Searching for Progress with the Buffalo Bills

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We’ve never needed sports less or more.  An activity that on its surface should be irrelevant like viewing collisions of those racing after points would be even more welcome at a moment when the world keeps activating curses.  We almost seemed like we were through the zombie apocalypse when a murderer embodying injustice struck.  Universal condemnation offers some consolation.  But people could really use a unifying escape from news that would be redundant to call bad.

Having a game to watch would be as inconsequential as it would be nice.  The distraction isn’t merely welcome, as people could use a worthwhile example provided by something they already admire.

What can a poor fan do?  Well, we can always treat each other with respect.  That’s of course always the case, although there are painfully acute reminders involving the consequences of not doing so dominating the news.  Those who invest so much cheering can specifically apply worthwhile notions from their favorite vicarious amusement.  Sports are supposed to build character, at least according to what youth baseball coaches yelled at me, so we may as well review the lessons.

Our favorite team was involved in racial advancement connected to the time when it was born. You may have heard the 1960s were tumultuous, and Buffalo’s football team offered signs of growth.

The Bills were uniquely situated to show what’s attainable early in their existence.  Some of their transactions displayed a commitment to hiring based on potential, not ethnicity. They drafted Ernie Davis, the first black Heisman winner, who chose the NFL over the upstart circuit before his tragic death.  And the Ramblin’ Man from Gramblin’ James Harris was the first black player in pro football history to start the season at quarterback, which was one of the team’s few 1969 highlights.

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On a related note, the 1965 AFL All Star Game is the only one anybody remembers, and it’s not because of the play.  The boycott of the original location in New Orleans after black players were treated shabbily is why Houston hosted that year on the fly.  The Cookie Gilchrist-led protest showed how athletes could use their personal examples to lead the way in expecting and receiving simple esteem.

Overall, the AFL offered more jobs for black players than the established league.  Whether out of genuine tolerance or practical necessity, the rebel league created opportunities for minorities.  It shouldn’t take sports to show the best people deserve to win out, but the lesson remains apt in an imperfect world.

The goal of treating everyone with dignity in sports affected politics.  People either remember Jack Kemp as a congressman or quarterback depending on what competition they find most interesting.  Either way, his focus on racial issues during his Washington career began with his time working for the Buffalo franchise.  Kemp said he felt compelled to battle for the rights of those with whom he showered.  That’s one simple way to discover equality.

Football is exciting because contests feature no outside influence.  Assessment takes the indifferently pure form of scores.  Sports are the ultimate meritocracy.  Competitors are lauded or derided for performance.  Anyone using race as a factor would be instantly exposed as a fool.  

It’s easy to spot the glaring folly of contempt for what’s literally the most superficial reason.  A club that even contemplated putting prejudice into practice would be punished through exclusion.  Refusing to hire someone qualified because of complexion means denying access to skill.  Racism punishes itself.

There’d be no more welcome sign of a return to normalcy than getting wound up about sports again.  Fans dream of a time cheering together while taunting the Patriots.  Loyal Bills backers are waiting to learn which quarterback we’re going to loathe like he was appointed by Satan.  We will hate him only for the color of his jersey.

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It’s easy to look for lessons in sports to justify their alarmingly significant presence in our lives.  After all, games amount to us watching others chase an object.  But we like watching, which is reason enough.

Dedication to a team embodies the right to live as we wish.  Uniting to cheer for players from our favorite side competing to their utmost represents a simple manifestation of liberty.  The simple joy is available when things are going relatively well.  We’re painfully aware that’s not right now.  But we’ll soon be grateful for something as basic as life settling down.

There are better ways to feel thankful for what we have than having things taken away. Still, we deal with reality as crises present themselves.  The return of sports will provide a chance to value just how nice it is to acknowledge others for their worth as individuals.

Athletic judgment is based on applied ability.  If lessons from sports appear simple, it makes them that much more fundamental.  We look forward to the appreciation of talent in action regardless of ancestry.  Everyone cheers for everyone competing.  Football ideally shows how things should be.  That hopefully includes but certainly isn’t limited to the Bills winning the division one of these decades.  It’d be a blessing to get back to what we cherish after enduring what we have.

Editor’s babble: So beautifully written. Thanks to Anthony Bialy for his thought provoking contributions to our blog. You can find Anthony on Twitter @AnthonyBialy.

About Anthony Bialy

Anthony Bialy recently moved back to Buffalo from New York City and acts like he never left. He thinks "Buffalo 66" is biographical and considers it a crime against mankind that Steve Tasker is not in the Hall of Fame. He likes getting Tim Hortons on the way to get Labatt Blue. Follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyBialy.