the deep and pleasurable waters of blind optimism, pointing to an 8-8 prediction suggests, at least to myself, that I'm not that crazy.
Silver lining, albeit a championship-less silver lining.
Years of failure, years of frustration. Like the cynics among us who, before the season, butted heads with seemingly thoughtless optimists, it may appear to many pockets of the fan base that pointing these realities out now - particularly when it is triggered by an injury to a guy who has been such a small part of the success that is a 4-2 start - is simply callous or petty. But, fuck that. Seriously.
For now - after a frustrating Giants loss, an ever-increasing list of injuries and a predictably wasteful contract - forgive me if I turn in my #BillsMafia card (which I never formally embraced, but which would have been an appropriate designation based on the optimism I've felt for the past month) and begin a long countdown to an afternoon of hand-wringing and frustration on Sunday. Maybe we win, maybe we don't, but with Fred Jackson still vastly underpaid, Stevie Johnson and Fitzpatrick still inexplicably unextended, and Merriman again sitting on IR, I'm starting to resume my true and long-held role as a Bills cynic. Even if it does make me sad and feeling not a little bit pathetic knowing that, in spite of the truth of Bills football I'm now embracing, I'll be sitting down for another installment of the Bills in Toronto series come 4:15 on Sunday. Good fucking grief.
And, sure, I want them to prove me disastrously wrong. I want to be eating crow in two months, looking at a 10-4 team about to lock up a playoff berth, but for now I'm assuming the worst. Because, more often than I can stand, that's exactly what this team has given me.