Loyalty, Hope, and Underdogs

I grew up in a home that had a photo of OJ Simpson hanging on the wall.

I was raised to understand that when the game is on the television and plays are being run, YOU DON’T TALK.

I learned firsthand in my teenage years that no matter how far behind the team is, a comeback is possible.

The Buffalo Bills are in my DNA. And if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance they’re in yours, too.

What a week. Our hero is cancer-free. Our boys pulled out a ‘W’ in a city they never have before. And, most recently, our team was purchased by the family we were all pulling for.

One statement I didn’t mention at the outset is that I also grew up with the understanding that the team may someday leave. I remember my parents, uncles, and the like often mentioning how the owner actually lived in Detroit and never outright guaranteed that he’d keep the Bills here forever. Of course, we’ve since learned that that was never the case. Mr. Wilson just chose to play it close to the vest, as difficult as that may have been for us to handle. But still, there has always been that cloud that hung over my fanhood… always that nagging thought at the back of my mind that this might not be a “forever” thing. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t ruin certain aspects of being a fan and make it a little less enjoyable than it could have been.

It's an old photo. Don't make fun!
It’s an old photo. Don’t make fun!

I have two daughters, 8 and 11. They’re still, on some levels, trying to understand my affinity for this team that, admittedly, breaks my heart more often than not. But my girls are getting there. They’re beginning to “get it.” They see Dad pouring himself into an experience that not only provides an escape from the “real world” issues on the nightly news, but also something that allows him to connect with all his neighbors. Neighbors that live on our street, neighbors that live a few towns over, and yes, even neighbors that live on the other side of the world.

They’re learning that being a fan is so much more than observing what happens on the field for 3 hours after church on Sunday.

How’s that, you say? What are they learning exactly?

Loyalty matters. Anyone can hop on a bandwagon and head towards Boston or maybe, for a more recent example, the Pacific Northwest.

Not us. We’re Bills fans. We cheer when they win, we support them when they lose. This goes for our football team, and our relationships with other people: Loyalty matters.

There is always hope. Always another opportunity to get things right. No matter how many seasons go by without a playoff berth, the Bills have an opportunity to fix it the following year. Some may give up, stop watching the games, maybe even mock the players.

Not us. We’re Bills fans. We will always believe that there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. This goes for our football team, and our personal lives: There is always hope.

And their most recent lesson (thank you, Chicago): Underdogs can win. No matter how many experts on a four-letter network say the Bills don’t have a shot at winning a game, they do. Others may begin to believe the national pundits, to second guess a team that’s yet to even play a down in the regular season.

Not us. We’re Bills fans. Nothing is out of reach for our team. This goes for our football team, and our aspirations in life: Underdogs can win.

Ok, sure. The whole life lessons thing is cute but I’ve often thought, especially since 2008 when the Toronto Series began, “Am I wasting my time? Is this team going to be gone by the time they’re out of high school?” One of my greatest earthly fears (outside of sickness and the like) was to forge this common bond with my children — like the previous generation did with me — and then have it ripped away, never to return.

Over the past almost six months, it seemed like that could happen. The Bon Jovi-led Toronto threat was real. As a member of the Buffalo Fan Alliance advisory board, you can believe me when I tell you it was real.

And who knows if we could trust someone like billionaire tycoon Donald Trump? Like, really trust him? The Bills are one of the most precious things in the world to me. I’ve always had a hard time trusting someone who ruined an entire football league almost single-handedly (note: see the 30 for 30 documentary, “Small Potatoes” if you haven’t already) and whose key phrase is “You’re Fired.” I dunno. Personally, that was always a “thanks, but no thanks” for me.

But there’s no need to worry now. The Pegulas, in the second paragraph of their first communication to their newest base of fans, stated simply that the Bills, YOUR Bills, MY Bills, are “here to stay.” Here to stay! And they didn’t “luck out,” or have to settle for this city when they really wanted a franchise somewhere else. No, they went above and beyond to make this happen, paying a record amount to secure WNY’s football future.

Now I know, for sure, for absolute sure, that I’m going to be able to watch this team with my children for years to come. Maybe even with their children, too, if they get to be as blessed as I am.

Our loyalty paid off. The hope was proven true. The city of Buffalo, always the underdog, won.

To Terry and Kim Pegula: On behalf of the Reid family, and every fellow fan I’ve ever had the privilege of high fiving after a Buffalo touchdown, thank you.

Go Bills.

