The first of many takes on this news... Guest contributor, former full-timer...
This is all very odd. It probably has something to do with my fever-ridden brain, but all of this feels as if it may vanish next morning. Am I going to wake up in bed with Susane Pleshette? Is Patrick Duffy going to be in the shower? Am I a kid with autism staring at a snow globe?
Terry Pegula finally took full ownership of the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night when he relieved General Manager Darcy Regier and Head Coach Ron Rolston on their posts. Regier had been GM for the Sabres for 16 years, winning no championships. In their places: Pat LaFontaine as President of Hockey Operations and Ted Nolan - TED NOLAN WHAT THE FUCK - as interim Head Coach. Now the last vestiges of Golisano and Rigas are gone. This is the real Pegula Day.
I've always kind of wondered about Pegula and his level control with this team. He took charge in a bath of glory from a desperate fanbase and then immediately proclaimed that nothing would change. There was no new vision. There was no grand strategic plan. It was the men he retained, finally being free of inept management. Pegula found out, brutally, that the ineptness resided within the room.
It could not be easy for the man. He showed deep emotional committment to Lindy Ruff and Regier on the day he took full vestment. He had to believe deep down in their abilities. To come to the realization that maybe your heroes cant save the world is, to borrow from Ruff's dialog, a tough one. But controlling a sports team means, quite often, having to dispense with the people you love and respect most in order to maintain peak performance. Pegula's sentimentality got the better of him. We should hope its a mistake he never makes again.
The Sabres have maybe acquired something they haven't had since the lockout of 2004, and that is vision. The infusion of LaFontaine may bring that grand plan the team had desperately been lacking for so long. Since Pegula bought the team they have wandered from one half-assed strategy to the next. They thought they could turn it around right when he bought the team in 2011, but couldn't quite make it work. No one could agree as to whether they were rebuilding or not after that. Did they start rebuilding last year? When they fired Ruff? When they hired Rolston? When they traded Pominville? The ship was without a captain.
Regier was always good at holding a thing together, but it felt like he was taking direction from elsewhere. He did well when someone else wrote the rules of engagement. Both Rigas and Golisano set financial goals for the franchise and had direct impact on personnel decisions made by the team. Pegula was adamant that wouldn't happen again, but assumed that the man taking orders was being restrained by the financial constraints as opposed to fulfilling the job at which he was his best. Pegula got a chance to see Regier's style of management for himself, free of interference, and saw a void. "Fuck. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I just wanted to believe in this guy."
Hey man, you always said you were a fan first. Well this is a first rate fan fuck up. We do this shit all the time.
The blessings of unimaginable personal wealth is that you can fuck up without any personal risk. Saying Pegula is getting a second chance at this isn't quite phrasing right, because the guy never really took the helm, nor does he necessarily have a finite number of chances to take. This is where the guy is giving it a shot. This is where his mark is to be made. The fact that LaFontaine and Nolan both have been with this franchise before and worked together on Long Island in a similar capacity should not be mistaken for another bout of crippling sentimentality (although there is a great risk of it being just that). The two of them bring definitiveness.
No one would ever accuse Ted Nolan of being ambiguous. His goal and ambitions are clear to the point of friction. He causes intense heat in organizations. Lucky for him he joins a franchise where all the boilers are out. There maybe isn't a greater myth, in the classic sense of the word, in Buffalo sports than that of Nolan's ability to draw blood from stone and passion from the uninspired. His team was The Hardest Working Team In The NHL. They may not be good, but at least they will beat the shit out of somebody. Plenty of the old schoolers will be out in force clamoring for the days of the mid-90s. They'll march down Washington Street carrying signs that read "Corsi Who?" and "Math Can't Win In The Streets." They will be put to bed by a lullaby of Bob Boughner and Brad May, sleeping to dream of an end to analytics.
Seeing this element pop up makes me uneasy. I could hold my breath comfortably within the time one of these 90s hockey-worshiping mastodons calls an opposing player a faggot. Not the classiest brigade in the order of battle. Perhaps though, this is part of the myth building. Nolan's last gig was Head Coach of the Latvian national team. International hockey is not the best arena for rock'em sock'em hockey, yet Nolan got his squad into the Olympics. Maybe the man has more than just a bag of hammers in his toolbox, even if that's not what many Sabres fans care about right now.
LaFontaine got fired from the Islanders for telling them what he thought. That act should shine as an act of bureaucratic valor unparalleled in hockey. He is now on the outs on the Island. Their loss. I don't quite know what his game plan is. He never got a chance to put it into effect with the Islanders, but whatever it was it pissed off Charles Wang to the point of termination. Tell me more, Mr. LaFontaine.
