We've been here before, surely, but the past informs our present and while it may be foolish to think too seriously about how this feels different than other teams and other hot starts to a season, here we are on a September Monday with a palpable sense that a change is gonna come. Indeed, it already has.
It is more than fair to say that I have, at pretty frequent intervals over the past twenty years or so, hated Ralph Wilson in a way that is both rational and insane; rational because he was a very rich man who got rich off of our devotion to a game and never delivered a championship he so frequently promised, and insane because - for better or worse - he gave me something to ease my transition into a Buffalonian when my family moved west from Western Massachusetts when I was six. Hating him was always a Sisyphean task; inevitably, when the team played a good stretch of ball, my wallet would come out and a jersey or a sweatshirt would be purchased, I would buy into the franchise again, and my hate would be shown for what it really was: flimsy. A weighty frustration with the dissonance between the callous business of professional sport and a region barely able to support any business at all, yet always tempered by an unceasing willingness to be moved to heaving emotion by a football team and what that team achieves by way of abundant fellowship.
That Ralph, by virtue of capitalism and the economic forces of an increasingly powerful league, had the power and the apparent motive to take our team away from us was an ever-present reality that many of us resented; that he never did, and moreover seems to have assured that no one ever will, is a now-present reality that seems far too good to be true. I always hated the man for, in my opinion, failing to appreciate that Bills fans had invested deeply into the franchise with their wallets and their tax dollars and their inexplicable, loving commitment; for failing to demonstrate that he understood his constituency deserved much more than the looming possibility of losing the team. And even if that's still right; even if there are scenarios wherein Ralph could have done more to spare an adoring fan base more than a decade of worry; even if these last several months have been a constant series of panic attacks that might have ultimately been avoidable - he still set the table for a complete and unassailable victory. With the past of this team set in stone, the present entirely enjoyable and the future suddenly looking bright, not to mention actually existing, that victory is massive. For a fan base that primarily thrives not on wins, but on community and shared experience, Ralph's last victory is everything.
Wins are nice, though. They are really fucking nice.
I don't know how anyone really thought that the Dolphins had a prayer in flying out of Buffalo with a victory, but those people did exist last week and they are deserving of our derision. It was a long shot before the season started (see, e.g., Lewis, Thad Based God, 2013), it was still a long shot a week ago (Bills win in Chicago > Dolphins win vs Pats, it's science), and it became a near impossibility as soon as the news of the sale to the Pegulas was announced and the region was lifted into a place of unspeakable giddiness. Hell, when a Dolphins linebacker is saying the Bills are built to beat Miami (a thing I believe to be bullshit; the Bills are built to be AWESOME, duh, and beating Miami is a nice thing that comes along with that), maybe the world shouldn't have shit like this being said out loud...