Wow. Last Sunday’s game against the Colts was everything Bills fans could have dreamed of, and more. Reducing Andrew Luck to performing like a deer in the headlights was a great season opening appetizer.
However, now the main course for this week is about to be served before we’ve even had a chance to digest the horse meat stuffed mushrooms. That’s just how life seems to work I guess. There’s never enough time to bask in the glory of winning.
I’ve stated many times that there isn’t a fan base in the world more deserving of a change of fortune than fans of Western New York (WNY) sports. No one suffers like Buffalo sports fans. Losing has been imprinted in our DNA for a couple of generations by now.
Enter the Pegula family and a billion dollar state investment and the early results are nothing short of astounding. A new waterfront, shiny new buildings and businesses, and not one, but two sports teams rising out of the ashes. Holy chicken wing, Buffalo is back, better than ever.
The first evidence that this well kept secret from the rest of the country was being let out of the bag started happening around the time of the draft. I went back to see what I had written around that time, and check this out:
Sometimes I go back and read a blog post to see if I was on the right track at the time. That turned out to be quite a prescient post (or PP for short :) If you have some extra time while sipping on a Tim Horton’s (or at least dreaming you are), go back and take a look at that post. I cleaned up the format and did some minor edits, but it’s relevance to where Bills fans find themselves today is definitely apropos.
We are now facing unfamiliar territory. The national media has started focusing on the Bills expected improvement. It’s been nearly two decades since there has been a buzz going like this into a match-up with a hated division rival. The region is rocking, and everybody suddenly wants to be on the wagon.
How long has it been since Hannah Storm hung out in town for a week before a game? It brings a big fat smile to my face when I think about how ‘outsiders’ come to Buffalo now and see a city on the rise. As a native Western New Yorker, I can hardly wait to prowl around downtown Buffalo and Canalside to see the changes for myself.
Win or lose on Sunday, the Bills are out of the bag. The ‘Rex Effect’ is real, and the fan base couldn’t be happier. Rex’s demeanor and the spiritual energy he exudes is a healing tonic for what ails a fan base mired in low self-esteem.
Rex has enough self esteem for all of us, and is collectively raising our consciousness about viewing ourselves as losers. The one striking difference I see in him that was lacking in most other head coaches for the Bills is his authenticity as a human being. No ‘coachspeak’ coming from him, and for the people of Western New York, that is a breath of fresh air.
Maybe God does love the Buffalo Bills.
We finally have a man leading our team that understands how much crap this fan base has endured for so long. He clearly recognizes our strong desire to have a community leader that isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Rex’s personality is a reflection of what is good about the people of Western New York. He gets us, because he IS us.
Rex is savvy enough to avoid making the fatal mistake of at least a dozen previous head coaches in Buffalo. He won’t sugarcoat the raw truth. How many times have we been frustrated by ‘coachspeak’ in the past?
And why does my brain immediately focus on Richard Jauron’s face when I think of ‘coachspeak’? Sigh… and people wonder why being considered “lovable losers” makes our skin crawl. Or the phrase “it’s hard to win a game in the NFL”. Is it any wonder why we never connected with these type of coaches?
The years of pining away for a real head coach are finally behind us. The Pegula family spent a fortune bringing in top talent to compete with the top teams in the league. The Bills opened the season by destroying the Indianapolis Colts.
Next up, the Patriots.
The buzz around the ‘new vibe’ Buffalo Bills is loud and “talkin’ proud”. If you need evidence of the new attitude around One Bills Drive, look no further than The Bills Store at the stadium. Putting football-inflators on display front and center isn’t something you would have seen happen at The Ralph in the past.
Why do I get the feeling that Mrs. Pegula has a very good sense of humor? The rest of the nation is about to become reacquainted with our unique personality as a fan base. For example, arrogance is the Patriots preferred persona (PPP, lol). As Bills fans, we are more like a lap dogs pining for affection. We are loyal, obsessed, and most of all compassionate. We take care of each other. Our players and their families become a beloved part of the entire WNY community forever.
Although it was a very long time ago (in fact longer than some Bills fans have been alive), there was a precedent set for how the sports fans of WNY tended to behave in a winning atmosphere. During the 90s Super Bowl years, the rest of the nation hated us.
But they didn’t hate us like they hate the Patriots. They hated us because our team came from a place that wasn’t considered “cool”. Buffalo in the 1990s was just beginning to open one eye to a better future.
It was an old rust belt city lacking any kind of vision for the future. The last five years transformed the city in a manner arguably only superseded by the industrialization of the region in the early 1900s. The engine of innovation is starting to roar again in a region full of hope for a brighter future.
Now we find ourselves as WNY sports fans on the doorstep of success once again. It’s not a feeling that makes us very comfortable. It’s unfamiliar, and many of us are filled with a lot of hope tinged with a sense of trepidation.
We’ve been here before, and we got knocked down off the mountain four times in a row. It’s taken the better part of twenty years to recover.
Those who experienced being a Bills fan during the 1990s probably remember the mantra of the fan base after the gut-wrenching loss to the Giants after the Bills first Super Bowl.
We sang that song three more times in a row before it was mercifully put out of our collective misery. Then we went essentially dormant for the next twenty years.
Now we find ourselves on the doorstop of greatness once again. Will we fail or will we finally reach our ultimate destination?
The first step in that process is beating the Patriots at The Ralph tomorrow. But even if that doesn’t happen, rest assured we are only beginning to taste the sweetness of victory on a regular basis once again.