We are in a position of potential energy maybe unseen in Buffalo sports. U.B. football is on the rise and Bulls hoops has a new lead. The Bills have completely turned over, Ralph Wilson is incapable of fucking it up, and just maybe they have a quarterback. And now the Sabres have finally, mercifully done what they should have done three years ago in releasing Regier.
Happy Pegula Day.
Finding it hard to give a shit today because, well, I don't. It was bad. Really fucking bad. Everyone, get better, be less awful, and win us a goddamned football game next week. Take your fucking mulligan. You don't deserve it for that steaming pile of useless football yesterday, but we're giving it to you because we're both loyal and gigantic suckers.
Fuck you for ruining my Sunday, you underachieving pieces of garbage -- that's right. UNDERachieving. We all know that was far from your best effort. My balls ache with the Buffalo-Bills-ian blue balls you gave me yesterday. A missed fucking opportunity for a team working to establish an identity that doesn't make us weep at night.
Doug... DOUG. You and your staff watched that happen and did nothing to stop it. I don't know what you're up to, but fucking quit it. You are not powerless to stop a game from getting out of hand, but punting it from the Steelers fucking 36 yard line sure suggests that you think you are.
For the first time all season, a distinct turnaround from how I thought of them not even one day ago, I think of this squad - coaches and players alike - as cowardly. A team full of beasts, of hard-workers and guys who've simply given their best, reduced to a sniveling mound of unprepared and lackluster pussies. This could be an overreaction, but we all saw what went down yesterday. And no part of it looked like the team that has shown up every game to do work. The team that we've been willing to fall in love with.
Get it right or get bent.
GET IT!? CUZ BIG BEN IS RAPEY!! #class
I can’t help thinking this is the most confident Bills fans have been with a losing record since #12 lined up under center. We’re all leery about feeling this way, but the fact of the matter is, against all logic and evidence, this season truly does feel different.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the entire league feels different. Peyton Manning & Wes Welker are teammates… in Denver. Rex Ryan has turned a buttfumble into a contract extension. The Patriots are beatable. The Chiefs are undefeated. The Raiders have a better record than the Giants AND the Steelers. And, hey, wait a second. So do we!
The Bills have remained competitive and even exciting with a depleted secondary, their best offensive weapon slowed by injury, and three different starting quarterbacks in the last five games. You have to tip your hat to Doug Marrone and his coaching staff. Sure, there have been questionable decisions made and somehow, 9 games in, he’s yet to win a challenge. But the attitude on the field feels different. Take the pick-6 on the goalline from last weekend. I’m not going to excuse it, but I will say that I love the guts of telling your untested, undrafted quarterback to make a hard throw in that situation. Sure, it walks the fine line between brave and foolish, but let’s be honest with each other. It was easier to get over a gutsy call on the 3rd & goal, than it would’ve been to watch another “try not to lose” approach we’ve seen over the last decade (3 straight runs for no gain and a field goal = Dick Jauron’s wet dream). And more importantly than all that is that he’s got the players believing in his plan. All you have to do is look at that same play. Tuel & Graham chased Sean Smith the entire length of the field knowing full well neither would catch him and all they were really accomplishing was tiring themselves out for the ensuing drive. But they weren’t going to give up on the play. No excuses. No quit. That’s the attitude Marrone has instilled so far. (His reaction to the play: “Situationally do you question the play call? No … Do you question the execution of it? Yes.”)
It’s far too soon to say whether or not this will translate to future success, but you can’t help feeling like little by little, the culture and expectation of failure that has been the foundation of this franchise for almost two decades is finally being chipped away and a new one is being built.
Monsieur Shorts de Bonaire - @Boner_Shorts - Deeg Guest Contributor
Yesterday afternoon, I was listening to The Sports Hub in MA wanting to hear more about the Richie Incognito fiasco taking place in Miami. I tuned in to the Gresh and Zo show, featuring Andy Gresh and Scott Zolak. Andy Gresh’s name probably doesn’t ring a bell, but those of us who would choose Backup Quarterbacks in the NFL During the 90s as a category on Jeopardy might recognize Scott Zolak’s name. He played most notably for New England and Miami. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, but he does a passable job of waving the pom poms during lunch for Boston sports on the radio. Gresh is a big fat guy who played D1A football in Rhode Island somewhere.
So, given this pedigree, I thought it would be an interesting take on this locker room situation. Both of the hosts know first hand what it’s like to be in a football locker room. They of course started with the “using racial slurs is crossing the line” tack, which really isn’t that hard to take. So they certainly set up Incognito as the one clearly at fault here. He’s the bad guy. But then something interesting started happening: a not so subtle start to discredit, and borderline assign BLAME to Jonathan Martin in all of this. It first began with Zolak asking the question, “Does Martin want to play football? We always talk about how Belichick only gets guys who have football as their first priority (ahem… well, besides murdering people). If he can’t handle this stuff, is he really putting football as something important to him?” And then? They start in on his education and his parents. “He went to Stanford. Both of his parents are lawyers. He’s got other options in life, he was just given a gift of size so he decided to play football.
