What we remember from childhood we remember forever - permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen. ~ Cynthia Ozick
The past is never dead, it is not even past. ~ William Faulkner
There's truly something about the start of a Bills season like we've just had - or that we had with that 4-0 start a few years back - that is both terrifying and exciting. As cynical as we try to be, a badge of both honor and reason for Buffalo sports fans, a hot start has the capacity to act against our better judgment and urge us to daydream about the unanswered "what ifs" of the season yet to unfold. Long ago, I vowed to defer Bills merchandise purchases until the team was solidly entrenched in WNY for the future. While the dismantling of the Chiefs this past weekend didn't necessarily change that principled stance based in no small part on poverty, I am mighty close to buckling under the pressure. And, despite being hundreds of miles away from home and knowing that many of my fellow cynics may not be quite on board yet, I have the feeling I'm not alone.
Musing on topics of fandom and the devotion we all choose to give our sports teams, as I often do in moments when I find myself giddy with optimism, something occurred to me about where my strongest allegiances truly lie. After all these years of disappointment, after being treated so horrendously by an owner who has avoided investing in his franchise, it is clear that my need to see a Bills team win the Super Bowl is paramount. After seasons of disinterest, seasons where our Sabres rightly dominated my sports consciousness, one win - one blowout win - has shocked me back into focus.
I need these Bills to succeed. To undo the wrongs of my childhood and provide a set of memories which might replace those ones so engrained and scarred on the inner workings of my sports fan heart. And that need for Bills success, which presents itself in moments where I dare to dream and fall in love with this team yet again... it scares me.
Some time ago, during CrapTastiCast #12, we were discussing whether Buffalo is "Football Town" or a "Hockey Town." The general consensus was that the Sabres are the constant in Buffalo sports, and deserve far more credit for giving Buffalo something to collectively rally behind - reasonably successful for the past 5 years, playoff appearances and, at least recently, a fan experience which makes Ralph & Co. look like absolute jokes Indeed, as we agreed, the Sabres are the team for the younger generation of sports fans who may have missed out on the emotional baggage left behind in the wake of four Super Bowl losses.
But, as Joe (from Buffalo Wins) quipped during that conversation, all it takes is a little bit of a run by the Bills and the rest of us - the ones who need those past wrongs to be resolved - all come crawling back. I didn't want to believe it at the time, but I can't disregard its obvious truth as applied to me as I look ahead to just the second week of the Bills season. Having come to accept that I enjoy hockey much more than football, and having no real desire to support the perennially failing and flailing organization at One Bills Drive, the better part of me would prefer to invest my time and energy into the Sabres. Indeed, as I was musing on these issues of fandom, I made the conscious decision to try to hash out some thoughts on the Sabres - Tyler Myers signed (and what a deal it is!!) and prospects tearing it up at Traverse City. But, as much as I try, these hockey topics remain on the proverbial back burner, and honestly may remain there so long as there's a Buffalo Bills season which remains viable.
The logical side of my brain wishes it wasn't like this. I want to talk about the Big Easy and his good value at the contract terms being bandied about the interwebs today. I want to talk about how the T Pegs Revolution at Seymour Knox Plaza is paying huge dividends for Sabres fans. And, more to the point, I want to put my invest myself emotionally in the new-look Sabres and their quest for a Stanley Cup since, after all, it will likely come sooner than the Bills' elusive Lombardi Trophy. I want all of these things, and I'm as happy as the next guy that the Sabres franchise is taking significant steps towards making those things real.
But I want a Super Bowl more. I need it.
I'm not so clueless to ignore the silliness and likely stupidity of being so lifted by optimism that I disregard the likelihood that this season, like all others, will be nothing more than a build-up to a let down, with the only unknown being how long that build-up lasts. I get that, as with every other year of recent memory, it makes a lot more sense to vest my faith in our Sabres and to ignore our Bills. With past experiences and failures as our guide, the elation of hope for the Bills is rarely an untainted source of joy. That feeling of hope in such a team as the Bills, with such a history, more often that not feels like you're sinking deeper into quicksand, always ready for the other shoe to drop.
This is why, looking ahead to the weekend and trying to get a handle on the matchup with the Raiders, I feel little else other than fear at which might come to pass this weekend. Not fear of loss, though, but fear of victory and that burdensome hope that comes along with it. The fear of being hurt by this team once again after allowing myself to love them too much.
As if fear is going to stop me, though. Eff that. I'm a Bills fan. I thrive in neuroses.
Let's go Buffalo.
[Disclaimer, nunc pro tunc: This post will likely appear to some as a self-indulgent ramble of mixed metaphors, mostly for my own benefit. I'm perfectly happy with that characterization and rather agree with it. But, seeing as I don't keep a diary in which I can unload emotional baggage, and seeing as I have the inkling that these thoughts may ring true with some of my Buffalo brethren, I just couldn't help myself. Such as it is, I hope at least some of you enjoyed.]