Recently I saw an advertisement for ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Four Falls of Buffalo.” 30 for 30 films are the greatest sports documentaries I’ve ever seen. They cover every sport, they draw you in and whether you think you care about the topic or not, you find yourself watching the whole thing. However, this one was about everything for me. It was about a team that most outside of New York State could care less about (mostly the far Western side of the state) and a team that was labeled the “loveable losers” for the years they went to “back-to-back-to-back-to-back” Super Bowls. I know Drake wrote “Back to Back” but let’s see him do “Back to Back to Back to Back!”
I’ve been a Bills fan for as long as I can remember. Well, for as long as I’ve been a professional football fan. Growing up in the South there was not a lot of love for the Atlanta Falcons at the time, they were horrible and my team was the University of Tennessee Volunteers. The Big Orange. Southeastern Tennessee was close to Knoxville and my neighbor was a huge Vol fan. For all I knew he probably was a booster but he bled Orange and decked me out in Orange and turned on the radio on Saturdays so I could hear all about the Volunteer Navy and Smokey. Yes, I know the words to Rocky Top, I have been to Vols games and I’m not sure that color Orange is right for everyone. But I digress.
I got into card collecting as I got older and we moved around the South. I starting looking for baseball and basketball cards everywhere I could find them. Gas stations used to carry them, grocery stores had them with the candy bars and I used to visit a sports card shop or two when I could. My father, being a Hokie, wasn’t too thrilled about my Volunteer Orange hanging in the closet. So when he had the chance he took me to Blacksburg and started introducing me to Virginia Tech football.
Picking through a box of cards I found a stack of football cards, which I had never been collecting before, but my dad had been. I didn’t know any of the players but I stumbled upon some guy who was a rookie and when I flipped it over it said he was from Norfolk and he went to Virginia Tech. So I started asking my dad about him. After that, I made my mind up that I was going to be a Bills fan.
I’ve been a Bills fan through the greatest team ever era; that included my heroes: Bruce Smith, Andre Reed and Darryl Talley just to name a few. We navigating around Todd Collins long enough to realize that we miss Jim Kelly. Past the forgettable Rob Johnson vs. Doug Flutie debate that Wade Phillips had. Flutie clearly was the better starter from where I sat. Oh and here’s where it all starts to get murky. Are you ready? Alex Van Pelt, J.P. Losman, Drew Bledsoe, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, E.J. Manuel, Jeff Tuel, Thad Lewis, Kyle Orton, Matt Cassel and finally current starter Tyrod Taylor. The Tyrod Taylor that I was thrilled to find they signed, only because I was ready to give up after the signing of Rex Ryan.
Yes I said give up.
“But you can’t be a true fan,” some might say.
Or “give up just because of the coach?”
Buffalo could have signed anyone and truly, I mean ANYONE. I don’t mean to scream, but maybe I do. I saw how the Jets were under his leadership and I wasn’t impressed. For a team that was supposed to have a great defensive mind, the Bills never seemed to have too much trouble getting past them last year. I didn’t want him to come in and wreck what was a great Bills ‘D.’
But it’s been wrecked. Jim Schwartz was let go from his defensive coordinator spot and Ryan has put himself in place as head of the defense. Thru 13 games this year the defensive stats aren’t pretty. 358.8 average ypg (20), 3,300 total yards given up (20), 253.8 passing ypg (22), 104.9 rushing ypg (14). Last year’s defense ranked 4th in total ypg, 3rd in total passing yards given up and 11th in rushing yards given up. 124 penalties were amassed over a full season, through 13 games there have been 109 this season. If I were a betting man I’d say that stat will go up, way up.
The defense that was lean and mean is now sloppy and punch drunk. They are boisterous and complain about penalties, like Rex Ryan did after the Eagles game just recently when he followed the officials off the field running his mouth all the way. He ran his mouth to the New York media week in and week out last year becoming one of the favorite mouthpieces to get a quote. This year he’s wanted nothing more than provide quotes about Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots wanting to give the newspapers enough words to fill half a page only to lose both games. I can’t believe he hasn’t learned his lesson by now and I can’t believe Doug Whaley hasn’t reined him in by now. It feels to me his hiring was for publicity to sell some tickets or to move some shirts. I hope management is happy. They went from a potential playoff team to a “not gonna make the playoffs” team.
Funny, I could stick by a team that busted its ass and tried it’s hardest to win a game with a coach that was clueless but at least he wasn’t out there blaming the refs every week and burying his head in the sand. Chan Gailey wasn’t the best coach the Bills ever had but I would gladly have him back, at least he didn’t run his mouth about the Patriots before the Bills played them. Even for all his faults Doug Marrone did a better job of giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Alright, no. Let’s say he gave me a lukewarm feeling. But damn, at least I didn’t feel like secretly he wanted to coach for Bill Belichick like Rex. Anymore I think it’s Rex’s secret desire to coach for Belichick that’s why he talks about him so much. As Drake says “Jealousy is just love and hate at the same time.”
I haven’t fully given up on the Bills. I threatened to go out in the yard and burn everything Buffalo I owned. I was mad and out of control. I’ve come this far, I’ve gone through all those years with all those years of missed playoffs and terrible play. I wasn’t expecting the team to compete for a Super Bowl. I wasn’t expecting anything major. Of course, outside of Buffalo no one really knows much about the team anyway.