Before and After Bills

Idling minds might roll away. This week, I blame the parking brake the NFL applies to each team’s schedule. Fans find themselves aimless on one Sunday per season so networks can get an extra week to sell time during athletic skirmish interludes. While they can make all we want and a 17th Sunday of football is nice, those who cheer for individual teams get plenty of two-week breaks consecutively over the offseason.

Bills fans may have busied themselves during uninteresting games involving teams for which they don’t cheer by examining the schedule. And a mind consumed by thinking about football rather than football itself may get carried away with pleasant results of games that haven’t been played. This is the time of the year where it’s fashionable to envision salvaging this team’s slim postseason chances by not losing again.

If the league is going to provide an unwanted vacation, backers may as well use the time to weigh the unimpressive record of remaining foes versus the challenge of being a visitor, including a semi-away game in a foreign land. Getting ahead of ourselves also means picturing toppling the Patriots in their home, which would be as wonderful as it is presently theoretical.

Without surrendering dreams of the rest of this season unfolding perfectly, it’s possible that sport’s most patient fans may be waiting yet another year to see their team compete after the regular slate. One more on the pile might be endurable because there are glimpses of progress. Still, the free preview is only so enticing.

The true measure of this team’s success will come upon returning to the era when there were more people at Tops or the mall wearing Bills gear than not. There were shrines to this team in every den, with enough divisional championship plaques and autographed footballs to make any random Erie County house a better museum for this team than the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It was a glorious age when Western New York’s preferred currency was Bruce Smith Starting Lineup figures. Every news broadcast only paused its Bills coverage to briefly acknowledge the weather forecast, and everyone perked up upon any mention. And don’t tape over the backup quarterback’s weekly show to record the kicker’s weekly show. While fans are still legion, maintaining the reverential intensity from the era of this team’s most prominent success has naturally been a challenge.

Those thrilling memories are distant enough to feel historical. But nothing as trifling as a leaky hull would make Buffalo’s football diehards jump overboard. The very organization that runs this site is the most prominent example of how this franchise’s fans operate like a family. See how the team’s supporters criticize the organization at will but get defensive when fans of other teams do so. Also, only we may laugh at Bills jokes. It’s a privilege of being there no matter what.

Also, you don’t walk out on your family on Christmas Eve. At this point, it would be foolish to be the one who bailed after investing so much hoping for a return. Supporters who give up in the face of crises can’t be counted on for anything, but that’s largely a Miami problem. True fans endure every loss in order to fully celebrate every victory. The reward will be sweeter later; it just takes remarkable people to stick with it. With that in mind, the CIA could recruit from Bills fans if they want to find agents who will never betray.

Loyalty may finally be rewarded, and maybe even before the calendar change. A rookie quarterback who’s looked good often enough has been merrily paired with a defense that just won’t quit. The intermittent display of proficiency that is common in young people may be occasionally frustrating. But consistency comes with the experience obtained in the present.

Aside from trying to cause delay-of-game penalties, observers have so little control over the games they adore. All they can really do is look forward to young receivers improving at burning enemy cornerbacks as Kiko Alonso continues to decline showing mercy. It’s uncertain that this team will fulfill potential, which makes it identical to everything else in sports and life. People simply look for signs to sustain faith, because why else get out of bed?

It’s frankly unfair to ask for patience from those who last enjoyed a playoff game shortly after the apocalypse began because of some computer date problem, especially considering how that inglorious appearance was defined by an unpunished felony. But we still don’t get to fill in the schedule with the results we want no matter how frustrating the ensuing football has often been.

So, the enjoyment comes in again feeling drunk with hope. The worst outcome is feeling disappointed, and fans are already used to that. One may as well appreciate the buzz and be excited about the rest of this season, not to mention the season after the rest. Just note who’s been here the whole time. The list will be admirably extensive.

About Anthony Bialy

Anthony Bialy recently moved back to Buffalo from New York City and acts like he never left. He thinks "Buffalo 66" is biographical and considers it a crime against mankind that Steve Tasker is not in the Hall of Fame. He likes getting Tim Hortons on the way to get Labatt Blue. Follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyBialy.