Well, that was nice while it lasted. It was fun having fun, wasn't it? Let's do that more.
If you’ve seen as many years of Bills football as I have, last Sunday made you want to vomit. Not out of sickness, so much as to feel something more appealing than yet another mental gut-punch from Tom Brady & Bill Belichick.
It's not that we lost. It's that a season that once seemed different suddenly looked so familiar. For five weeks, we were allowed to think about the postseason without the slightest hint of irony. Now those thoughts are gone. Did anyone watching that game see the playoffs as anything more than an abstract idea? Because nothing about the team’s performance showed they were ready for this important moment in their season. A good defensive effort couldn’t keep the energy up thanks to an ineffective running game and an average quarterback. Even the defense had its moments (DUKE!! WHY!?!) that left me thinking “The season may as well end tomorrow if this is what we’ll see every week.” I’m not saying it’s time to put your Zubaz back in storage. But it’s time to dial down expectations again.
How many times have the Patriots left us feeling like this?
Side note: With all due respect, to the people who keep reminding me that “Yeah, but they were a doormat in the ‘90s.” Shut up. They went to the Super Bowl in 1996. They have more titles than anyone in the AFC East and they’ve routinely smacked all of us around for almost 15 years. Enough with that “fact.” You look like an idiot.
Our little website adventure has been a haven for negativity, as a rule, and it's about time we tried to change that paradigm. Born out of Scizz's brain, we're taking a crack at a weekly podcast aimed at being positive. Positive enough to keep Scizz motivated to stay in the business of producing oral internet content without slipping into a downward spiral of rage and infinite sadness.
Enough of sad stuff that keeps us yelling too much.
We bring you Happy Endings with Barrister and Scizz.
Hope you like it. No big deal if you don't. We'll try to keep getting better.
Stream below, iTunes below, direct download here or here, RSS feed here.
Where I work, we use an outside agency to clean the bathrooms and provide general maintenance duties throughout the building. For some reason, they've sent some seriously incapable individuals to do this job for years. Cleaning a shitter shared by 90 people is a fairly important - and simple - task. Somehow, though, time and time again we deal with people so incomprehensibly bad at holding a mop and emptying trash cans that you have to wonder how they made it this far in life. The last kid even broke a fucking toilet seat trying to clean some curly alfalfa sprouts from under it. I'll say it again - he broke a goddamned toilet seat. Anything is an improvement over this neverending cycle of smarmy creatures.
They recently brought in a new body to throw on the pile. This cat's in his sixties, can't hear a thing, and skips half of the shit he's supposed to do every day. We like him, though, because he he's a little quirky, he's got some wonderfully creepy mutton chops, and he does the essentials. After clearing the trash in the break room, before scrubbing the johns, he'll dance and sing some shit that none of us can understand a word of. We don't care, he's entertaining. We're cool with it, he does enough to get by. The guy won't be here forever, but he's all we need for now.
If that lede didn't make it blatantly obvious enough, The Apologist isn't available this week so I've been called up in his absence. The janitorial situation we're now all aware of is all too similar to the wonderfully incompetent American football team we all share an interest in, and that really saddens me. For years (let's say fifteen of them), we've been through some serious shit as Bills fans - most of it stemming from their complete lack of comprehension when it comes to finding and developing a quarterback.
Jumping from clogged toilets like JP Losman to vomit-soaked carpet akin to EJ Manuel is really leaving us wanting here. We all do our part to get excited for the new guy, with hopes he's at the very least a slight improvement over the last. Unfortunately, most of them fizzle out before you get a chance to really give a shit about them, which is what happened to Manuel. This city is so thirsty for relevance that the majority of fans were calling for his head after a shortened rookie year. Given four more starts this season with average to terrible results, EJ was benched the reigns were turned over to journeyman and noted good-time machine known as Kyle Orton.
At every stop in his NFL career, Orton has been unspectacular if not boring, but still managed a .500 record which is a lot more than most in his situation could say. The dude took over last week and won us over with a decidedly mediocre game. Sure, he threw for 300 yards and touchdown, but he also threw a pick and a ton of short passes against a strong Lions defense. Point is, he did what he could and what his team needed. A snazzy catch by Sammy "The Glen" Watkins and a magical field goal by Special Teams Jesus were what decided it, not Orton's play. He moved the offense, took what the defense was giving him, and kept the club in it. That's all they need right now.
