I can't remember the last time I watched a football game with someone who actually lives in Buffalo. It's hard to place, between the bourbon and recreationals, exactly when it would have been. If I had to guess it would be Tyrod's comeback against the Bucs (?) in 2017 (?) when I went to the game with a massive van full of friends, got to our lot before the sun was above the tree line, and Taylor had a very typical day where he went 20/33 for 268, no picks and a touchdown. Added another 53 on the ground. Deonte Thompson (?!?) had over 100 yards on 4 catches, so there were a few super fun moments, and at some point during the 3rd quarter, I got bored in the sunshine and started a big rendition of Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' during a particularly long break in play.
When you move away for long enough, or maybe for good, something can occur to you slowly over time, something of an obvious thing that only becomes clear when you're living in a place that doesn't have a charging Buffalo greeting you when you walk into the local grocery store: the Bills exist, as both a capitalist and existential commodity, for the benefit and enjoyment of people who live in and close to Western New York. Because of course they do.
It's no small thing, as it happens, to have one of your favorite things in the world be suddenly relegated to the back-burner of your day-to-day by simple geography, and it's hard not to get resentful at the patterns that emerge. Resentful at how well-rehearsed your take about Norwood's wide right or four straight Super Bowl losses or how great a leader Marv Levy was, all because those little sad facts are what the Bills have generally meant to people outside Western New York. Living through the drought as an expat is in many ways like living in a loop, with our sports teams playing this bizarrely central role in how we define ourselves and where we're from, with our sports teams unable to do anything of note except continue to fail, with our sports teams providing distant memories, at best, for the well-intentioned chatter from locals all-too eager to reminisce about those near-misses of Buffalo's sports history.
When you're in Buffalo, all these things, all this history and pain, are understood and better left unsaid more often than not. No one needs to bring up Norwood because if you watched that shit in real time and if you watched that shit a hundred times since, it never really leaves you. Not really. Outside of Buffalo? First time I mention I'm a Bills fan, some sob story from our past (distant or recent) is the FIRST and potentially only thing that will come to mind for the person I'm talking with, as if Frank from Long Island has been waiting his whole life to unleash his thoughts on Thurman losing his helmet or Leodis fumbling on primetime. Our teams, lacking any ability to break their cycle of failure, create this insanely aggravating routine for expats, especially when all we're looking for is a chance to taste a little bit of home, smoke a few darts and get loose, and then some asshole ponies up to the bar and forces us to relive childhood memories as scarring as the loss of any pet or family member. And fuck me if the jagoff then pivots to "how have you been able to keep cheering for these teams?" as if the answer is easily summed up over a high ABV pour in some Queens dive bar.
My wife likes to comment on how Buffalo people congregate together outside of WNY like they're just instinctively drawn together by their shared history and whatnot. If you're an expat, you know that vibe about which I speak, and finally we have a team that might just find a way to gather the kind of victory to match the vibe we've been rocking so persistently the whole of our adult lives.
Finally we have a team that might give us some memories that end in clear and absolute joy, closing the book on that history that some asshole is all too eager to bring up.
Bills by a Billion.