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