He's not ideal, and it's just one game, but he's (Christ... so, so sadly) the closest thing we've had to everyone's wanted in a Tom Brady figure in years. Speaking of Tom, he's coming to town this weekend with his New England Patriots and is more than welcome to go fuck himself. With the history these teams have had since Brady's been at the helm of the former doormat of the East, it's always satisfying to think about topping them and taking a win to wear as a badge of honor for the rest of the season. Every blogger's expert analysis when this matchup comes around is that the good guys have to get to Brady. At least that's what they write. Get them a few slugs of fireball, and you'll find that the more apt advice is to get him to the hospital. I'm not usually one who cheers for injuries to any athlete, but the thought of Touchdown Tom breaking his leg again in Orchard Park this Sunday got me to half mast quicker than David Carradine in a belt factory.
It's two days later, and I may have just been in a 36 hour haze after Adrian Peterson's latest orgy party, but did Kyle Orton, Kicker Jesus, Sammy "The Glen" Watkins and an unconscionably good defense roll into Motown and steal a W?
YO. Did anyone really see that coming? It was a fucking terrible game - a TERRIBLE GAME - that had the markings of what 2014 Buffalo Bills football seems to be all about: amazing defensive efforts wasted by awful lack of offensive production. It was looking like what the Chargers and Texans games looked like, to varying degrees, and on a day when the Bills were missing a key cog in the defensive line, the effort we saw on that side of the ball was more than we could have hoped for. The game was bad. It was all but lost. That is, until Alex Henery took things into his own hands, er, feet.
Tough beat. At least you have a sweet bike.
I suppose it was meant to be, what with the new mustachioed QB who appears to barely bathe, the game in our now-deceased owner's hometown, and the return of the former Lions coach and current Bills DC. Al (we should call him Al now) Henery was just doing his part in following the predetermined course of fate, however doomed it would ultimately make him. Personally, I think Stu Holden should be the Lions kicker. Would be safer for him, at any rate.
Bad game or not, it was a win and an excuse to make ebola jokes....
We recorded a podcast. Our intentions were good, but the first two takes were lost in my computer so by the time any recorded content was created, we were multiple drinks deep and had lost all sense of boundaries. Renn tries to keep it together, SBA tries to imagine being anywhere else other than Long Island, and Dubs tries to be as offensive as possible while pretending he knows stuff about sports.
You know, but that's valid because if we are all gonna die anyway shouldn't we be enjoying ourselves now? You know, I'd like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor insignificant preamble to something else.
Do I really have to? Well, no. Never. But here I am.
The thought crosses my mind often. Walking away from this blog, saving myself the smattering of credit card payments to keep a website and podcast hosting on, and doing something else with my weekends not to mention weekdays because here I fucking am on a fucking Tuesday, filled with some vague desire to let all the words and frustrations flow out of my fingers and, maybe this time, leave me empty of all the bullshit that inevitably invades my emotional palate every year sometime between September 10th and October 15th.
It never leaves, though. The inescapable truth of a brisk autumn and the predictably drab Buffalo Bills football that comes with it. This is, for better or worse, what we got.
I've mumbled on here before about the community of watching the Bills. I called into WGR when the Pegulas bought the team and mumbled on about how the Bills are the way I connect with home; about how they're a tangible link that brings about high fives and unexpected friendship 400 miles from where I grew up.
They are and they aren't.
It gets harder every year since I left to give a shit. Hell, I only lived in Buffalo for 12 years before moving away, and while those 12 years were a formative time, it is becoming apparent that the love I have for the team - or, to put it better, the need I have for the team to connect me to home - is probably not without its endpoint. This, of course, being the time when I blame the team for not fostering my devotion to the Bills and to Buffalo, rather than the unavoidable byproduct of being an expat whose parents moved away from WNY as soon as it was apparent that I was probably not coming back.
I can count the number of Bills games I remember attending in Orchard Park on one hand. Why some friends thought it was wise to let me write here is still anyone's guess. If you were to quantify the percentage of Buffalo a person can claim in their makeup, I'd be on the low side, with dishearteningly high levels of New England influence. It happens. Maybe disinterest in maintaining a connection home was bound to fail. Relying on manufactured sport to bind me to a place is at best a silly task, and at worst an invitation for a blowtorch to the heart.