Check out Del on TWC News earlier this week talking about the sale:

About Del Reid

Del Reid became a Bills fan shortly after coming into this world, having been raised in a home that actually had a framed picture of OJ Simpson on the wall in the living room (until it came down in 1994). Del has always had a passion for bringing people together to celebrate things they share in common. As a result, he (quite accidentally) ended up co-founding the #BillsMafia movement among Bills fans in social media -- which to this point is the coolest thing that has ever happened to him aside from his relationship with God, his wife, and his two awesome kids. Follow him on Twitter at @mrdeadlier.

4 Replies to “Loyalty, Hope, and Underdogs”

  1. This is just a thing of beauty to read. Well done, and resonates solidly with this fossil :) Brings back a lot of great memories shared with many family members who are long gone now. Thanks again for all you do.

  2. Pingback: Loyalty, Hope, and Underdogs – 716teams.com

  3. Pingback: Loyalty, Hope, and Underdogs – My Buffalo Sports

  4. I packed everything I owned into a rented van to move to Charlotte, NC to pursue a career as a school teacher. During the pack, I recalled one of my college professors telling us to be prepared to decorate our class rooms with content related posters and educational materials. I had the aforethought to bring a little bit of Buffalo with me to decorate the room. Something to personalize the space. A little bit of home I thought. I brought a red lettered Bills license plate. It was the first thing I put up in my windowless, thickly coated white painted cinder block walled room.

    7th period came on the first day of class and there was Wade. The 11 year old with an adult’s confidence and a witty sense of humor. Not a class clown. mind you. He was the kid that commanded the attention of his peers. Prior to the bell after the kids assembled in the room, he picked up the Bills license plate from the chalkboard chalk tray. “Hey Mr. M, you know what B.I.L.L.S. stands for?” I had never heard this joke before, truthfully. “Boy I Love Losing Super Bowls!” The kids laughed. I appreciated the humor. This was my “Welcome to NC” moment. I was not HOME anymore.

    From my senior year of high school through junior year of college, the Bills were in The Bowl. Admittedly, I was no super-fan. I enjoyed the hell out the sport and our Bills, but I tended to enjoy the company of friends more so coupled with the game. My closest friends and I got together for every one of the Bowl games. My birthday was always around the week of the Big Game, so it was like Christmas continued for me. I vividly recall all of us on our knees holding hands during the Norwood kick. (precipitated by @SalSports I’m sure)

    I spent 15 years in the Carolinas. In that time, I met more Western New Yorkers than Charlotte natives. You can read other’s stories about this phenomenon, but one encounter resonates with me. I was at a bar for happy hour with friends. An older gentleman approached me from across the other side of the bar. He says “You are from Buffalo right?” Surprised, I said yes I am, but how did you know? He told me he observed that I drink my beer with a raised pinky. “Only people from Buffalo drink their beer like its Champagne.” he said. Since that moment, I have never been more self-conscious about that. I stopped doing it and made it a habit to keep my pinky held firmly on my pint glass.

    Although away from home, there was a constant while I spent my time in the South. It was an ever-present respect from others for Western New York. For Buffalonians. We are perceived as the “nice New Yorkers” unlike THE New Yorkers. You know who I’m talking about. On one occasion a guy I met said “Buffalonians are some of the kindest people I have ever met.” No matter how far away, there were reminders. A piece of home.

    Football and the Buffalo Bills remained a constant while I was down South. I quickly found the Bills backers bars. Enjoying the games was a blast knowing you were with others from home and it FELT like home. We secretly laughed when we overheard people say “Buffalo wings.”

    As I reflect on my life, what I have come to enjoy, and respect about Buffalo and Western New York is the connection we have to each other, to our culture, and to our team. I recently moved HOME. The development downtown, the recent ownership change of the Sabres and now Bills, and the recent up-tick in population trends are exciting. Truly signs of progress.

    Which brings me to this. #BillsMafia.

    All of the things Del Reid is doing is amazing. Del encapsulates how we are. How us Buffalonians Roll. Unity, purpose, love, compassion, giving, strength from adversity. Togetherness. I had the pleasure of producing a live podcast hosted by Sal Capaccio when he invited Leslie, Del and Bre, to discuss #BillsMafia long before it exploded in to the mainstream. It is an amazing story. It’s remarkable because when you think #BillsMafia, you get one term that combines how amazing Buffalo and WNY is combined as a fan base of the Buffalo Bills.

    I am a bigger Bills fan that I was during the Super Bowl era. I credit #BillsMafia for unifying all of us and our pride for our city and our team. Cheers Leslie, Del and Bre. #PinkyUp