Let it never be said that I can't admit when I've gone a little bit off the rails. It may take me a little bit of a ramble, but I'll explain...
It's tough as a realist Bills fan. You want to be able to talk honestly about the boneheaded shit that comes out of One Bills Drive, but you are immediately contending with a dumb-as-shit contingency of the fan base who would rather defend the team than admit basic truths of the franchise. With the rise of Twitter and other social media, the battle between realists - who necessarily live in with at least some level of cynicism - and the "true fans" has gotten more heated as people rush to one up each other, all the while throwing in an @ mention to one of their favorite players. When Donte Whitner was going through his twitter implosion, there were countless fans - on both sides of the issue - who felt it necessary to engage in some direct contact with him, whether in support or not, and with each other. It got vicious, and when all was said and done, Donte rose above it to prove that he was as the cynics suspected: a big old bag of douche.
This summer, when Patrick Moran of Buffalo Sports Daily published a hasty story about Shawne Merriman possessing steroids during a border crossing, there was a legitimate debate about journalism and ethics and sources and - in the end - Mr. Moran was roundly criticized on a number of good points. He ultimately apologized for the story, and that was largely the end of it.
There was another dimension to the story, though. One that pitted Bills' apologists against Bills' cynics. Those who, on the ends of the spectrum, see Super Bowl until the playoffs are out of the question against those who see 0-16 until that first win. For some fans, the Moran "story" confirmed suspicions about Merriman, and for others it simply triggered a knee jerk defense of #56 - who, at the time, had barely played a lick as a Bill and who, by all reasonable measure, appeared to be a shadow, much less a very injury-prone version, of his former, over-medicated self.
Listen, I can certainly appreciate the desire to enjoy sport without hashing out arguments that, at their core, imply a certain hopelessness and wastefulness. If the Bills are, as they have annually been, a fucking trainwreck of an organization, then what we do on Sundays is, as my wife often points out, a waste of energy and time. And the way that some fans, myself included, feel when we point out the obvious - or at least the likely- truths of Buffalo Bills football can easily be interpreted as a sort of easy elitism. It's easy to point these truths out, and by doing so, we give ourselves a pat on the back that we've come to some sort of smart conclusion about the way that the Bills have so thoroughly wasted out time over the last decade.
That said, and I say this all with full recognition that these Bills are 4-2 and that there are plenty of reasons to have some hope about where the rest of the season might take us, but... COME THE FUCK ON. Merriman's signing and the predictable path he has taken as a Buffalo Bill - at least predictable to those fans who chose to look at the science of steroids and the improbability of Merriman's long-term good health - has been an utter waste of money for a franchise that pinches pennies at every turn. We like to think, perhaps as a justification for a day of drinking every weekend, that the Bills have turned a corner, but then shit like this happens. Shit that confirms beliefs of the cynical side of out fan base, and it behooves all of us to take a minute and think about what, if any, optimism about this team is reasonable.
And, yes, this applies to me as much as anyone. Loving this team over the past two months, as I have, has been as fun a time as I've had as a sports fan, but it's also been horrendously foolish and has - as I'll admit now and as I've admitted a little less publicly over the past couple weeks - ignored the basic tenets of my Bills fandom, which - at their core - value a guarded sense of wariness and expectation of that other shoe dropping. In other words, I've certainly learned from the experiences of the past twenty years, and these past seven weeks have been nothing but a rash abandonment of those twenty years of Bills truth. Honestly, that win over the Pats made me into the football fan equivalent of an 11 year old girl with Bieber Fever, and now that I've come back down to earth a little bit, I feel plenty silly. To illustrate the point, as was discussed in CrapTastiCast #15, I love to point out that my prediction for the season was 8-8. Not because that prediction will be proven right - in fact, right about now, 8-8 seems pretty far away - but because, as I've been swimming in the deep and pleasurable waters of blind optimism, pointing to an 8-8 prediction suggests, at least to myself, that I'm not that crazy.
For now - after a frustrating Giants loss, an ever-increasing list of injuries and a predictably wasteful contract - forgive me if I turn in my #BillsMafia card (which I never formally embraced, but which would have been an appropriate designation based on the optimism I've felt for the past month) and begin a long countdown to an afternoon of hand-wringing and frustration on Sunday. Maybe we win, maybe we don't, but with Fred Jackson still vastly underpaid, Stevie Johnson and Fitzpatrick still inexplicably unextended, and Merriman again sitting on IR, I'm starting to resume my true and long-held role as a Bills cynic. Even if it does make me sad and feeling not a little bit pathetic knowing that, in spite of the truth of Bills football I'm now embracing, I'll be sitting down for another installment of the Bills in Toronto series come 4:15 on Sunday. Good fucking grief.
And, sure, I want them to prove me disastrously wrong. I want to be eating crow in two months, looking at a 10-4 team about to lock up a playoff berth, but for now I'm assuming the worst. Because, more often than I can stand, that's exactly what this team has given me.