Yet, here here I am, wondering if this season is the one that it starts mattering little, if anything, to me that our team has yet again found itself in the most predictable of pickles. A QB who has lost the confidence of his head coach; a head coach and offensive coordinator determined to misuse that QB, ignore the few things he does right, and move onto the next guy as if there aren't fundamental flaws within the men drawing up the Xs and Os; a fan base falling over itself to declare themselves supreme football intellectuals and prophets, the first to have decided that the QB was going to fail as if betting on the Bills to fail was ever truly an ambitious move.
Anyone happy about what has happened with the Bills since Sunday can jump off a bridge into a crocodile vagina for all I care. It's shitty. Everything is pain. Kyle Orton is what would happen if Roy Munson procreated with Ishmael and the baby decided that his natural calling wasn't bowling, despite his genetics, fat face and neck beard, but football. I may be cheering my balls off with the rest of you clowns who celebrate another lost season just because it makes you right, but I won't like it.
So, is this the year I start reevaluating my love affair with the misfits at One Bills Drive? Not fucking likely, as it turns out. What the fuck of it. Let's recap the shit out of the last two weeks and figure out where the fuck we are before it stops being fun again.
The same thought has been stuck in everyone’s head once they got their brain to start working again sometime Monday afternoon after the Bills filleted the Fish: “Is this team really different?” Obviously, the sale to the Pegulas is exciting beyond comprehension (I’m still not 100% convinced it happened), but are they really getting better or is there simply a fresher coat of paint?
After all the years of disappointment, I wouldn’t blame any fan for taking this 2-0 start with a grain of salt. Since the Bills’ last playoff appearance, they have started a season 2-0 four times. Every coach over that span, except Gregg Williams, had a season that began with two wins.
In 2000, Rob Johnson won his first two home games en route to an 8-8 season, our second best record since the “Music City Mir-AH-MAKE-THE-MEMORY-STOP!”
Drew Bledsoe went 2-0 in 2003 to begin his career in Buffalo. This included one of our few wins over Brady & Belichick. The Bills finished 6-10.
Dick Jauron’s second season (2008) started with wins against the Seahawks (final record: 4-12) and the Jaguars (5-11). I won’t type that season’s ultimate record, because I like my computer and I try to avoid the urge to throw it out the window.
Most recently, Fitzmagic went 2-0, then 5-2, then… lost 7 in a row. Dear God, we’ve watched some terrible football in our time.
Unless you’re 12 years old, you lived through those years. So I don’t blame you if want to take this season’s start with a grain of salt.
Mike Pettine, Jairus Byrd, and Kiko Alonso aren’t walking through that door. Have you noticed their absence on defense? E.J. still looks inaccurate, but did you know we’ve scored more points than 25 other teams in the league? Doug Marrone was a questionable hire from a questionable football program. Anyone still question his decision to have C.J. return kickoffs?
I’m not saying it’s time to change the oil on the bandwagon just yet, but you can’t tell me that you felt like you were watching the “same old Bills” the last couple weeks. The same old version of this squad would have crumbled in Chicago and gagged on a 9-point lead that should’ve been 21 at halftime against the Dolphins. This team stopped a good offense on the road in overtime and embarrassed a division rival the week after they had beaten the Patriots.
The result could very well wind up being the same this season. But how can you not feel optimistic right now? How could the Bills have played any better to open this season? A 60-point win over the Dolphins? Kyle Williams jump-kicking Cutler in the face, like Antonio Brown? Admittedly that would’ve been amazing, but seriously folks, how could this get any better?
Oh, hey Philip Rivers! Any chance we could wipe that ridiculous look off your face?
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...
This will be my fifth attempt to figure out how to describe my excitement for this weekend’s game against the Miami Dolphins. I can barely hold all my thoughts together long enough to process them. But first and foremost is I will watch a home opener this Sunday without wondering how many more I’ll see in my lifetime. The Bills have new owners and they have no intention of moving them. The mere fact that I can write that still blows my mind. Seriously, how did this happen?
A little over a month ago, I was sharing one of many drinks with a coworker and I found myself trying to explain to her what it meant for my friends and I to see Andre Reed inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was a ridiculous conversation, but the moment touched a nerve and I needed to get it off my chest.
My excitement wasn’t just about celebrating Andre. It wasn’t about the accolade and it wasn’t even really about remembering the good ol' days. It was simply a chance to celebrate some form of success with the Bills, while we still could. Who knew how many more good things we’d get to experience as fans before they were sold.
