At a certain point after I left New York City to inexplicably put down some roots in the Garden State, after I decided to scale my day-to-day to a new place and new routine, new people and new options, I started thinking a lot about the legacy that our interests and priorities leave with us. This is often little more than self-indulgent introspection, for sure, but when you have some extra commuting time on your hands and most of that is sitting down on a regional train service that makes the NYC subway look like a frenetic cattle car complete with all the physio-fecal smells you come to expect, it's not the worst thing to make an effort to use the time to your advantage. It’s a pretty dumb habit in a lot of ways, most notably because I’m liable to get hung up on certain problems or anxieties at inappropriate times, including times when I'm by no means alone, which makes the whole exercise self-defeating sometimes.
By way of example - which is not needed to illustrate the point but since when is necessity a prerequisite? - this past weekend I went to a small wedding with some old friends and as I navigated the evening with my too-good-for-me wife, the pitfalls for an extroverted over-sharer like myself were everywhere. By the time the after-party kicked into gear, my BAC checking in at a respectable clip and my six foot two inch frame questioning its close relationship with me given my inability to sit still during a Bruno Mars song, I was in a really good place. And when I say good, I obviously mean that I was telling way too many stories about shenanigans both past and present, talking about work way too much and making new best friends that I most surely will never see again. As my too-good-for-me wife is bound to remind me, frequently, people don’t really care about my shit. The friend of the bride did not love me hijacking a conversation to talk about markets and self-interested fucks who ruin our economy, but that’s where my head was at after the handful of Finger Lakes Rieslings, I was having a moment and needed to work through it, and also I totally apologized later and we ended up having a hilarious night and homegirl is on that list of great humans and new best friends that I will definitely forget to keep in touch with.
To put it a different way, introspection is not really a team sport, by its nature, but man do I like to triage my bullshit out in plain view. I totally get that people aren’t necessarily on board, especially when they’ve known me for all of twenty minutes, it’s just that I don’t really care.
You shouldn't smoke these. They'll kill you
Me? I like to put down markers in my memory, emphasizing what’s important and what experiences get earmarked for consideration at some later date. It’s entirely hokey to discuss, yet nevertheless plainly true for me that life is far easier to manage when you place markers into the dirt along your personal timeline and attempt to categorize information in some useful way. Whether laid down in hindsight or in real time, those notches in our history provide a point of reference within the series of stored memories, making it easier to look back and make sense of the progression of time; easier to lean forward with some degree of well-defined perspective on how our past is prologue.
So, I suppose, we choose what matters to us and we likewise choose to put down those markers to help us make sense of those valued portions of our life. We power rank the fuck out of our varied interests and dreams and the varied people and places and institutions we consider our own, and in the end we sort the information into buckets and probably power rank the buckets as well. In the first one you get all the non-negotiables, the stuff you can’t live without, and in the last bucket are the frivolities and dreams and luxuries, and somewhere in between is where the shit gets really complicated.
A bunch of nonsense, non-formative moments can be swept under the rug of our subconscious: the time you chatted up someone at a bar out of boredom; the passing moment on a dance floor during yet another wedding reception of yet another friend/cousin/sibling/child; the 18th time you watched a team you love play a milquetoast field-goal-riddled game against some milquetoast squad from some (as it turns out) usefully pathetic city.
A career, a friendship, a love affair, a family? Your list will be different than mine, but when we rank our priorities, when we decide to carve out space in our journey (or not) for those things and let them impact our days in the short-term (or not), the way we sort through our experiences and internalize a memory or a feeling takes on varying degrees of importance. We remember names of family members and concepts necessary for our jobs and how our spouse smelled the first time our kid fell asleep with us on the couch; we probably don’t remember the name of the guy we bump into sometimes on the train, or the way a friend we see twice a year takes her coffee.
And then we have football.
(And yes, I’m aware that I overthink things. If you’re new here, a hearty welp to you. Welcome to the Jungle, we’ve got fun and games and our teams are basically gout. If you’re not new here, settle the fuck down, and yes that means you Joe Buffalo Wins. I’m sure you have some amazing tweets to ping me with soon, bud, and I’m sure they’ll be really well-phrased.)
