Ryan Miller’s appropriately melancholy departure from the Sabres inspires lamentations about the Bills. The connection seems normal for those connected to Buffalo who have wholly assented to a double dip of woe and turmoil.
Fans of the city’s pro teams naturally overlap, even if many prefer one over the other. Both know the upside of agony, specifically how it builds character. The joy is in the struggle. That’s known to everyone who, despite it all, thinks Western New York’s seasons are football, football plus hockey, hockey, and depressing summer.
Reports of turmoil in both front offices exacerbate woeful on-field performances. The Sabres seem to be proving they can endure more chaos than their football counterpart as their Jim Kelly equivalent left in a crappy mood before he could even get a nameplate. The Bills don’t look like such a mess, if only by comparison. They should send the hockey club a thank-you cookie bouquet.
Time doesn’t stop for our daydreams. Another Buffalo team copes with an end that wouldn’t work in Hollywood, just like how the kicker is supposed to win it before the credits roll.
Miller is on an extensive roster of guys you hoped would acknowledge you as they rode in the back seat of a convertible down Delaware Avenue with a prized trophy as a seat mate. Instead, you can only wave goodbye if you happen to see them at the airport as they leave to work in a new city. Jairus Byrd doesn’t seem to care for the prospect of the more festive scenario.
Even a shot at prevailing seems remote. One of the depressing angles of the many to ponder regarding Buffalo’s desert banishment has been realizing how many great players have toiled for years without even sniffing the elimination round. Anyone who’s played exclusively for the Bills since the AOL 6.0 era has of course never even been to the playoffs, which makes winning a championship considerably difficult.
A superficial analysis would lead to proclaiming that careers are going to waste. Fred Jackson and Kyle Williams are the two most prominent present Bills who have worked their tails off with no tales of playoff games as a reward. Rueful fans may cite guys like Terrence McGee who competed admirably for a long time in Buffalo and got nowhere.
But the fine performances is itself a reward despite a lack of team success. Trophies aren’t everything, as we’ve repeatedly learned. Judging a guy by ring count is like determining self-worth through salary.
And even stars can only control so many factors in team sports. Both Miller and Mario Williams show how even a great player can do a lot to influence games but not completely dictate their course. Even central gears are cogs in larger machines.
Blame the games. One competitor is inherently limited with so many men in play. An individual can relatively easily will his team to victory in, say, basketball, where one of five guys in a sport with heavy defensive restrictions can profoundly affect a team’s performance. But the Clippers can cram it, as Buffalo’s remaining franchises compete in sports where an excitingly effective madman might still not singlehandedly create wins.
As if exhausting playoff droughts weren’t enough, fans sometimes also endure the extra torment of athletes justifiably seeking greater success in other pro cities. Dealing with the face of the franchise taking his face elsewhere exemplifies ambivalence. Cheering for a player who left as he pursues a title in another area code is like saying, “I just hope she’s happy” about a lady who decided to marry a different fellow, as it’s as nice as it is pathetic.
Titles don’t define a player, as seen by how you’d still take Kelly over Trent Dilfer. But Buffalo supporters tire of always being the groomsman and never the groom. It’d be nice to back the teams that good players join after ditching their original unimpressive partners in search of success.
For now, followers of both maddening teams focus on youth’s potential yet again while knowing that even getting to playoff tension may take awhile. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to enjoy games and beloved players. In fact, moments are easier to appreciate once you remember that they’re fleeting. Enjoy the efforts of Buffalo’s icons no matter the score until they’re gone, even if it’s only to the other conference.