How I Met 'My' Buffalo Bills

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As a 19-year-old born and raised in Buffalo, it is hard to say I have experienced any Buffalo Bills team to necessarily brag about. Though I was alive for our last playoff run I am quite sure I was more worried about escaping my older brother’s Razor Ramon wrestling imitations than the future employment outlook of special teams coach Bruce DeHaven.   

However, my lack of successful football fandom has not in any way stopped my father from reciting his many stories of his very own Buffalo Bills. You would think Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Bruce Smith have been living in my basement based on the amount of times their names are declared. My dad takes four tries to get my name right when telling me to mow the back lawn, but can probably tell you how many yards Thurman Thomas has rushed for the day I was born (the answer is zero, I have a July birthday, but you get the point). Along with the individual player stories comes the stories of the four straight Super Bowls, which can go on for what seems like weeks, and although I do appreciate them and listen (most of the time) attentively I often selfishly find myself wondering where I am left. The nostalgia that he feels just remains as absence for my youthful but ready self.   

After many of my complaints regarding his bragging and my seemingly consistent sorrow, my father brought something acute to my attention. He too endured the same torment that I have been rung through. His father, my grandfather, had his very own Bills team as well: the mid 60’s. Though Jim Kelly was but a child and Thurman Thomas not yet born then, my grandfather had Jack Kemp, Cookie Gilchrist, and a Bills team to call his own. And even better, he had a championship. Better yet, two championships.  

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I can imagine my father, just as I now do to him, rolling his eyes following story after story from my grandfather. He too likely pondered when his own time would come. I’m sure he followed every game and kept his hope alive, even when it seemed there was none. He probably wondered if this would be his year, and after it finished in disappointment, if the next would be his.

And although there was a long wait, my dad eventually received his great Buffalo Bills, a team all to himself. A team to reminisce upon once gone, and cherish while still present. He held season tickets, attended a Super Bowl, and watched every minute of every game. When he is telling his stories of the glory years I see the genuine and pure happiness that sports can, and surprisingly do, bring to our lives. Don’t get me wrong, the Bills and all sports, as a foundation of their principle, bring joy and a welcomed distraction no matter the outcome. However, we all do wish for that across the board, on-field and off-field happiness that a championship seems to bring and that is evident in my father’s stories. 

I realize that my father was an adult when his team came to fruition, but as a die-hard sports fan it is titillating not to think of the possibilities for myself. To be clear I am in no way comparing Manuel and Kelly (though some distant yet hopeful potential still remains). These comparisons are not skill based but a beacon of hope for eventually similar results. My job as a writer is normally to leave no stone unturned, no avenue unexplored and no inquiry unanswered, but for this piece I leave you (if you’re still out there) with just questions.  Is EJ Manuel my Jim Kelly? Will Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller be my Thurman Thomas? Is Eric Wood my Kent Hull? Can Kiko be my Talley or Bennett? Will Sammy eventually dawn a gold jacket as Andre Reed now does? Are Gilmore, Williams (x6), Alonso, Manuel, and Watkins the names I will be rambling on and on about to my future kids? Will this be my Buffalo Bills team? When is it my turn? When is it our turn again, Buffalo? 

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