This football team of ours is a spectacle of sadness, and it’s not wrong to poke fun at it, nor is it wrong to run away as fast as humanly possible. Either is an entirely reasonable response, and it doesn’t mean you won’t come back for more. When Ann Coulter got roasted at a night devoted to Rob Lowe, I cheered and all because she’s a capital B capital P Bad Person, but when David Spade mentioned our love of hate-watching Ms. Coulter, a malignant talking head and long-tenured leader of the smallest club in the world (i.e. Skeletor cosplayers with a particular fetish for politics), all I could think of was the Bills. When the team twitter account featured a Buffalo player reading a “the Bills are worse for my health than cigarettes,” a part of my heart soared in the recognition that liking this team is a fucking chore. The team actually advertising that reality is both hilarious and incredibly frustrating, for reasons I’m sure you can extrapolate on your own.
More than anything, I find myself yet again gearing up for a Bills season, yet again feeling the familiar senses of dread and annoyance, yet again wondering “what in God’s name am I doing with my time?,” and it’s just so laughably morose and unending. This team’s timeline, so often overlapping with our own, is truly remarkable in terms of just how unremarkable it is. Year-to-year, the squads we’ve seen are identifiable more for their consistency in being completely forgettable. Player performances, even the good ones, are dwarfed by the enormity of this franchise’s inability to get any sort of traction going.
Fans are left with “maybe next year” and “I really think they might have it clicking now” or some such other nonsense, but even those are melting together into an amalgamation of non-specific hopes soon-to-be dashed and predictions soon-to-be mooted.
One year feels little different than the last, except perhaps in terms of our own personal perspective on this, the Time of Suck, and making sense of why we do this becomes as lifeless a question as one can imagine. If we do try to find answers, we are apt to state “because friendship,” which is truly the best we can do, and it’s not even that bad. Yes, because friendship. If it’s still fun for you because your friends make it fun, yes, keep that going. Mark this time with that joy, and let the Bills’ propensity to fail big and fail often be someone else’s problem.
In a real sense, I don’t feel real conflicted about wishing my personal interests weren’t as littered with nonsense like football or hockey or the theater of horrors in modern political campaigns, but in an equally real sense it’s not super simple to decide “I don’t really like this thing anymore” when it’s a thing you’ve liked for as long as you can remember. I’m past the point of wishing it were different, even though I know it would be an ostensibly more pleasant life to walk this journey without the Bills stuffed clumsily into my saddle bag.
When was the last time anyone in my circle of friends really looked at a Bills team and was compelled to say “I think they’re going to be GOOD” with a straight face? I mean, sure, don’t answer that because it was actually two weeks ago and it was Apologist but I’m giving him a pass because he’s both an idiot and super handsome in a way that makes it acceptable.
This is a bad fucking football team. We will, as always, make do.
 Tangential, but here’s a Fun Fact: I was reminded of when I watched that video of players reading Mean Tweets: I likely can’t identify more than eight out-of-uniform Bills players on sight, and two of them are QBs; yes, this makes me feel a little racist, but also pretty happy to realize that between watching in bars and generally remaining pretty apathetic, I haven’t grown all that attached to players who will likely lose a bunch while playing for the team I like and then play somewhere else for a team I hate.
No, I want you to set a fire so goddamn big, the gods'll notice us again, that's what I'm sayin'. I want all of you boys to be able to look me straight in the eye one more time and say: ARE WE HAVING FUN OR WHAT?
1. The Ryan Brothers. Imagine gearing up for another wonderful and educational afternoon of playing Oregon Trail and you set up your crew and suddenly you have two jamokes in your wagon and they won’t stop telling you how good it’s going to be when they introduce you to their amazing cousin after you get to Montana except in the meantime everything is on fire on account of their unceasing tendency to light their farts on fire and devolve in gales of laughter and then they actually die of typhoid fever or something before you get to Montana because they never listened to you about using blankets in the cold and they never listened to any advice because they were fucking morons bound to fail and you end up settling in Utah with some Mormon pricks and it’s awful and you never meet that amazing cousin with the jobs and food and liquor and instead you’re basically on the dole and begin selling your organs so your kid can eat.
Welcome to your 2016 Buffalo Bills season. Hype before achievement, forever and ever, Amen.
