On November 29th, 2010 I was doing what I typically do on Sundays late in the Bills season: running errands. On this day, that meant the laundromat down the road from my apartment in Barre, Vermont. The Bills were 2-8, the Steelers 7-3 and in my mind, there was far too much bullshit in my life to let the Bills be part of it. I’d graduated law school a year earlier, entering the workforce with literally the worst graduating year in post-war American history, and my situation at the time reflected that. My 650 foot studio apartment was above the homeowners, a batshit Christian family who homeschooled their kids, one of whom seemed almost certain to commit a mass murder one day. After bringing a girl home one night, I got a call forbidding that in the future (I was 25). I’d made up excuses when my parents would ask to visit, embarrassed that, to my dismay my hastily thought out plan of filling my Buick with my shit and driving 8 hours to take a $14 an hour job wasn’t working out as well as I’d hoped. I’d been the first in my family to go to college, fulfilled the plan I’d had since I was in middle school to get my law degree and in the months following that I’d had an engagement fall apart, found only a $10 an hour data entry position as firms implemented hiring freezes, been put in the hospital from a viral heart infection and shared the tiny apartment with my mom that I’d lived in since I was five. Completely out of ideas I’d hopped in the car to the most isolated place I could think of and only four months in it was becoming apparent that I’d miscalculated, again.
What I’m saying is, I really didn’t need the Bills in my life that day. But it was the laundromat and it was back when you could stream the radio feed for free so there I sat, listening to the game to drown out the sounds of the small child and large dog that also found themselves spending a Sunday afternoon in a miserably boring situation.
They’d been down 13-0 at the half but had made it 13-10 when they forced a turnover and suddenly the idea of missing a comeback upset win for laundry of all fucking things was unacceptable. Eschewing the second load, I headed to Mulligan’s Pub, my go-to since it was both walking distance from my place and the only joint in town with the NHL package. On the way I tossed on the authentic Poz jersey my ex had gotten me for my 24th birthday and eagerly sidled up to the bar where a gaggle of fans rooting for various teams had gathered at tables behind me to watch their games on the bank of televisions.
You probably know by now that this was the Stevie Johnson game. It’s something seared into my brain, staring absently at the television, thoughts skidding down the slipperiest of slopes, turning this Billsy moment in a lost season into something much larger, something personal and more sinister, an indictment of my decision making that went far beyond driving the half mile to the bar. I heard the voice from one of the tables behind me, a woman’s voice. I hadn’t said anything since the drop, hadn’t turned around, interacted or barely moved aside from taking pulls of my blue light.
“That guy in the Bills jersey looks so sad.”
The Nightmare Just Beginning
It’s a unique hopelessness, knowing that despite putting oneself through school, working a steady and well-paying yet unexceptional position, you will be and indeed are screwed. If it’s not a health scare that sends you careening into bankruptcy, maybe it’s student loan reform that boots you off the rickety platform to your demise. Maybe it’s a tax bill that closes off your child from taking that position as a grad researcher in five years, maybe it’s cuts to affordable housing that make it impossible for you to take that new job, or the elimination of air regulations that will lead to your newborn getting asthma down the road. Maybe it’s a future war that will make gas too expensive for your commute to work or school or worse yet, result in a nuclear exchange that turns the country into a wasteland. Maybe it’s a year from now when Comcast informs you that to get access to Indeed, LinkedIn, and a slew of other job searching websites, you need to pay an extra $15 a month per device. Or maybe it’s an angry, non-descript white guy, dismayed that his life hasn’t improved since his candidate won, who crosses paths with you in a public place down the line, not much different from you except for the fact he’s got an AR-15 and a ceaseless desire to bring his despair to as many people as possible.
It’s where it’s become so easy to miss things that are there to be enjoyed, that if we allow them to can bring a brief respite from the relentless assault of bad news and the anxious waiting around it. When one of those things is the Buffalo Bills, it’s understandable that the desperate masses will look left, right, above, below and through them, convinced that the desperate thing they need to hold onto is elsewhere and not right in front of them.
The Nightmare That Can End
Seventeen years means you have a generation of children being raised by parents who don’t even have any meaningful concept of what it really is to be in the playoffs. As a kid, the playoffs were just there, they were the minor hurdles, the middling levels to clear before getting to the final villain in the Super Bowl. Perhaps that’s why I see people talking about the Super Bowl being the only thing that matters, because from their earliest memories the playoffs were at best a formality and at worst a disappointment. The playoffs being an achievement in and of itself is foreign, as strange as that sounds. Perhaps all these years in between, watching teams like the Chiefs, Chargers, Texans and Bengals trip over their dicks every wild card weekend cheapened the thing, despite those teams consistently proving that they were far better at football than the Bills were. Perhaps fans found solace in a 7-9 record by saying “better to have a higher draft pick than just get our shit kicked in at Baltimore or Indianapolis.” It’s understandable, believe me. It’s also wrong.
