The role of the Buffalo Bills in my life is one of those odd things that became larger when I lived away from WNY. Their descent into the league’s also-rans coincided with a parade of new and exciting things to devote ones time to- the Sabres had the best player on the planet, my mom got us our first computer, there were dances, dates, practices and games to focus on. All those Sundays in high school, I can’t think of a single Sunday spent gathering friends together for a Bills game. Sure, there was a Super Bowl party at someone’s house every year where we would root for whatever random ass team we felt like (Remember Giants-Ravens? Woof)- we even rooted for the Patriots to beat the Rams which I promise made sense in January 2002. When it came to the Bills there was just no real enthusiasm, not when our childhood memories were filled with Super Bowl parties where the stakes and the extravagance were much higher. However, the Sabres were a different story. 1999, 2000, 2001 we’d find ourselves at someone’s house for playoff games, yelling at the television and having our first experimentations with the host’s father’s liquor cabinet (I can still taste vodka and Pepsi whenever I think about it).
This dynamic rarely changed in the years that followed. Sure, the 2004 playoff push brought things back slightly but how much of it was assisted by the NHL lockout? My only Bills-related memory I have from college took place my senior year in 2005; I was eager to sleep off the previous night during the game as usual when my roommate knocked on my door. He was regretting the girl he brought home the previous evening and dismayed that she not only had not yet left but that she seemed to be showing all intentions to watch the Bills game with him; he wanted me to join so he could have someone else to talk to. So I trudge out and we watched yet another terrible game in a terrible season while having 4-8 beers to dull the previous evening. By the fourth quarter he had revived his beer goggles to the point that he brought this girl back to his room, still the only mid-afternoon occurrence of beer goggles that I have ever seen. Point is, as a lifelong WNYer by that point the Bills were always an afterthought.
Here’s a weird thing when you leave the area: if you are from a town with an NFL team, that is oftentimes the number one thing people will associate you with. On fall Mondays at Penn State, classmates would greet me with Bills talk. Working in Vermont, Maryland or Pennsylvania, coworkers often did the same, almost requiring you to pay more attention to the Bills, lest you seem aloof (which I am at work anyways), weird (why would you hate a team from where you’re from), or un-relatable. At the same time, outside of WNY the Bills serve as a conduit to connect with people from home in whatever strange new town you find yourself in. I made friends in Baltimore, ran into a college friend in D.C., shared a crushing loss in Burlington and enjoyed $5 blue light pitchers in Harrisburg. Most notably I shared the moment that ended the drought with a bar full of Bills fans in the very city where the drought ended. The Bills provide a sense of community that is almost stronger outside the 716 than it is inside and if you don’t believe me, head down to Baltimore for opening weekend.
The Bills play a more prominent role to me now than they did then (the Sabres sad state certainly plays a role in this); I’m marrying into a family and friend group of NFL fans and in a place as economically depressed and socially backwards as the 717 having a bar full of 716ers as an option every Sunday is a relief. It’s also what makes what the current administration of regressive, short-sighted, arrogant hacks have done to the franchise so unforgivable.
The Future is Foreseeable
-Brandon Beane will be fired in the next three to four years
-Sean McDermott will be fired in the next three to five years
-Josh Allen will unceremoniously become a free agent when his rookie contract expires and will likely never play in the NFL again
These are set in stone and all three were avoidable. These men will leave the franchise at a lower point than at any time during the drought and will leave a fanbase trudging along, only closer to death than they are right now, hoping the same incompetent, befuddled owners can somehow, someday hire the right people. The only course of action for us to do is hope it plays out as quickly as possible so we can get it over with and hope the next team of dunces is somehow better.
Brandon Beane can be admired for having a plan and refusing to deviate it in the same way people like Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld can be admired for doing the same. His hubris will serve as a cautionary tale in the same way hubris destroyed the reputations of the above men and in a football sense Beane will be inextricably linked to the disaster he is about to lead, no different than George Pickett. He will be remembered in Buffalo as a misguided fool whose arrogance wrecked the Bills closest return to relevance in twenty years. Sean McDermott will be remembered as a well-meaning simpleton whose humility smacked of disingenuousness, who tried to piece together a team of projects, busts and players who are simply not good enough and lead it to actual success. The Western New York media and the more naïve and pathetic portions of the fanbase are spinning this as an underdog team. This is not that, this is a terrible team. This will not be exciting; this will be a massacre. All goodwill that could be mustered from a team dragging their coaching staff and DISAPPOINTED General Manager to the playoffs will have long dissipated after years of McDermott’s tepid gameplans, regressive field position strategy and incompetent challenge acumen. These men wanted full control to prove what they can do and you better fucking believe they are about to show their what they can do.