Go Bills! Or not. Whatever
I don't know about you, but for me, this is shaping up to be the best football season in years.
Is it because of the remarkable resurgence of the Browns? The offensive excitement of the St. Louis Rams? The awesome defense of these Baltimore Ravens?
No no no no no.
It's because my favorite team, the Buffalo Bills, totally suck ass.
They're awful. And I just did a cartwheel.
They stink. And I'm kicking up my heels.
They blow. And I'm as happy as a clown.
Getting a hummer.
The Bills totally suck ass.
And I feel like a kid again. Literally.
You see, as a fat, pathetic boy growing up in suburban Buffalo, there wasn't a whole lot to do in the dead of winter other than watching our football team.
And when I say dead of winter, I mean late August through mid-June.
I grew up worshipping a million names you've never heard of: Joe Ferguson. Jim Braxton. Reggie McKenzie. J.D. Hill, Joe D. John Skorupan. Tony Greene. John Leypoldt.
Trust me, I could keep going.
Of course, the only name you've ever heard of is O.J. Simpson.
And no, he didn't do it. He couldn't of.
Come on. He's, like, the greatest Bill ever.
For a fat, pathetic kid in suburban Buffalo, O.J. was the only pride our fat, pathetic city had to hold up to the rest of the world.
I got excited when O.J. rushed for 200 yards. I got excited when O.J. broke Jim Brown's record. I got excited when O.J. was MVP of the league. I got excited when O.J. won the Superstars competition.
Actually, it was front-page news in our fat, pathetic city when O.J. won the Superstars competition.
Directly below the story of course was, "Today's forecast: A shitload of snow."
While the Bills did manage to squeak into the playoffs a couple of times during the O.J. years, for the most part, they were a bad, bad football team.
But I loved them. Almost as much as I hated the Miami Dolphins.
See the thing is, when a team (the Dolphins) beats your team (the Bills) 22 times in a row -- basically my entire childhood -- it's awful hard to find nice things to say about that other team.
Here's the nicest thing I can say about the Miami Dolphins: I hate your guts.
One of the highlights of my life was sitting at Don Shula's last game. A playoff loss to the Bills.
Not that I'm angry or bitter or anything.
Thanks to the Dolphins and oh, like 25 other teams, the Bills didn't do a whole lot of winning in the 1970s and 80s. But they were my team. And when you're a fat, pathetic kid in suburban Buffalo, they're the only team you've got.
When I moved to Cleveland in the mid-1980s, I found myself having to root formy team in a city that had a team.
Nevertheless, two hundred miles away, I still cheered for the Bills. And I still cheered for O.J. even though he didn't play anymore.
Because he was, like, the greatest Bill ever.
Then a strange thing happened.
The Bills got good.
Good like really good.
Suddenly, I didn't just wait to hear the scores of games. I didn't just want to read the stats in the paper the next day.
I needed to hear the games. Live.
Much to my wife's delight, I discovered that if I placed a boom box by the left corner of our house facing in a northeasterly direction, I could actually hear the play-by-play of Bills games live from our living room.
OK, so maybe it was a little staticky (is that a word?).
OK, so maybe it was a lot staticky.
OK, so maybe I could hear one out of every three plays.
OK, so maybe my wife wanted to rip the plug out of the wall and/or my nuts off.
But y'know what? It was my team. And dammit, they were good. Finally.
From 1988 on, fall weekends in our house revolved around the Bills schedule.
And the Browns schedule, too.
Because if the Browns were playing an away game at 4:00, there was a chance that they'd show the Bills as a 1:00 game on NBC, especially if they were playing somebody from the AFC Central. Or if the Browns were playing a home game at 1:00, and the Bills were playing a 4:00 game or an away game against a team from the NFC, I might get that game, too, because if it was a Bills home game against somebody from the NFC, the game would be on FOX, which wouldn't interfere with AFC Central games scheduled on NBC.
The funny thing is, you probably worry about issues like making money and taking care of your family.
I worry about who's playing a 4 o'clock game against somebody from the NFC Central on FOX.