Plenty of cities have had to deal with losing their sports teams. But the Bills’ situation was uniquely stressful in that the guillotine hung over the team for well over a decade. We had to stomach "the Toronto experiment" and the possibility they'd be bought by either Donald Trump or Bon-fucking-Jovi. That the Wilson family had no intention of keeping the team was a matter of fact. It simply seemed like a matter of time before they were gone. What wasn't really discussed was how the team’s departure would impact the city of Buffalo. Sure, we'd make broad, crass statements, but we never really talked about it. Their impact on Buffalo is so broad and engrained in the culture that to fathom life without them was too difficult. I never had a conversation about the potential hole left behind at One Bills Drive that lasted more than 2 minutes. It would start out with, “We'd be fucked,” and then the conversation would quickly get steered somewhere else. The pain was too great to even imagine.
One month later, all of the fear is gone. All of it. No more wondering will they or won’t they. Terry & Kim Pegula have secured our future and thus, never have to pay for another drink in Western New York for the rest of their lives. Both teams can come in dead last for the next five years and no one will care. They've rescued both our beloved teams, and potentially the entire region, and we are eternally in his debt.
Rarely does a result go from one inevitable conclusion to an opposite yet still inevitable conclusion. One minute I was penning a post preaching the ultimate palatability of the CFL as a replacement for the Bills and the next minute the very idea was laughable. One minute the Bills were gone, the next minute they weren’t. To be a man so powerful that your mere presence tips the scales of a billion-dollar entity firmly from one column to another, rendering the presence of the other billionaires and media conglomerates impotent in your wake, is a power that I simply cannot fathom. To have the ability, the determination, and more importantly the closing speed to shape the future of a metropolitan area in a way that politicians are unable and entrepreneurs ultimately lack the vision, the benevolence, or as one of the Toronto columnists put it last week, the craziness to do themselves for so many years. Terry Pegula is a force of nature that, if drawn up in a hypothetical five years ago would have been the only way for both teams to have long term security in Buffalo and would have dismissed out of hand as being too absurd, to pie-in-the-sky, too batshit insane to ever actually emerge.
And then, once he did emerge, once we were aware of his intentions, once he sold one of lord knows how many billion-dollar tracts of land that he owns, the endgame was already written, the Buffalo Bills wouldn’t be going to LA, San Antonio, Toronto, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. In the end Terry Pegula is the only person that will allow the Ralph C. Wilson truthers to blather on about how he was really the foundation of this franchise’s future in Buffalo and not get laughed out of the room. In the end Terry Pegula saved Ralph Wilson’s legacy, perhaps collaterally but fully and completely. Once Pegula Sports and Entertainment conveyed their interest to get involved we could have packed up shop, except we can’t do that; this come-from-ahead defeatism eventually gets so ingrained that we refuse to accept the inevitability of success- at least until we can confirm the oasis is not another mirage.
What strikes me most at a time the guy is about to plop around a billion and a half to participate in a crooked, malicious league, is that Terry Pegula is ultimately a bigger person than most of us. I don’t mean his spending power - this is unrelated to how he accumulated that wealth over the years - but the ultimate decision that this was how he wanted to use his money. In the three years since solidifying the Sabres' future and redefining the parameters of success (“just break even,” anyone?), as well as the dedication to win at all costs, he has received an almost constant deluge of tar and feather from the boobs who work a couple buildings down on Washington Street and who demanded he answer about the Penn State scandal as if he was an accessory; who turned his folksy demeanor against him as if he were campaigning for office; who used the hesitancy to clean house to paint him as out of his element, as Mr. Magoo, as incompetent and star-struck; and who convinced a not-insignificant amount (mostly those decrepit enough to prefer their morning paper to turning on a computer) to feel the same way. Despite the most talent-rich prospect pipeline in the league, the losses by the parent club made things like “hockey heaven” something to be used ironically only.
Why I disregarded Pegula for the Bills was simple; I could not fathom a man who would not be so overcome with resentment, regret and anger at those involved that they would even consider doing something like that again. I couldn’t believe that he would get tossed in boiling water for three years and then say “is that burner up all the way?” I found it inexplicable that he would invite more criticism, take more control, that this guy would spend his fortune to make himself the head honcho of one of the most cursed sports cities on the Continent. That is a coolness, an inner calm, a confidence and ultimately a set of stones of a size that I cannot fathom. Western New York is Terrytown, Pegulaville, whatever you want to call it, aand what makes me happy is to know the man wants it just like that. He really would rather be nowhere else but right here, right now.
