Disrespect As A Motivator For Western New Yorkers To Rally Behind Their Sports Teams

Just when you think that the rest of the country was finally starting to wise up about pigeon-holing Western New York (WNY) as the armpit of the east, the ignorant hecklers gleefully pile on when the region gets hit with a catastrophic snow storm. This past week, the people of WNY experienced the worst natural disaster in the region since the infamous “Blizzard of ’77”.

Didn’t think I’d live long enough to see anything worse in WNY than those surreal nine days nearly 38 years ago. Unfortunately, this “Winter Storm Knife” is like a slow moving train wreck as residents must now face imminent flooding in low lying areas. That will bring another whole set of challenges.

As I write this post, thirteen lives were lost since the beginning of the storm. Disabled and elderly people have been stranded for days without food and critical medication. When the true measure of this storm is eventually analyzed, once again the true grit of WNYers will show its face to the rest of the nation.

Having gone through the Blizzard of ’77 as a young oncology nurse at Roswell Park, this storm triggered a mountain of memories of those 16 hour shifts for nine days straight. From sleeping on the floor of a clinic, to bartering units of blood with the staff at Buffalo General Hospital, those nine days came back into my mind as if it were last week.

Like many other native WNYers that live in far flung places, I spent as much free time as I could this week tuning in to social media and news outlets for updates on the status of the storm. What I saw was actually a bit disturbing at times. If the media reflects the ethos and values of any given community, we are in worse shape as a nation than I hoped I would ever live long enough to see.

Look, anyone that grew up in WNY has hid like a rhinoceros when it comes to being ridiculed about living in a rust belt city with two ‘loser’ sports franchises. We personify what it means to be collectively bullied by the rest of the nation. It’s part of what led us to develop a type of toughness not seen in people from many other places.

We are the children of proud and adventurous people who settled in the region when it was considered a ‘western outpost’. Buffalo is not Phoenix, where the influx of new people have changed the entire culture of the region. The people of WNY are still mainly descendants of the original mass immigration of the mid-1800s and early 1900s.

Our character has been scarred by decades of abuse from those who cackle at us like hyenas disparaging our city, our weather, and most of all our people. Sadly, it’s even worse this time around than during the Blizzard of ’77.

The outside media reflected the brazen disregard for the seriousness of a catastrophic event in WNY several times this week. As the storm began to unfold, this tweet came across my timeline on Twitter from the official Oakland Raiders twitter feed:

The first thing that hit me was wondering if the Raiders organization wrote a similar tweet to the Saints during Hurricane Katrina? For some reason, it appears that snow is the Rodney Dangerfield of natural disasters. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes; no problem with showing some respect. Snow, not so much.

We already know that the rest of the nation hates us. We remember what it was like when the Bills went to the Super Bowl four years in a row. “Oh no, not THEM again.”. Losing all of them provided powerful ammunition in attacking the self-esteem of an entire region.

This time around, even the media in Detroit (of all places) decided to take cheap shots at WNYers borrowing their stadium for a football game. A sports radio station in Detroit (that shall remain nameless) created a campaign to punish Bills fans because their feelings were hurt by the coach they FIRED being carried off the field after losing to the Bills earlier this season. Really?

The people of Detroit know a thing or three about suffering. Like Buffalo, their city and football team are trying to rebuild after decades of decline. That’s why Bills fans traveling to Detroit to see the game would do well to separate their media clowns from a sister city in need of some respect.

I’ve always cherished the belief that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s served me and countless others well throughout life. These times are no different. Instead of allowing myself react to the negativity spewed about my homeland, I will use this show of disrespect as a means of motivation. But, motivation for what?

Professional athletes understand this principle better than anyone. Thurman Thomas created a sense of disrespect inside his mind that propelled him throughout his professional career as a football player. Feeling disrespected can be used as a powerful tool to push your way through many adversities in life.

So instead of Bills fans reacting in anger toward those trying to taunt us, think again. The most effective way to deal with a bully is to stop creating a victim mentality about it. By that I mean that instead of allowing foolish people to affect your state of mind, use that disrespect the way Thurman used being drafted in the second round. Shut your pie hole and play like your hair is on fire.

Understand the incredible gift that ignorant people serve up free of charge as motivation on a regular basis. My grandmother used to say that when you kill off your enemies with kindness, they lose any weapon they had against you. They become impotent because that which empowered them in the first place no longer accomplishes their goal to emotionally take you down.

