Those of us who choose to affiliate with the Buffalo Bills and Sabres spent the first two decades of this century with our ‘fanhood’ in cold storage. While our beloved teams found new ways to torture us, we found ways to hunker down and endure the pain.
Now we find our teams on the precipice of emerging from the deep freeze and we’re not really sure how to respond to all the sudden attention from outsiders… who still consider us a freak of nature. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Bills second trip to the playoffs in three years.
No doubt the Bills are ahead of the Sabres in terms of righting their ships. Ralph Krueger is just getting his first taste about how hard it will be to redefine a losing culture. It wasn’t long ago when we watched Sean McDermott stand strong at the podium and defend his belief that culture trumps strategy.
I will forever be grateful when McDermott had the perseverance to stand strong with his vision about how to turn the Bills from a farce into a force. Now Ralph Krueger speaks much the same language about the Sabres… and we’re just beginning to see the tide turn in that long moribund locker room.
‘Perseverance’ was a word former punter Brian Moorman placed on a tee shirt he sold through his charitable foundation some years ago. I bought one because it’s a word I’ve used to motivate myself for years.
And yes, in some instances I focused on that specific word when the Bills or Sabres would poop the bed in one way or another. The old “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” comes to mind.
Now we face a new set of emotions to contend with as our beloved teams turn the corner and begin to show the fruits of their respective labor. How can you read Dion Dawkins letter to BillsMafia without gasping at the realization that we finally have two sports teams that reflect the collective love we have for them?
Dion struggles with the notion of bandwagon fans and wants to preserve the authenticity that IS the BillsMafia. I say open the doors and welcome them on the wagon with gusto… but with one caveat. They are welcome to stick around and party with us, BUT… like owning Google stock… you don’t get voting shares on the bandwagon.
There’s definitely two series of Bills fans emerging. Those of us who persevered through a lifetime (however long or short) of misery and despair, and those who hop on and off the wagon as soon as the sledding gets tough.
We can peacefully coexist. However, don’t lose sight of the fact that in the midst of all this suffering over the years we have grown wiser in our ways. We learned to stand tall in the face of being shamed by fans of more successful teams.
How many times have you been asked, “how can you be a Bills fan?” like you’re some sort of alien invading the planet?
The bottom line… as the fortunes of the Bills change we must be prepared to mobilize the wisdom we gained from loving a perpetually losing football team. Let the blowhards and title chasers hop on and enjoy the ride with us.
They’ll never have a clue what’s behind our wry smile when we see how fleeting their loyalty will be at the first sign of adversity. If adversity does build character, Bills fans have character coming out of their you-know-whats.
The wisdom that comes from perseverance should not be underestimated, nor ignored. It’s time we stop expecting failure around every corner and reap the benefits of unrelenting loyalty.
Editor’s babble: Expect this and a lot more dripping optimism from me as we head into the off season. If you’ve got a problem with it, you can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.