Later in the day, I see Bert Breer tweet out the lawyer parent thing as well. Why tweet out their professions? What bearing does that have in this case and how is that information being used by readers beyond what appears to be a subtle attempt to suggest that his parents’ careers somehow reveal a character flaw of Martin’s? Where is the tweet informing us all of Incognito’s parents’ careers? (fwiw, his dad's a mason and if I wanted I could make all sorts of baseless insinuations about that if I wanted to be an asshole). It’s almost to say that “pfft… Martin’s parents are lawyers… it figures that a little pussy like that couldn’t stand up for himself. He can do the white collar thing like his parents, he's just quitting because that other stuff is
easier. He obviously doesn't want it enough.
Goddammit. This may be a ruse, again. It may be the same old Bills sent to Orchard Park to fool us into some unsettled sense of optimism, who am I to predict the future, but, fuck. This team of ours is really enjoyable. Even when losing.
Yesterday went exactly how I sort of dreamed it would, to the extent my dreams are always, when no one's looking, tempered by a solemn acceptance that sports are simply sad. The Bills played out of their minds, kept an undefeated team in check, and ultimately lost because, well, just because. The lingering legacy of a snake bitten franchise appeared on the field yesterday and it meant a loss. Predictably, I suppose.
But this team, as shackled by apparent fate as it is, and as injured and beat up as it is, plays unbelievably fucking hard. They come prepared, they play balls out and it's a joy to watch. CJ Spiller was playing on one good leg and still broke defenders' ankles throughout the game. Fred Jackson remained a work horse and constantly broke tackles against a highly rated defense. Marquise Goodwin amazed us with his speed, again, as he continues to creep up the depth chart. The defense was as sturdy as they've been all season, arguably. And Jeff Tuel, well... he was ok.
And that's where the season remains an overwhelming positive, while at the same time requiring overwhelming patience from a fan base jumping out of its shoes with excitement at the prospect of cheering for a winner once again.
Jeff Tuel, of whom we all expected so little, played well. He was a disaster on the pick 6, and was pretty bad at other times with overthrown balls and missed open targets, but he was ok. More to the point, he was exceedingly better than advertised and feared. Playing within an offensive system built to move the ball by runs and passes, while giving the quarterback the option to make reads at the line and exploit defensive schemes, Jeff Tuel was pretty successful and, even accounting for the two interceptions, outplayed Alex Smith on the other side of the ball. Tuel has been getting a lot of shit from fans over the past 22 hours, and most of it is deserved, but to lose sight of the good things he did is to lose sight of the complete disaster that reasonable thinking fans were expecting from him.
Tuel's game yesterday, mistakes included, was the kind of surprise we've gotten used to with this season's Bills team. Players generally playing above our expectations, sometimes exceeding even the most homer of Bills fans' hopes for their play. Mario Williams. Leodis. Robey. Lawson. Aaron Williams. Bobby Woods. Kiko. Goodwin. Choice. Marcus Easley. FRANK FUCKING SUMMERS. CJ and Freddie. Even TJ Graham sometimes (but not really, let's be honest). This is a team of overachievers - players who've been representing the franchise well on the field, working hard for a full 60 minutes, and putting together a Buffalo Bills product that is remarkable.
And that's why we love them after Week 9 - after the sixth loss of the year - because they're showing us something to remark upon; something we haven't seen in a long fucking while. Sure, they're losing just as "same old Bills" have lost year after year, but we can see and know and love the difference, right?
I'm still all in, bitches. Go Bills.
these fucking guys
That may have been overstated.
It's Saturday night, the Bills still haven't named a starting QB for tomorrow, and in about eleven hours they're playing the sole remaining undefeated team in the National Football League. Some miracle ass shit will have to go down for events to combine into a Buffalo victory, so that's what we're going to hope for. An against all odds win pulled from the depths of asses throughout Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bring lube.
If this is going to happen, it will be equal parts ridiculous, painful and beautiful.
From where I sit, on a throne of bedazzled hyperbole, the Chiefs have to lose. Articles about how stupid lucky they are to be 8-0 have been frequent this week, the consensus being that Kansas City has had an incredibly easy schedule etc etc... the kinds of rationalizations that play ever-so-well into the psyche of a Buffalo Bills fan base eager to count their chickens before natural selection even establishes what a chicken the fuck is. America wants the Bills to win to right some assumed wrong in the football universe. So, whadya say, Bills? Get it.
