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Tuesday, October 16, 2007Guest Post: What Does It Feel Like to Always Lose
This is a guest post by my friend Brad Johnson. Brad is a huge Buffalo sports fan, for some reason. I asked him to write an account of what it feels like to be a fan of the Buffalo Bills. What follows is his sad, heartbreaking story. - AFW
Look out your window. See that group of guys doing construction over there? Good, now look at the guy on the right. No, not the guy air-guitaring to Zeppelin, the guy next to him with the skull and crossbones painted on his helmet. Go up to him and say “Hey, T-bone” (note: if his helmet is red it is also acceptable to say “Hey, Big Red”), pause for a few seconds, then kindly but firmly ask him to use his size-13 steel-toed boots to give you a swift kick in the crotch.
What just happened? Five minutes ago you were relaxing in the comfort of your home perusing over a mildly-entertaining blog [editors note: mildly??] and now after an inexplicable bout of self-destruction you’re laying on the cold, wet ground with a sore groin as several larger-than-average men are standing over you laughing, all to a “Free Bird” soundtrack.
Welcome, my friend, you are now in an acceptable mental state to fully understand the complexities that are forever intertwined with being a lifelong fan of the Buffalo Bills.
When I was first asked to describe the feelings associated with being a lifelong Bills fan I felt pride at taking some time to explore the team I have followed so devotedly for 25 years. My first thoughts were pleasant ones, from my first Bills game in the late-80s when the Bills beat the Colts 24-13 to the tailgates I attend annually as my dad and I try to make one game a year and have been running at about an 80% success rate. I think of the 51-3 drubbing the Bills put on the Raiders in their first AFC championship game to reach their first super bowl, the inductions of Jim Kelly and Andre Reed into the Hall of Fame, and of course the greatest comeback in NFL history when the Bills rallied from down 35-3 in the 3rd quarter to the Houston Oilers to win 41-38 in overtime and advance to the next round of the playoffs that year. Then, as I’m forced to think over all of the events that I have witnessed involving this team, the floodgates open for all of the haunting memories these games have provided. The problem isn’t that we never get kicked in the groin; it’s that we keep forgetting how painful it is so we volunteer to have it done on a way too consistent basis!
In order to hold the attention of you, the reader, I will not go on for pages about the low points of the Buffalo Bills as you will get bored and I will pursue actions that will send me one step closer to attending a 12-step program. The problem here isn’t so much losing; every team loses and there’s no shame in losing to a better team (see Super Bowls 26-28). The problem here is continuously snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with crushing last-second losses that leave you paralyzed in depression and confusion for days. After analyzing hundreds of moments swirling through my thoughts I give you my top 3 defining heartbreak moments:
#3 – tie between this year’s season opener vs. Denver and last Monday’s game vs. Dallas. I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking I’m letting the freshness of these moments speak louder than they should and in the history of Bills franchise there have to be bigger heartbreaks in the grand scheme of seasons. Know what? Maybe you’re right. Guess what. I don’t care, and you’ve got some nerve calling me out on what’s supposed to me my list, you jerk. All right, everyone take a deep breath. Here’s the thing, these games are simply the definition of heartbreak served up in Western New York. I know this team won’t make the playoffs, and even if they did there’s no way we’d make it to the Super Bowl in the same conference as the Colts, Pats, and Steelers. But it doesn’t matter; we should be 3-2 with a huge, emotional win over Dallas that could do wonders for this young team’s psyche. Instead, 1-4 with 2 losses where the winning field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired. Minor detail: technically, Buffalo NEVER TRAILED IN THESE GAMES!!! Only after time had completely evaporated were the Bills on the wrong side of the score. In case you were wondering this little detail doesn’t help much.
#2 – Super Bowl 25, and no I don’t mean “wide right.” Look, we missed a long field as time expired, it happens. To pin this loss on Scott Norwood makes as much sense as pinning the heartbreak of the ’86 Red Sox on Buckner and the ’03 Cubs on Bartman. History wants you to, but any true fan who knows anything about these events knows that these were simply contributors to the eventual outcome and probably not even the main ones. (the Sox had already blown a 2-run lead and Dusty Baker is allergic to the bullpen phone – sidebar, have fun with that headache, Cincy) If you ever get a chance, re-watch Super Bowl 25 as it really is a great game. The problem is that the Bills had lots of little things add up to beat them as they were clearly the better team. Being the better team doesn’t mean much though, if you can’t execute in crucial situations. I think the Giants had a time of possession advantage of about 9:1, converted 14 of 13 3rd downs in the 2nd half, and just had an all-around calmer and more-poised attitude. Sure the field goal was doable and who knows how history would have changed had they won that game, but watch that game again and I guarantee that at halftime you’ll be convinced the Bills will actually win this time. (By the way, this is the exact reason I can never watch this game again.)
#1 – Music City “Miracle”. Even if you hate the Bills you have to admit they know how to lose in style. After benching the more mobile Doug Flutie in favor of statuesque Rob Johnson despite the fact the Bills o-line was decimated and they were playing against Jevon “the Freak” Kearse, (oh, and another minor detail is that Flutie started the entire season minus 1 game was very healthy) somehow, in spite of Wade Phillips’ idiocy this team rallied to take a 16-15 lead with 16 seconds left. What happened next defied physics and left me literally unable to move for 20 minutes as I watched replay after replay of what I still think is a forward pass but have to admit was a hell of a play.
So there you have it, a glimpse of what it’s like to be a Bills fan. Sure, your groin is sore, but that’s not all you remember. You remember the spontaneity involved with the decision, the stunned looks on everyone around you as you self-destructed, and of course the excruciating pain. But it’s not a total loss. You now have a good story, and as the pain subsides you start to think it really wasn’t that bad. I mean, if nothing else, that’s the worst pain you’ll ever feel, right? Besides, one of these days that guy is gonna miss and the joy you’ll feel will be 100x greater than for anyone who never had to go through any pain at all.
If the Bills ever do win a Super Bowl, only the 2004 celebration in Boston will rival the sheer ecstasy that will flow through the streets of Western NY. Plenty of room left on the Bills bandwagon, let me know if you’d like me to reserve you a spot.
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