Buffalo Bills fans of a certain age know what it’s like to feel mental weight from decades of hope and frustration, left with only a prayer that “maybe next year” a Lombardi Trophy will find it’s way to Orchard Park. Some of us are old enough to see the odds of this happening drop like an anvil on top of Wily Coyote. However, if one picked a cartoon character, ol’ Wily isn’t really representative of Bills fans in my opinion. If we had to make a cartoon out of ourselves as a fan base, I think we are all Charlie Brown.
Our circle of life is dictated not by the seasons, but by the NFL calendar. Each year we spend time grieving the crushing end to yet another football season, much in the same way as the year prior. After a relatively similar period of time in mourning, we begin to formulate ways to make the outcome different next year.
Many of us like Charlie Brown suffer from the belief that if we wish and pray and hope hard enough, we will create enough penance to be rewarded with what we want… an NFL Championship in Buffalo. I don’t know where this irrational belief came from, but I suspect it’s related to many of us having an upbringing that preached this method of acquiring a desired outcome.
Unfortunately, throughout our journey in life most of us discover that belief is flawed for a variety of reasons too metaphysical to deal with in a football blog entry. Suffice it to state this flaw has resulted in a great deal of pain because it creates a sense of expectation for a particular outcome based on how much suffering we endured in the process.
What in the blazes am I trying to convey here?
The entire world knows the Buffalo Bills fan base is unique with respect to its passion. Jumping through tables might be the first thing they think of, but we know our fan base is far more complicated and harder to explain to those who don’t understand our level of passion.
However, what the rest of the world does understand is our absolute commitment to our belief that if we suffer long enough, we’ll be rewarded. We will go to the ends of the earth to earn this ‘reward’. We jump through tables, we create our own rituals, phobias and superstitions around achieving this one desire for a moment of glory.
For example, just when we thought we would never find our ‘savior’ quarterback, Josh Allen came along. But he did so at just the right time because Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott already established the right environment for a raw prospect like Allen to thrive.
At that point as fans, many of us were enamored by ‘the process’ and convinced ourselves this was ‘our time’. Somehow the way it all came together for Buffalo made it seem inevitable that finally an NFL Championship was headed our way.
Josh Allen was more than happy to embrace the role as savior of the franchise. He sees himself as responsible for releasing us all from the pain of a lifetime of waiting for this one elusive prize.
At first the responsibility to bring a championship to One Bills Drive was likely viewed by Allen as a challenge. For Allen, this was the natural ‘next step’ in his own development. He beat the odds so many times in his life this likely seemed surmountable… because (just like us), Josh likely believes like we do that if you just keep working harder, you will eventually be rewarded.
Fast forward five years.
The honeymoon is over.
The Bills made the playoffs after a 17 year drought. Check box. Buffalo continues to make the playoffs but can’t get past one crack at the AFC Championship and a couple of times past the Divisional Round.
Suddenly the ‘Big Baller’ morphed into the ‘Big Staller’.
For a fan base rabid for an NFL Championship any deviation from the objective is unacceptable. Older fans remember this same feeling when Marv Levy led the Bills to four Super Bowls… and crashed. The pain from those losses still reverberates around Western New York like a lake effect blizzard to the brain.
And the scar tissue just gets deeper.
The ramifications are clear. If you look carefully, you can see a transformation in Josh Allen’s public ‘face’. No longer the eager young kid who’s more than happy to accept his assignment, he now has wisdom from experience to realize just how difficult achieving said objective will be.
The ‘process’ can go from exhilarating to burdensome.
What starts out as a challenge may evolve into a sense of responsibility. We do know Josh stated several times over the years he is a ‘people pleaser’. His sense of self awareness seems well developed and there’s no reason to doubt he would mislead people about his ‘real personality’.
If Allen’s ‘people pleasing’ traits remain a core part of who he is as a person, then repeated failure to achieve the objective of winning a championship would likely create a sense of responsibility about it. How Josh Allen deals with this part of his development as an NFL quarterback may define his legacy sooner than later. Allen will NEVER BE OK with losing. It’s “not in his DNA”, as Sean McDermott would say.
Furthermore, that same sense of responsibility is likely shared by Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott. There’s little doubt failure to achieve the objective weighs heavily on both of them as well. Shifting Beane, McDermott and Allen’s burden back to the joyous time when all things were possible (challenge) can’t be done any easier than recapturing lost youth.
How can we ameliorate this situation?
In other words, how can we become part of the solution instead of being part of the problem?
Everyone has to figure out their own way to make peace with their obsession for the Buffalo Bills to win a championship. What seems to be working for me lately is to let go of the irrational expectation that somehow I deserve to celebrate an NFL championship because I’ve suffered enough. Working toward a goal of limiting expectations as much as possible seems to be beneficial for my peace of mind.
Perhaps if we each found our own way to lessen the burden it might make the collective process easier for the protagonist and his band of merry men to bring us the Lombardi of our dreams.
But I’ll also die on the hill of belief that a monster DT1T and an effective offensive line might get us there faster.
Editor’s babble: More of this tripe will be forthcoming over the course of the off season and can also be found on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.