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.”