I once wrote a bit about space and place, the sacredness of a particular intersection of latitudes and longitudes, a characterization bestowed and bequeathed through the grace which accompanies memories both shared and personal. This is what we’re all about, why we love home – no matter how the definition shifts and varies; why we love a place we may have visited rarely or even just once or even never. Things occurred, people met and interacted and created while walking their individual journeys, and the place was transformed. *Is* transformed.
Time be damned, it has never stopped feeling like home. One of my many, admittedly. Funny for a place I’ve probably spent less than 50 hours in, plus another 150 or so immediately outside, plus another thousand or so from afar, linked by crazy ass technology and an unshakable, unmistakable hope in my gut. It's both a tragic and beloved part of the identity I have forged.
My first visit to Ralph Wilson Stadium was long before it was renamed, but I couldn’t tell you the year. I think it was during the Super Bowl years, but I can’t be sure because my dad never cared about these things as much as I came to. It was cold, but we felt warm. December, I think. Broncos, maybe?
It was one of the first moments Buffalo felt like home for me; a moment I can reach out and touch in my memory and recall a sensation I had missed since moving from Western Massachusetts in ’88, and maybe even a sensation I never even felt then. The kind of feeling you don’t know you needed until you have it, thereafter never really feeling like you can do without it.
Buffalo was changed, then, for me. It didn’t have to be the place I simply was, distant from a place I had called mine, but transitioned into something far better. When you’re a pretty overweight 11 year old with a punchable face and a heart set on feeling included in a place, nothing better than some football, hugs, and high-fives to ensure you do.
That door to calling Buffalo home having been opened, it was all downhill to feeling entirely rooted, I suppose.
As you know, those roots never really break for those of us lucky/cursed enough to call Buffalo home. A combination of equal parts pride and defensiveness settle together and the end product is that we heartily and voraciously love/hate the place we say we’re from. And, for so many of us that have left and feel a constant dull pain of regret as we pine for the eventual return, the act of gathering on Sundays, whether at the games or at our little worldwide pockets of Buffalo that try to replicate the experience, The Ralph remains a weird, vomit-stained, loud and offensive and dangerous beacon of that feeling of home. It’s entirely inappropriate for such a symbol, but it’s what we've got and I’m done fighting the altogether fucking obvious.
It’s where we gather and cheer and display our ridiculous selves to the world in a common refrain wherein we shout our City’s pride in tri-pl-et until we can't anymore. It’s absurd and it’s beautiful and there’s little else in the world that makes me feel the same.
Nearly 11 years in the bag, 11 years of trying to replicate what I miss at bars or away days or my living room, I get to go back in just about 35 days. I get to come home.
Let’s Go Buff-a-lo.