In the end, the only people who said this wasn’t inevitable were those who get paid by reporting drama. In the end all the noise was coming from only those who could advance their career, pump their byline, attempt to cry and scream just enough to keep enough people tuned in, enough people clicking their links. This was the 2012 Presidential Election; it was never close but until the results were in you could bet your ass everyone paid to write or talk about it was going to make it seem close. The only mistake Tim Graham made throughout this process was what he would probably peg as his finest hour, when he “broke” the “news” that the Bon Jovi had contacted Jim Kelly to form some sort of supergroup. It’s laughable in hindsight and unprofessional in ways that should probably be laid out. First, he used Kelly’s frailty to paint a narrative where the MLSE group was going to use Buffalo’s hero to facilitate moving the team, which was a pretty dick move to Kelly and his family, and then he reported it without confirming- or disclosing- the result of the “meeting.” He managed to make everyone crazy and then the following day reported “just kidding, the meeting didn’t go anywhere.” Either he 1) didn’t know what was said and reported a story without knowing its full scope, or 2) knew what was said and chose to report half of it in order to get clicks. So is he dumb or unprofessional? Well, his writing is too good to be the former so let’s assume the latter.
In the end though, the unprofessional antics of The Buffalo News have simply served to marginalize them further. In a world where relevant Sabres news is broken by TSN, The Hockey News or even a newspaper in Ottawa, TBN can be ensured their relegation to minor outlet for sports news is complete. Sure, the hit pieces will continue but when your swings barely reach the ankles of your target, exactly what kind of damage can you expect to inflict? They can continue to cry about the owner’s availability because quite simply Pegula has shown he doesn’t need them, he can create his goodwill with actions, not words. They can lament that the new owner refuses to play ball like the previous one considering the previous one created the bidding circus that allowed them to act relevant for a few months longer. In the end though, the ultimate end of The Buffalo News as a viable sports reporting entity makes the rest of Western New York media stronger.
2014 has sucked. I mean not so much for me personally what with this move to Maryland, but for the country, the world, the human race generally. Between Ferguson, the Malaysia Airlines flights, Russia trying to start a new war, ISIS, war crimes in Israel and Palestine, Ebola, the continued disintegration of political influence and freedoms for average Americans while the power of the state and the corporate entity continues to grow, it’s been a really shitty year (seriously I just ran those off from memory, what a fucking mess). I wasn’t alive in 1968 but from reading about it over the years 2014 seems the closest to ’68 that has occurred in my lifetime. We’re at war- STILL- and not sure what “winning” can ever look like. Race- well let’s just not even delve into it, police facing off against unarmed civilians like some post-apocalyptic film, and unrest throughout Europe caused by Russia being wildly antagonistic. Aside from the political assassinations of ’68 we really seem to have it all.
It’s been said that 1968 was saved by Apollo 8, the first manned flight to orbit the moon. It came at Christmas that year and allowed everyone to celebrate something, to remember that sometimes good things happen. The purchase of a silly football team cannot replicate that on the same scale, but regardless of our thoughts about Israel’s role, or what to do about ISIS, or whether police have too much power, what we have today is something we can all get behind, celebrate, support, something none of us could have imagined only several short years ago. We deserve it, and while the rest of the world may continue to come apart at the seams, this is our time to forget about all that shit and dance.
What now? Well there will be more than enough time for that because the Bills future is in perpetuity, it is not defined as six years of us sadly sipping blue lights outside trash can fires at the Ralph as our team inches closer to departure. The future is defined in whatever fashion we wish to do so and there will be plenty of time to call for Russ Brandon’s firing into Venus, where he will be flattened into nothing by its heavy atmosphere (I, for one, am eager to know exactly what role Brandon had in this sale, specifically to determine whether my suspicion - that he was the MLSE/Rogers man on the inside, setting the dominoes up just so in exchange for running Toronto’s NFL franchise, deciding to jump aboard what he felt was the winning team once Ralph’s health began to decline - is accurate). There will be plenty of debate as to the fates of the other lame ducks wandering the halls at One Bills Drive, of how best to end the playoff drought, of how best to move the franchise forward. That’s the fun part, though; no more “I just want them to stay,” no more fretting about whether or not the population drain means we can’t be “big time,” no more using sports to drive our regional insecurities. They are staying, and now we can just be fans, which is something we haven't been allowed to be in, well, arguably ever in this town.
Now comes the fun part, just wanting them to win. Thank you Terry. Thank you Kim. Let’s go Bills.