Mind you, again, none of this is really possible. Miracles, man. They give no shits.
In scanning Twitter the other day, I had noticed a Tweet from a different blog with the title “Did Lindy Ruff deserve better from the Sabres?”. After choking back the rage and bile, I decided there was no possible way I could read this piece without wanting to drive carpet tacks into the head of my dick repeatedly. Since I’m fairly new here, I don’t think I’ve discussed the absolute disgust I have for Lindy Ruff at any sort of length. If you've followed me on Twitter for awhile, you won't be surprised by what's below - I loathe the man as much as the city insanely loved him. So let’s dig in a little.
First off, I don’t understand the thinking that this guy got a raw deal from the Sabres. Let’s be brutally honest, the guy should have been fired YEARS before last season. He was afforded multiple chances, with about 3 different sets of core players, 3 ownership groups, and 2 different sets of rules to get the job done here. I think that’s a fair shake. 15 years is about 8 times the lifespan of the average NHL coach. (I didn’t actually look this up, it’s a guesstimate) On what fucking planet isn’t this a “fair shake”?? There were plenty of times you could watch a Sabres game and see a listless, boring team going through the motions. Most every player who’s left here has had nothing kind to say about his coaching tactics, not to mention the guys who spoke up when he left here.
If ever there was a mixed fucking bag of a weekend for me and my sport-watching-and-commenting brethren, it was this one. A tremendous Liverpool win, a Sporting KC win forcing the Red Bulls to do the same in order to get their first taste of hardware, a predictable Bills loss at the Superdome, replete with frustrating football and officiating alike, the Red Bulls getting that win and that shield, and Thomas Vanek.
If you're not into the Sabres and came here for Bills-only takes, my not-apologies, fuck you and wait a minute while I opine.
We expected this for Vanek - a guy who all but said he wasn't interested in sticking around this shit bag franchise anymore - though the swiftness with which the trade came late on a Sunday, months before we really expected it, was jarring. You want to be able to steel yourself up for a moment like this; a moment where a player so dear to you and the entire fan base is allowed to go, for now, to a place where things look discernibly brighter and more optimistic; a moment where a player is allowed to walk away, leaving his fans pining for the "could have beens" from a frustrating six years of Sabres hockey. He was a guy you wanted to be wearing the Blue and Gold when this ship eventually (please?) gets righted, but the impossibility of that scenario - Vanek staying and the rebuild occurring with some degree of speed - was unmistakable. He really couldn't stay if all the shit needing fixing is going to get addressed.
A fact that doesn't make it feel any better to see a talent like him depart the club we support.
Vanek has been the sole reason this team was able to fake it for so long, convincing fans and owner alike that the team could figure it out and become a contender; that the deals for Stafford and Myers and Leino and whoever else you want to point to wouldn't be fatal; that perhaps Buffalo could win in spite of those decisions proven to be mistakes by disappointing play and empty nets missed, by out-of-shape camps and defensive gaffes, and by games missed ad infinitum.
Vanek is a talent that seemed to make anything possible, but nevertheless never did. No titles. No Cup runs under his leadership. No true moments where you could really, reasonably think that he was taking the team somewhere other than consecutive sequences of mediocrity with brief pauses for ultimately inconsequential brilliance.
Perhaps I've spent more than enough words on a guy who has won nothing, but received our love anyway, and who is now simply gone. I'd say good luck, but let's be honest, I want all that luck for the squad he's leaving behind.
Fuck it, let's talk about our Bills.
That's a lovely accent you have. New Jersey?
It’s hard to hold out much hope for the Bills this weekend. Right now, the New Orleans Saints look like the heavy favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII and we look at best like a heavy favorite to battle for a 7-9 record. EJ is still out and Spiller looks like he’s 50% at best. And even though our defense has clearly turned a corner, recently they've had slow starts which could add up to an early blowout this Sunday.
But all in all, the Bills have made every game exciting this year, with no game decided by more than one score. So even if our odds are no better than Lloyd Christmas winding up with Mrs. Samsonite, this is a game worth getting excited about.
Three Things To Be Excited About:
1) Mario Williams
Sh, sh, sh... go to sleep.
Barrister chats with new-ish Deeg member and previously virginal podcaster, The Commander.
They talk about the Sabres being terrible, the Bills being fun again, media stuff, soccer (?) and try to keep this short but fail ever so miserably. Whatever, The Commander needed to get his feet wet with something long (giggity), and our podcast hoster hasn't been used in over a month.
Lots of music with this one - Ugly Duckiing, Homeboy Sandman, Phil Collins, Gorillaz and 2Pac.
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