During the last decade or so of Ralph Wilson’s life, he once made a comment to a reporter regarding what it takes to be a champion in the NFL. His response to this query was one single word, “luck.” He then went on to explain that other factors such as physical talent, good coaching, etc. must also be in place, but he was very clear and adamant that luck also played a significant role in achieving ultimate success in professional football and life in general.
After mulling that response for years (this aging brain takes longer to ponder these days), I’ve come to a place now where I believe that Mr. Wilson was absolutely right. You can prepare and control only so many variables when building a championship football team, or even other aspects of life, but there also needs to be a modicum of good fortune that falls in place along the way.
If it can’t be controlled, can luck be created? Are there ways to foster the chances of acquiring good luck along the tortuous path of an NFL football season? How would one proceed if they wanted to maximize the potential of snaring some luck along the way to the NFL postseason?
These questions bring me to another quote, this time from our beloved coach and philosopher Marv Levy. Marv was big on quoting the philosophy of other brilliant people in his teachings. He once stated that the best chance for success occurs when opportunity intersects with motivation. That may be paraphrasing his actual words a bit, but that was the basic theme of his statement. So here we have another mind-bending concept regarding the difference between a bad football team and a good one. Hmm.
Motivation. Opportunity. Success. These are all variables that the Buffalo Bills have had to a mixed and arguable extent over the last decade and a half, but they have yet to put it all together this century. What do they need to do to reach that critical mass and mixture that capitulates a team over their opponents on a consistent basis?
This past week Marrone lamented and admitted to the media that both he and the players are embracing the pain of the fan base regarding the insufferable playoff drought. Eric Wood talked about how the players know exactly what is being asked of them this season. They realize this is the first season without Mr. Wilson, and that fans are filled with fear of the unknown regarding future ownership.
With so many uncertainties, these players are expressing a greater understanding regarding the fans sense of desperation at this point, as well as playing for a future owner. One newcomer who seems to “get” this desperation and sense of urgency is Brandon Spikes.
Someone once mentioned that Brandon Spikes was the kind of player you hated when he played for another team, but you can’t help but love him when he’s on yours. I readily admit to falling into that category myself.
However, any Bills fan worth their salt despises any player in a Patriots* uniform; that’s a given. Bills fans do not need to explain or justify their seemingly irrational response toward the Patriots* to anyone. The Buffalo Bills were annihilated by the Patriots* regularly for too many years, just as the Bills used to victimize the Indianapolis Colts during the 1990s.
After Brandon Spikes signed with the Bills, my first reaction was to see flashes of being duped by Belichick again (see Bledsoe and Milloy). I still carried a bit of a grudge regarding some of the vicious hits Spikes put on Bills players in the past as well. It was easy to despise Brandon because he was a Patriots* player. Then he became a member of the Buffalo Bills.
My initial ambivalence regarding Spikes dissipated almost immediately after he was introduced to reporters. Spikes had an instant “in” with me because of my great admiration for his cousin, Takeo Spikes. What I loved so much about Takeo was clearly evident in Spikes’ initial press conference. Takeo had the heart of a lion and the soul of a warrior.
Brandon projects the same intense passion, understanding and respect for the art of his craft. He is real and curious about the world, instead of simply listening to the hype about himself. He is a student of human behavior. His inquisitive and intuitive mind is only matched by his physically imposing playing style. He is the total package, the kind of player that a team can build the heart and soul of their defense around. He’s not just an emotional leader, but a successful one as well.
As Doug Marrone mentioned in his latest press conference, this young Bills team desperately needs a charismatic leader to emerge. Interestingly, Marrone was clear about his belief that a team can not only get that type of leadership with a “newcomer,” but that leadership cannot be forced, or arguably even learned.
From his point of view, you either have it or you don’t. Though he was careful not to mention names, Marrone appeared to be satisfied that the type of leadership needed is emerging on its own with this young team. I believe Brandon is a part of what led Marrone to make that comment.
Brandon Spikes keeps grabbing my attention every time I see him speak or share a point of view on Twitter. While Brandon possesses much of the same intensity and passion for the game as Takeo, he appears to be a bit more gregarious with the outside world.
Takeo was a consummate professional, and Brandon clearly demonstrates that same highly motivated work ethic and approach to his job that Takeo did during his long and successful career. However, this is where the issue of luck comes in to play and underscores the biggest difference in the career outcomes of the Spikes cousins to date.
Brandon Spikes has never missed being in the playoffs since entering the league. Takeo on the other hand played his entire illustrious career without ever making the playoffs once. .
Takeo’s mind-boggling string of misfortune can only make a person shake their head with amazement and wonder why someone he just couldn’t catch a break. Apparently luck is a fickle thing.
Brandon has enjoyed even more than having luck on his side. If you want to see what the “it” factor looks like, watch any interview with Brandon Spikes. His acute listening skills allows him to hear the meaning of questions in a different manner than the blah, blah we get from players who just spew out the buzz words they are told to say.
His intelligence is obvious, and his ability to say exactly what he thinks is refreshing. That is what the meaning of PoWwWwWwW is all about, folks. This guy doesn’t just drill his opponent, he is always listening and his mind is working toward total annihilation. He will accept nothing less than complete domination of his opponent both physically and mentally. His erudite and inquisitive nature are well suited for his position.
So here we are, getting back to that thorny old issue of timing and luck. Is this team finally in the right place at the right time with the right people? It’s hard enough for Bills fans who must heed the warning to wear helmets in order to prevent concussions from beating ourselves to death over the teams’ abysmal track record for the last 14 years.
Only time will tell whether a strategy of bringing charismatic players to the Bills will produce better results. It has been since the “glory years” that any Bills team became outraged after losing a game. Losing was a rarity, and it simply was not tolerated.
If the “shock the world” comment made by Spikes this past week doesn’t tickle your fancy as a Bills fan, it should. Keep your eye on how Brandon is evolving as a football player and a person, because if you ever wanted to see the “it” factor in motion, he’s rolling in IT.