So BillsMafia, let’s stand together and show the rest of the world why we are a unique community. You can already see the effect this natural disaster has had on Bills players. They got to experience arguably the worst storm in the history of Western New York. They will remember this forever and share these memories with others.

This epic snowstorm can be the catalyst that forges an even deeper connection between the Bills/Sabres players and the WNY community. The players got to experience cabin fever, and we were delighted as fans with every instagram video. Just like the players can use this experience as motivation on the field, we can also do so as fans.

Instead of getting snarky in Detroit, let’s show the rest of the world that we hold ourselves to a higher standard as a fan base. If you are traveling to Detroit to see the game, be courteous in the face of disrespectful behavior displayed for the sole purpose of bullying. Don’t give the haters outside WNY what they want. We can either rise above them or keep letting the rest of the nation control the dialogue about our great community.

And last, but definitely not least, a side note:

As a blizzard survivor and oncology nurse that worked through the Blizzard of ’77, I know how important it is to have enough blood supply during a natural disaster. We were forced to decide who would get the limited supply available at that time.

The Buffalo hospitals need blood to save lives. This was tweeted out two days ago and I’m pretty sure it’s still a need:

Urgent! @roswellpark donor center in need of platelet and type O- blood donations. Please call 716-845-8275 or visit http://goo.gl/Q95QGD

If you or a loved one can donate blood, you will literally be giving the gift of life. If you can’t get to Roswell Park, check with any hospital in your area about donating blood. Someday it might be your life that gets saved. Thanks and GO BILLS!

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at BuffaloFAMbase.com. She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynMundyWYO.

7 Replies to “Disrespect As A Motivator For Western New Yorkers To Rally Behind Their Sports Teams”

  1. Lighten up. I ACTUALLY LIVE IN BUFFALO, and I realize it’s just tongue in cheek. It’s not disrespect. The problem IS people like you who are always looking and reaching for these perceived slights to Buffalo.

    Your comparison of this to Hurricane Katrina may be the most ignorant thing that has been written about this storm.

    When the Raiders sent that tweet, they didn’t know the extent of the storm. None of us, THE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY LIVE HERE, knew at that point just how bad it would be.

    • Why would you want to tear down a piece that’s sole intention seems to be aimed at building positive community influence and fighting for respect for said community?

      She didn’t compare this storm to Katrina but merley pointed out the obvious mocking nature of the tweet and how it would be completely unacceptable in any other natural disaster to say such things. But because it’s buffalo it is somehow acceptable.

      And everyone from Buffalo knows that once a Buffalonian, always a Buffalonian…


  3. Michael…apparently you have not been out about in the county enough to realize that it IS DISRESPECT. Whether it comes as a “joke” from a late night TV host or a snarky comment from other teams, it is the same. We know, we have lived through 50+ years of it.
    The thing they all ignore is that while no one in WNY has any control over the lake effect, they do control their behavior and choose to help each other. Good Neighbors…the way it should be.
    No on bad mouths New Orleans for Katrina, the Jersey shore for Sandy but they think it is fine to make jokes about Buffalo. This storm has been different in the amount of positive coverage about the sharing of help going on. AND I go out of my way to pass those along, and standing up to snark. Trust me…coverage of it in the Sunshine State here has very little positive spin and some ignorant tone to it.
    But as a marketing theme our Bills used in the 70’s said- we’re Talkin Proud!

  4. God bless you Robyn for your life of caring for cancer patients. Mr Wooten should be ashamed of himself. What difference does it make whether she lives now in the Buffalo area or not? None. She served her community in an outstanding manner in 1977. Her heart obviously remains in Buffalo. You who “ACTUALLY LIVE IN BUFFALO,” what have you done to contribute this time around?

  5. I love the fact that the Bills players were geolocated and picked up by snowmobile to get to the game. My only problem is in all the photos I have seen, not one of them is wearing a helmet. You would think that people who work & live with head injury problems would display better judgement. Thank God an already serious situation wasn’t compounded by a tragic accident.

  6. Robin, thanks for the great article! There must have been at least 40,000 Bills fans in Detroit tonight and they obviously took your advice to heart. Except for the two guys who ran onto the field, they behaved with class (several thank you Detroit signs) and represented Buffalo and the region very well. So proud to be a WNY native!!!