If waking up after a tryptophan-induced coma wasn’t bad enough, the first thought I had this morning was facing another three days of Bills and Sabres games. I’m still reeling from our recent four days of horror and combined TEN game #OneBuffalo skid straight into the Erie Basin Marina.
Wish I could find the tweet by a BillsMafia member who proclaimed they had reached the final stage of grief regarding our beloved losing sports teams… acceptance. Pondered that statement a good bit because it made a lot of sense.
It also triggered a vague recollection of a similar feeling a few decades back where I reached a point that could only be described as the final stage of grief. I’m not even sure what season it was, but it was during the mid-1980s, most likely right after Jim Kelly decided to play in the USFL.
At that point, I had recently left Western New York and was finding my way around the Rocky Mountain west before settling down in Wyoming. No Sunday Ticket in that era, and being a Bills fan at that time before the Super Bowl years were challenging to say the least.
After a particularly gnarly exchange with a friend (diehard Broncos fan) I realized why I took the inevitable criticism of Buffalo so personally. It was more about dissing the WNY region than it was about the Bills being a horrible football team (which they were at that time).
These frequent exchanges led me to think more about why the taunts bugged me so much and realized it was because most of the people who diss WNY have never been there, nor understand why it is such a special place. And it IS a very special place.
Here’s my reckoning why… bear with me …
Buffalo is a unique city because the people who live in the region are made up of descendants of a wave of European immigration through Ellis Island and other regions of the world in the early 1900s. My grandmother told me many tales of her trip across the Atlantic in 1904, and what Buffalo was like at that time.
The neighborhoods of distinct ethnicities slowly blended together over time. The children and grandchildren of immigrants worked in steel factories and other manufacturing industries and the suburbs grew from this original wave of immigrants.
When manufacturing started to die in WNY, the out-migration was much greater than in-migration. This is an important clue about what makes the people of WNY unique. Our heritage comes directly from the incredible men and women who created one of the most beautiful and underrated cities in the nation.
The values we were taught by this incredible generation of adventurers coming to America were distilled over time and haven’t been diluted by rapid growth. Other cities like Boston, New York, etc… they’ve grown and changed a great deal by the constant flow of new people moving into the area. Such has not been the case in WNY since the 1950s.
Why should we give a fig about this, and what does it have to do with our losing sports teams?
I’ve wondered for a long time how and why we are such a loyal fan base despite over 100 combined years without a championship. I believe it has to do with that strong set of values distilled within us from our industrious ancestors. It doesn’t matter the specific ethnicity, Buffalonians are a hearty bunch of loyal and compassionate people.
And this is what brings me to the point of acceptance of whatever losing legacy these Buffalo sports teams bring upon us to bear. People often ask me how I can possibly remain optimistic in the face of abject failure.
It has to do with each of you reading this drivel right now. I’m not a fan of Buffalo sports because I’m a glutton for punishment. I’m a fan because there are no bandwagon fans left, and the remaining fan base is loaded with the coolest people I’ve come to call brothers and sisters over the years.
The place of acceptance I’ve reached is that my love for the Bills and Sabres has everything to do with you, the fan base and much less to do with winning and losing. In fact, I still believe it says something special about a passionate fan base who sticks together no matter how miserable the teams play.
In fact, it makes me feel even more resolute in my determination to NEVER let the harpies break me. Never let them see you sweat!
Now it’s time to try and work off what I ate yesterday and pray our teams pull out of the umpteenth November death-spiral soon.
Editor’s babble: Giving thanks on Thanksgiving weekend for the blessing of connecting with our BillsMafia family. Find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.