I’ve confessed that I’m “Billspolar” already.
Now, the national media is showing symptoms too – but not just over the Bills, or even the Sabres, but over Buffalo. Over us.
As the decades pass along, we endure column after column, news clip after news clip, about how it snows here. We get to see Scott Norwood’s kick go wide right. We see photos of Brett Hull’s foot in the crease. We’re chided for being a cesspool town with a spendthrift NFL owner who isn’t willing to spend what it takes to build a winner. Heaps of grief are heaved onto the region when a NHL owner like Tom Golisano won’t overspend to keep the Drurys and Campbells in town, and then heaps of sniveling ire are pitched about Terry Pegula investing his own money in players to build a true contender (too much money, cap circumvention, blah blah blah).
Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Well, the Bills have won three games now.
Today, Les Carpenter of Yahoo! Sports put this column out for our morning reads. It’s a heckuva read – it’s poignant, exciting, enriching, and put the verve of our hearts and hopes here front and center. It is one of many columns celebrating the team and our City lately. But it’s old, old news.
This is a story about football. More specifically it’s a story about a team often tucked into irrelevance in a city where the boom left long ago and not fully come back. Much of America seems to think the Bills won’t last here. Much of America sees the team’s owner Ralph Wilson is 92 years old without a succession plan upon his death and it figures the franchise might head to Los Angeles or Toronto, where it plays one regular season game annually as part of a five-year agreement that ends in 2012.
What Buffalo sees is perhaps its greatest asset, a team and its heartache that becomes a calling card when traveling around the country as in the case of its mayor Byron Brown, who upon arriving at the White House for a Super Bowl party this year was greeted by President Obama who shouted, “There’s my Buffalo diehard!”
And yet just as many were giving up hope, there have come signs of surprise. Last year, Buffalo’s unemployment dropped to 7.5 percent. More bio-medical jobs are being created. The city is starting to pop up on those lists of best places to live. And like the city, the football team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 1999 season is 3-0, something no one can believe. Last Sunday the Bills beat the New England Patriots for the first time in 15 games.
The city exploded with joy…
…Something about Buffalo gets into the men who come to play here. The team’s history is filled with players who wanted nothing to do with a Rust Belt town and begged to stay away only to arrive and fall in love with the place. For some it is the way you can be left alone at the supermarket; for others it’s the unconditional love that spills from the fans.
Kelly never wanted to play here. Rather than play in Buffalo, he ran to the USFL. Now he lives here permanently. Shawne Merriman(notes) didn’t want to come either when the Bills claimed him off waivers last fall. “I thought I was going to be miserable,” he says. “I got pretty comfortable pretty fast.”
For the legions of subscribers to Forbes (or any Buffalo promotional Twitter feed), how is this news? Goodness, we’ve been hearing this song for decades now, haven’t we? This whole “small town in a big city” epiphany that the national media reminds itself of – after we win a few football games – is getting old.
We know we’ve got a good thing goin’ on in this town, in our stadiums and in our neighborhoods. The vast amount of NFL, and NHL players that settle here after their careers has been widely publicized, reported, and lauded over for longer than I can remember. This isn’t breaking news.
While Buffalonians continue to live just as any other ordinary Americans live, we’ve continued to lose at the Ralph, and we’ve continued to pack the seats. Again, not breaking news.
You want to start talking about bandwagons? National media, welcome aboard your own bipolar ride. Yes, we’ve won three football games, so it is time again to remind the world again that we’ve got great architecture, a thriving music and arts scene, glorious parks, and by all means tell everyone that it snows here.
Welcome back to town. It hasn’t changed since the Kelly Era, or the Music City Miracle.
Buffalo is still the same great place it’s been all along. You’ve called it a cesspool, a rust belt town, a brick-field, a tundra, a place where the big names like Chris Drury, Brad Richards, Bill Cowher and Tyson Clabo flirt with before writing off. You know, because we’re too small a market, or too dirty, or snowy, or whatever convenient adjective seems appropriate for the given season or time.
Three wins later and we’re talking about a veritable re-emergence of the national economy in Buffalo, NY.
Take your Paxil, and give us a break.
The Bills are one loss away from next week’s “power rankings” posting messages like “Well, that was fun,” or, “Welcome back to Earth, Buffalo fans.” Reminder: we’re not the ones in outer space over the Bills right now. It’s the rampant stampede of media too buzzed out of their minds to forget how they described this team and this town during the preseason.
The Sabres are one back-to-back loss early on in the regular season before the magical 16-4-4 “Pegula Run” to close out the last regular season begins to be scrutinized as a fluke, before the cap-friendly signings of Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff are revisited as potential busts. Actually, you’ve been doing that already.
We know how it works.
Please, do us a favor, and try to stay objective. That is, after all, your job as professional media. Try to follow our lead: enjoy each game, but get over the thrill of a win (or the gutting of a loss) and get yourselves ready for the next game. In Buffalo, that’s what it’s really about: the next game. The next day. Make sense?
Buffalo is not a cesspool, and it’s not necessarily always a “City of Good Neighbors” all the time, either. We have our good moments, and bad. We are just like any other American city. Sure, maybe we just have a little more hope for a championship someday. Going from the “City of Good Neighbors” to the “City of Champions” was a reach one year ago. Now, oh so suddenly, that long shot hope is within reach. Maybe.
It’s a big maybe. But it’s a fun maybe. Just keep your heads cool, and stay with us here – one game at a time.
Again, enjoy the ride on your bandwagon. And please, when we do lose a football game (and yes, we will), don’t turn on the good folks here. It’s about time you started treating our football team as a football team, our hockey team as a hockey team, our men and women as typical Americans, and our city as a city.
And dammit, let’s go Buffalo.