An infuriating decision that doomed a competitor to runner-up status distracted from persistent disappointment for a team that again watched. Seeing cheaters prosper made this another painful Super Bowl for Buffalo Bills fans accustomed to life on the outside. Watching the Evil Empire demonstrate its longevity reminds us how we often only think of getting to the elimination stage, not prevailing in it. The thought of the Bills winning every playoff game is so fantastical that it doesn’t easily come to mind. But not aspiring for titles is as preposterous as letting teams care for their own footballs.
Thinking that a return to January football is sufficient feels like being proud of Daniel-san for simply participating in the All-Valley Karate Tournament. Fans hoping for a happy ending are presently devastated that Cobra Kai won. We fervently cheered against Sensei Belichick, Johnny the quarterback, leg-sweeping Vince Wilfork, and the rest of the evil Patriots dojo. But it’s not enough. A karma-defying championship result should motivate Buffalo to crane-kick the bully themselves instead of vainly hoping for a vicarious thrill.
An NFL team just claimed the 49th Super Bowl title. Meanwhile, I’d have to check to see if they even sell wild card merchandise. Buffalo’s backers would love to have a postseason cap even if’s obsolete a few days after the purchase. This seemingly endless drought makes it tough to picture the Bills playing for the Lombardi, much less hoisting it. Competing for glory until nearly the regular season’s end doesn’t count. Just getting to decent has been more of a struggle than it should be.
It used to take less than a decade for this squad to rebound. I remember noticing as a whippersnapper how the 1980-81 playoff cameos seemed out of place. Only the pain of experience enabled me to discover how conditions can always get tougher. A few frustrating seasons then seem like a long weekend from today’s perspective. Merely winning a division would make Western New Yorkers ecstatic. But being pleased with the simple act of advancement should be inadequate.
As part of the 96.875 percent of NFL followers who cheered against the Patriots, Bills fans were hoping justice prevailed. But villains win frequently in our unscripted world. By handing a trophy to the antagonists, Seattle created the new gold standard in wasted chances. We feel almost as frustrated as Pacific Northwest residents by a slant that lead downhill. The Mafia is full of hipsters: we cheered against the Patriots before it was cool.
The Seahawks crushed many dreams because they happened to be facing a widespread enemy. Seattle’s ardent supporters will remain stunned by an instantly regrettable incident that will persevere indefinitely. That moment of athletic infamy means we now cope with insufferably arrogant New England fans jazzed about another award for the pile, which is the one thing worse than them acting like pouty drama queens when their team loses. The persistent gloaters can thank a foe’s all-time baffling play call that made Nationwide’s ghoulish ad agency seem shrewd.
There may be more painful reminders that we don’t get second chances than this Super Bowl’s last passing attempt. But none come to mind for sports junkies. Seattle picked up a Lombardi Trophy on its way out of the Depressed Fans Support Group last year. But that glorious result doesn’t make coping with literally throwing it away on this occasion any easier.
Ask for memories of plays that could’ve changed everything, and Bills fans will only be limited by having too many choices. The goal-line throw will haunt Seahawks fans like a particular missed field goal sticks with another fan base. At least Buffalo’s most famous loss ended with a failed attempt, not an unjustified fake that coaches could never justify. Both groups of 12th Men cope with fleeting errors that continue to make us rue the progression of time. Fan bases known for endearing zealotry wonder why they deserved brutal results. Nobody said this was fair.
At least the Bills now have a coach who gets noticed, which almost seems to be a requirement for prosperity. Both Super Bowl competitors are renowned for adopting the distinct personalities of their respective leaders. The Patriots don’t care what you think about their unrelenting joylessness any more than Pete Carroll frets about how his grating enthusiasm can be off-putting to some. You may may not like both of them personally, or perhaps only loathe human black hole Belichick. But you’d take either to run your team in a second.
A polarizing coach can make all the difference, at least if he can back it up. Doug Marrone tried to be authoritative and came across as a testy baby. By contrast, Rex Ryan’s confident audacity is an auspicious quality to help sustain us through these stupid football-free months. Of course, fans can’t be sure of how his bravado will translate until the Bills have played a game under him. But for now, he has some of the right personnel and all of the attitude. After all, his allegiance is thorough even if it’s literally only skin-deep.
The 1994 version of you never would’ve anticipated fondly remembering feeling crushed after Super Bowls. But facing woe after falling short on the last fun football Sunday for awhile is a risk we accept while seeking glory. Hiring Ryan was a statement that this franchise must at least picture success.
Bills fans want more to worry about during the finale than taking care to not tear below dip level while consuming a bread bowl. Cheering against the participant we hate the most isn’t that fulfilling, especially when the Death Star blows up another Rebel base. Luke Skywalker steered into the trench wall.
This franchise can do better than someday hoping to be promoted to assistant night supervisor. While there’s nothing wrong with a stable job, the Bills should keep climbing. The cause of actively limiting further triumphs by the damn Patriots is one the league can support. Having enough self-respect to get noticed is a more personal yet concentric goal. Settling for a lone road postseason game isn’t enough.