The new regime didn’t do us any favors letting 2/3 of their receiving threats walk and trading the other one away. I’ll admit to looking at the schedule in August and having difficulty finding more than three wins, including a sweep of the Jets. For better or worse, Beane’s scrapping of the roster turned the always robust draft talk up to eleven before the college season had even started. Weekly updates on Rosen, Mayfield, Allen, Darnold was supposed to be what we did on fall weekends instead of talking about the Bills. The thing is, Tyrod, Shady, Tre White, Charles Clay, Micah Hyde, they don’t give a shit about seventeen years, they don’t give a shit what the badge humping cheeseball of a coach or the croakies wearing GM have planned for next year. You can support the players risking their health, working their ass off to do something we haven’t seen in nearly twenty years, or you can fret about the resume strength of the mayo brothers who rode in on Buddy Nix’s turnip truck last summer.
Tyrod Taylor is the most exciting Bills player of at least the decade and the only offensive player comparable is his running back. The debate, which isn’t a debate so much as a bunch of insular rubes screaming into a fishbowl how not racist they are, won’t be touched on here because it’s been filled with so many double standards, logical fallacies, dog whistles (Jonah Javad will do fine in Texas) and whataboutisms that I constantly expect a Freudian slip where someone breathlessly posits why Tyrod doesn’t do more about murders in Chicago. If you resent the fact that the national media thinks you’re stupid, know that it’s either because you deserve it or because the talking heads who serve as the “voice of the fan” brought it upon you. It's because a detestable ghoul like Nate Geary can spend a month providing cover for racists who need nonsense like "back shoulder throws" and "a different offense" to justify what they cannot say in public, only to then attempt to gaslight it out of existence and claim he's always loved the guy.
For real though, at a certain point willfully ignoring and indeed feeding those that wanted a replacement for reasons skin deep with a bunch of nonsense to justify their motives does erase the fact that they as a person are not racist. Nate Geary may not be a racist, but his collaboration with racists, eagerly accepting their likes and retweets, telling them that the national writers who call them racist simply "don't watch the film" is just as bad, if not worse. Telling the racists that they aren't, that it's okay to want "a change of pace" while feeding them gifs of eight yard slants and saying "Tyrod can't do that" is criminal and has served only to embolden the worst chuds of Tonawanda and Lancaster..
In the meantime, all Tyrod has done is go 7-5 with a gaggle of tree stumps lining up at receiver, avoid turning the ball over and convert sacks and low-percentage plays behind an O-Line of fat sloths into first downs, dropped dimes and touchdowns. All the while donating time and money to charitable causes throughout the community and smiling through a season that saw him benched for a potato sack full of bibles. With two games left they’re closer than they’ve been to a playoff spot in 13 years and truly there is no one who deserves to lead them there than number five.
Having the opportunity to watch Lesean McCoy in his prime is something we should consider ourselves lucky to have.The man responsible for the snow globe victory that kept the season alive as well as numerous others has done some magical things as a Bill, not the least of which is be the quarterback's most reliable receiver as well as one of the league's most dynamic rusher. Quick to call out bullshit from the podium and a welcome breath of fresh air from Coach McTroops canned gobbledygook, the guy half the fanbase wanted to trade for picks three months ago is carrying himself on and off the field like someone who understands what 17 years might feel like and someone who understands what it would mean to be part of the team to end it.
As I’m writing this, the Bills are 11.5 point underdogs Christmas Eve. Most of those calculating playoff scenarios are doing so by counting Sunday’s game a loss, seeing it as a waste of time to even bother planning otherwise. Personally I don’t see it happening either, but for a streak like this to die, one that has become so pervasive, so insidious that it has warped the very ability for fans to prioritize and enjoy wins, the most appropriate way is in Foxboro against the greatest quarterback and coach the game has ever seen. It’s Shady taking one sixty yards to the house, White picking off Brady late, Tyrod escaping certain doom and scampering to the end zone that would end the drought in the most fitting manner. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll gladly take backing in at Miami through scoreboard watching but the feeling I get from this team is that it’s right in front of them, so why not just take it?
Moon + Bills = Moon Bills
All this time NASA was attempting to fulfill Kennedy’s pledge to land on the moon before 1970, though it didn’t look good. In January 1967 three had perished during a routine test aboard Apollo 1 which put a hold on the program for some 18 months while NASA investigated the disaster and many lawmakers attempted to choke off funding for the Apollo program altogether. After finally getting a crew in orbit in October of 1968, NASA decided its next flight would be the first to send a crew into lunar orbit.
Apollo 8 and its crew of three Americans entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, 1968, the first humans to ever do so, ensuring everyone could point to at least one non-garbage item that happened in a garbage year and even giving people something to look forward to in 1969. The fact that this came to mind not only is a testament to how shitty 2017 was, but of the opportunity the Buffalo Bills have over the next 12 days to briefly yet thoroughly bring joy to millions, to give us shelter where nothing and no one can touch us. It seems silly, disconcerting even, that this is where we are but as we close out a year filled with such helplessness, depravity and horror, there’s a certain appropriateness that this would be the year the stupid, idiot Bills do the thing. It’s like being pulled from a burning building by 100,000 goddamn fire ants. They have enough talent to do it, they have men who want to do it, and they have what none on this team have had since 2004- the opportunity to do it.
So they might as well. Happy Holidays, go Bills.