Regardless of religious persuasion, there are lessons in life that bridge all faiths, and even for those without any particular religious affiliation. These lessons, or as the term ‘wisdom’ implies, are often accumulated as a result of making mistakes.
We’ve all heard the old sayings “the school of hard knocks”, “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “if you don’t learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it” and other variations that all basically mean that you can gain wisdom from experience if you so choose.
That most of us find ourselves repeating the same mistakes over and over seems like human nature. The question is how many times will we allow the ‘error of our ways’ to repeatedly beat us down over and over before we change our behavior?
For example, simply existing as a life-long fan of the Buffalo Bills automatically grants one free admission to the “school of hard knocks”. Bills (and Sabres) fans have experienced more permutations regarding what it means to be a ‘loser’ fan than arguably any other community of sports fans in the country over the last 50 years.
So what keeps us doggedly enmeshed with our two franchises that seem to come from Hades? Each fan probably has their own answer to that question. For this fan, it is of course summed up with a large dose of ‘wyobabble’. Stop here and you can still get out of this alive. Otherwise, here it goes.
When my brain wanders off trying to make sense of the world, it always seems to bring me back to understanding human behavior through identifying patterns and context. If you’ve observed behavior over a period of nearly a half dozen decades, odd realizations begin to emerge.
They are odd in the sense that patterns often don’t reveal anything new, they just remind you over and over again that there is something out there one might benefit from investigating. So, while sailing through life, one can choose to pay attention to these ‘events’ and perhaps learn something from them, or ignore them.
I’ve found over the decades that when a specific issue inserts itself into my life repeatedly, it’s time to pay attention to it. The most difficult question to answer is the one that stalks your life by inserting example after example in a variety of contexts, and your task is to figure out why.
Many people argue that the ‘why’ is not important, that we might all be better off if we didn’t dwell in the land of the ‘whys’. There is definitely a solid argument to be made that one could drive themselves crazy trying figure the ‘why’ in any given situation.
However, if you believe that identifying repeated patterns might provide a clue to self enlightenment, then it seems reasonable to screen your mind for these patterns from time to time. Sometimes seemingly independent events taking place simultaneously (or relatively so) might connect the dots in a very meaningful way.
For example, Bills fans have experienced extreme situations regarding the fate of the franchise over the last 12 months. We have yet to hit the one year anniversary since the death of Mr. Wilson, and look at what’s happened since then.
The Pegulas buying the team, an epic blizzard requiring a game be moved, Doug Marrone quitting the team, hiring Rex Ryan, and this week signing Richie Incognito. Many Bills fans (myself included) are still experiencing vertigo from all the changes that have taken place regarding this franchise over the last year.
So, exactly what is the message in all of this? For me, it’s about challenging my own hypocritical thinking patterns and stepping outside my own comfort zone. This really came home to roost the most for me right after Rex Ryan was hired.
I’ve read other Bills fans ask the same question, “How can I go from hating that blowhard to accepting him as the Bills head coach?”. The mind does funny things and has to bend itself around a lot preconceived notions when the head coach of your beloved team just came to town from a division rival.
Overall, we tend to embrace the negative qualities of rivals and begrudgingly give them credit when they do well. That also seems like human nature. However, when they suddenly leap over the fence to take your side, it requires a bit of cognitive re-engineering to make it work.
Looking back on how I wove Rex Ryan into my brain when he coached the Jets, it was easy to focus on his bravado and chest thumping proclamations as a sign of arrogance. However, the Rex I am coming to know today is more bold than egotistical.
I drive those who love me crazy trying to find the right word that captures the essence of someone’s persona. It has to be exactly the right word, then all the rest fits into place. [Christy the Wordsmith will always be my hero in that regard. Her NPR word of the day was one of my favorite blurbs on NPR radio for years].
So, after listening to Rex Ryan talk with Howard Simon and Jeremy White on WGR-550 radio this past week , that ‘word’ came out. A simple four letter word that puts Rex Ryan in the right context in my brain. The word is BOLD.
Boldness can be borne from arrogance, but it is not necessarily a pre-requisite. There is an element to the meaning of being bold that derives from a mixture of courage, leadership, and toss in an element of fearlessness as well. Being bold doesn’t mean being loud, obnoxious, or otherwise annoying in nature, though it can run side by side with those types of behavior from time to time.
So just when I thought I had my head wrapped around Rex Ryan as the new Bills head coach, the Pegulas and Rex sign Richie Incognito, poster child for bad behavior. Love him or hate him, he is definitely a lightning rod for discussion. It was a bold move by a bold guy to bring him in.
Of course, I should have realized that the Pegulas would not allow something like that to take place without checking out Richie personally before allowing him to be signed by the Bills. Add to the evidence the fact that the Sabres also made a blockbuster trade bringing in Evander Kane this week, who also is rumored to have had issues with his team in Winnepeg.
Hmm. Do we see a pattern here? The Pegulas are certainly unique people. Self-made billionaires who didn’t get there by being complacent, or with any fear of being bold. They seem to be showing us through their actions that we all should step back and question ourselves with regard to how we judge other people’s behavior.
It behooves us to pay attention to the message they are giving us here. We can stay stuck with our preconceived notions, or we can accept these notions “as-is” and move on with an open mind. If I’ve learned anything in nearly 60 years, it is that one generally gains more wisdom from observation than consternation.
That stated, I’m ready to move forward with the program of redemption and rehabilitation that the Pegulas have put forth. This can be accomplished in great part by giving those who have stumbled along the way another shot to make good on their life’s work.
The Pegulas are challenging many WNY sports fans to embrace more boldness in our lives. They demonstrate through their actions that nothing in life (with respect to making big decisions) comes without some degree of risk. The more we can act boldly with integrity, the greater the likelihood we will achieve our stated goals. That stated, I’m ready to roll ahead with a new attitude in the hope that it will not only reduce my cognitive dissonance regarding my fanhood, it will likely make me a better human being overall. While other fan bases may never understand this, we have so much to be grateful for regarding the life lessons to be gained from loving our inexplicable sports teams.