2. Russ Brandon still has a job. Until this changes, our hope is mooted by an unquenchable fire of suck. Brandon is a snake oil salesman of the highest order and transparently treats Bills fans like suckers, which we are but that's hardly the point. This guy is basically Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day. He shows up with a terribly boring story about his business ideas and then is suddenly handing you swag you never wanted and you’re stuck watching him bumble around as he looks for a fucking clue. The only good thing about Russ Brandon is that he’s terrible at his job; if he was any good at it, the Bills would be in Toronto.
3. Injuries. It’s trite as hell to worry about injuries on this godforsaken team. Trite (adj.): (of a remark, opinion, or idea) overused and consequently of little import; lacking originality or freshness. Yet here we are.
Honorable Mention: Drugs and stuff. Man, fuck the NFL.
Things that should give you hope (an exclusive list):
1. You will have fun this year. I demand it. It will be sprinkled in a field of abject frustration and persistent tendencies towards self-harm, but sports are fun and heading to a parking lot with an army of degenerates has a time and place and that time and place is wherever this stupid fucking team is playing. Have at it. Break some tables or whatever. Don’t let some anti-miscreant assholes tell you that it’s juvenile. Of course it’s fucking juvenile. Fuck him and fuck his delicate sensibilities. Stay safe, don’t hurt anyone or yourself, don’t get fired or force your spouse to leave you. But otherwise, you do you and have a fucking blast while you can.
2. Potpourri. Everything else feels irrationally speculative, so choose your own adventure I guess. Fall weather? Sure. Tyrod is fun? Yep. The team is a menagerie of hilariously bad decisions that make you, a natural cynic and realist, laugh heartily? If that gets you going, absolutely!
3. Nothing lasts forever, not even this.
Dad gave me this. Fifth birthday. He said, "Childhood's over the moment you know you're gonna die.
This I cannot recommend highly enough. All of the men on earth die except for a really bad magician named Yorick? Tremendous shit. I knew him, Horatio.
Television You Should Watch Immediately: The Get Down.
Lost in the completely reasonable adoration that got sent Stranger Things’ way was this series that Netflix premiered right around the time the memes of Barb started flooding the internet. The timing was poor if for no other reason than the execs underestimated how huge a story about the Upside Down would be, but that’s fine. You can watch The Get Down now. A story about the conflict between culture and modernization, between local preservation and national progress, it comes at a pretty salient time for those of us who wonder what we’re being forced to give up in order to see the benefits of an increasingly global economy. Not to mention the music is dope as hell, particularly if you’ve spent any amount of time loving the music that came out of New York City in the 1970s and early 80s.
Also, Ed Koch was a petty piece of garbage.
Music You Should Listen to Soon: Banks & Steelz.
Game Prediction: Bills 20, Ravens 26
Season Prediction: 3-13, don’t @ me.
Yes, I’m peddling in the easy way out. Yes, it’s way simpler to justify pessimism than it would be to rationalize some specious attempt at optimism like Apologist is doing right now. I’ve done it before. Many times. If the Bills win in convincing fashion, I can’t promise I won’t get sexually intimate with some positivity in this space. I’m sure it will be suitably grotesque if that’s how it plays out.
There are just too many factors that point towards them fucking it all up yet again. This is a team that routinely asks for allegiance before it reveals its actual product. It’s a company that peddles in hope while achieving little in the areas on which that hope truly thrives. It proclaims sold out games when we all know it’s a technicality at best, celebrates the arrival of stud players who are already past their primes or bound to fail given the tendency of all Bills players to revert to a brand new mean, hires “take a chance on me” coaches all the fucking time, still employs many of the goddamn troglodytes who led the last decade of failure, and generally puts the cart so far out before the horse through the club’s PR wing that it seems like they’re giving us hype and figuring we’ll forget about the baseless and premature propaganda when any hope for progress apart at the seams. Which it will.
“A documentary short about the Ryan Brothers reuniting? Awesome! There’s no way this can blow up in our faces because Rex and his players are … ALL. IN. I love it!" [immediately exits room in search of lawyers to negotiate release of team’s best player] – Minutes from One Bills Drive Boardroom
So yeah, 3-13. Defense mechanism it may be, but a man can dream.