I'm finally flying back home from Buffalo (EDIT: this was yesterday; I had to work and nap after getting back to New Jersey) and, like every trip to the Mother Ship of My Aching Heart, the weekend afforded little in the way of time for introspection after - without any real competition - the most interesting day of Bills football I've experienced in my 25 or so years as a fan. The unbridled hype of last year's opener (my last trip to Orchard Park) was replaced with a patient optimism about this godforsaken team and a lingering, uncomfortable buzz surrounding something completely unrelated to football. A day that gave all fans something to smile about, from ear to fucking ear, gave many of us in attendance an unshakable disgust with the parade of horrors on display. Death threats emblazoned on t-shirts. Tackling dummies playing the part of vague Muslim effigies. Fathers and sons screaming at an American citizen to stand when he prefers to kneel; screaming at an American citizen while the first verse of our National Anthem rang out. Chants of USA! raining down upon an American citizen and those who support him. Chants of USA! covering all manner of uniquely American sins.
I'm a bleeding heart. I'm an aspiring pragmatist above all else. I'm a venomous blogger who has been told not to use this space for this kind of commentary. I'm a Bills fan who left New Era Field feeling very apart from this new era of Buffalo Bills football. Sunday made it abundantly clear that I hold a minority opinion dwarfed by the rage of those who believe patriotism is a concept over which monopoly control may be exercised, who believe "American" is a one-size-fits-all panacea, and who believe dissent entitles you to nothing more than a one-way ticket back *there* (wherever that is) on the horse you rode in on.
All the same, I left New Era Field and its tailgate wasteland environs knowing that I'm not alone and proud of the pockets of dissent that sprang forth regardless of the un-American brand that would be seared onto their efforts by those who would sooner silence disagreement than attempt to understand it. They were outmanned and outflanked by those who opt to speak against black lives and against advocacy civil liberties; who opt to speak in support of unquestioning devotion to uniforms and badges and authority under the heel of a boot. But they were present all the same, and the peaceful, non-violent advocacy from people of color and white allies alike was something to celebrate. It was the best of Buffalo on display, and more than many other cities would show in similar circumstances.
Also the Star Spangled Banner sucks, Francis Scott Key was a questionable human, and America the Beautiful is the absolute jam.
The game, though? Apart from the heat that Kaep continually got for daring to be a black man with an opinion? It was dope as hell. The best game I've ever seen live, and that's saying something because I went to the Bills' last two games in New Jersey against the Jets (combined score 65-40), and the opener last year. When the Bills beat Arizona four weeks ago and it looked like there was a chance there'd be something to cheer for when I headed up to WNY for Week 6, I knew that the game was going to be the one that sealed my Sundays for the foreseeable future. A loss and the start of hockey season would have seemed a blessèd relief. A win, and I knew I'd be be left buzzing about what's still to come.
And here we are.
The game was hilarious in its arc - from a close nail-biter to a thorough walloping in the matter of just a few series. When the floodgates opened in the third quarter, it suddenly became a party. The edge of fans' anger at Kaepernick (or each other) was dulled in the face of such impeccable play from our Bills. What a weird sentence to write. It was the kind of win that binds us all together for our love of this stupid team, suggests we may have more that keeps us coming together than that forces us apart, and gives us some small hope for coming together and making the most of this shared world of ours, even if it seems impossible at present.
Sports, man. Maybe.