When the Bills were on, there was an unwritten rule in our house that I was not to be disturbed for a three-hour period.
I was actually going to make it a written rule, but it just seemed easier to say, "Hey wench, I'm not to be disturbed for a three-hour period."
And except for the "Hey wench" part, that's almost exactly how it happened.
From 1988 on, I'd look at the Bills schedule, I'd anticipate wins and I'd expect success.
I also learned that this whole rooting-for-a-good-football-team-thing is a very stressful burden to carry in one's life.
Jeez, I worried about every goddamn run. Every goddamn pass. Every freakin' goal-line stand.
I bit my nails. I made my cuticles bleed. I watched my hairline race to the back of my head.
I wonder if anyone else has ever blamed Thurman Thomas for premature hair loss?
If I was lying on the floor watching the game, and my left leg was on top of my right leg, with my head resting on my hand, and the Bills were in the middle of a good drive, you can bet your ass that my left leg stayed on top of my right leg, and my head continued to rest on my hand.
No sirree, bob. There wasn't a chance in hell I was moving one ounce of my body. And believe me, this wasn't about any superstitious bullshit, either.
The bottom line was, I was in control of this drive. And I sure as hell wasn't going to blow it for my teammates.
Looking back, I now realize that the only pleasure in rooting for a winning team is the winning part. Everything else totally sucks.
I kept telling myself how irrelevant it all was. How unimportant the games were.
How a Bills win or loss would in no way affect my life.
I kept telling myself all of this. And I believed it, too.
Until the next game.
Then I started biting my nails. And making my cuticles bleed. And watching my hairline race to the back of my head.
I wonder if anyone else has ever blamed Scott Norwood for premature hair loss?
Oh, I can answer that. Yes.
Since 1988, I've seen it all with my team.
The greatest comeback in NFL history: Buffalo 41, Houston 38.
The greatest game in NFL history: 1991 AFC Championship Game, Buffalo 51, Los Angeles 3.
OK, maybe I'm a little biased on that one.
Four AFC Championships in a row.
And other things that possibly might've happened four times in a row that I don't really wish to discuss at this point in time.
Nevertheless, it was a fun ride.
Which brings us to this year. The 2001 Buffalo Bills.
They're 0-4. They're one of the three worst teams in the league.
They traded Doug Flutie. They kept Rob Johnson.
Their defense is inept. And their offense is worse.
And this has been the best fall I've had in years.
No longer am I shackled down by this burning desire to watch them win. Because I know they're not going to.
Because they suck. Just like they did when I was a kid.
If there was a word worse than suck, I'd use it right now.
They suck a lot.
And I'm ecstatic.
Are you kidding me? For the first time since my pubic hair started turning gray, fall doesn't revolve around listening to a static-filled radio.
Now I go into every Sunday expecting nothing less than a humiliating loss. Anything above that is a victory.
Y'know, I can't even name five players on the Bills this year.
Does O.J. still play?
This year, I feel…free.
Cripes, I don't even know who they're playing next week. And I don't care.
I'm not a fair weather fan, though. I still care for my team. It's just that the aching passion to watch them succeed isn't there, because, guess what? There ain't gonna be no success this year.
"As Bad As We Wanna Be." That's my motto for the 2001 Bills.
Besides, we haven't had the first pick in the draft for a while, anyway.
Did I mention that O.J. was the first pick in the draft?
Two weeks ago, I was flicking through the stations when lo and behold, the Bills were on against the Steelers.
It was on because the Browns were playing at 4, and this was a 1 o'clock game against an AFC Central team.
And you thought I was making this stuff up.
Any other year I would've said, "Honey, the Bills are on. Take the kids and scram."
This year I said, "Honey, the Bills are on. Tell the kids to bring their Legos in here."
Rest assured, though, as soon as they get good again, I'll be back. More dedicated than ever.
But right now, the Bills suck. And I'm one fat, pathetic happy man.
It's a Sunday in October and I can do whatever I want.
Yeah, this year when it comes to football, I don't worry about anything.
Other than hoping the Dolphins lose every single game for the rest of their freaking existence.
And then two more games after that.