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Column: Anniversaries to Forget

by Dan Borrello
June 22, 2019

This past week, month, and looking ahead, Buffalo sports fans have reasons to mourn.

They’re not new. Sure, the Bills and Sabres continue to reinvent themselves over time with creative ways to shoot themselves in either the spikes, the skates, or the Bruno Maglis.

Though, how could you not pay any mind?

This past Wednesday was the 20th anniversary of the infamous “No Goal” Stanley Cup-clinching loss the Sabres endured to Brett Hull and the Dallas Stars.

Yes, that’s still an odd phrase--Brett Hull of the Dallas Stars. Especially when he’s remembered around 48 other states and most of Texas-- if he’s remembered by America at all--for being a St. Louis Blues legend--one whom drunkenly celebrated last week’s championship at the city’s celebration.

God bless the people of St. Louis. After all they did lose the Rams, but not before a Super Bowl win, along with two Cardinals’ titles in 2006 and 2011 to boot.

Meanwhile...back in WNY...

Right. This week, Buffalovers were tapped on the shoulder by Father Time as to where and how they watched the Sabres lose Sunday morning, June 20, 1999.

Twenty. Effing. Years.

This, six days after the 25th anniversary of...

Right. We covered that last week. A

Now look ahead six months and realize the calendar has amounted to a perfect storm of sports sadness.

Come January 8, it’ll be two decades since The Music City--

“Home Run Throw FORWARD,” as former Bills head coach, Wade Phillips, bluntly put it.

Red helmets. Nineties unis. Rob Johnson. Doug Flutie. The beginning of the end.

The seeds of the infamous playoff drought may have very well been planted by the mismanagement of the late Ralph Wilson and GM John Butler (the drought started on Butler’s watch and a mailed-in draft), but they were watered by Jeff Fisher at a coliseum in Nashville that day.

And, to think if former Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano, didn’t follow-up a Sean McDermott overtime punt with one of his own in a tie Snow Bowl, or an offensive pass interference call on a touchdown, we’d be commemorating two decades without a meaningful January football game, too.

It also doesn’t help when guys like Ryan O’Reilly, Stephon Gilmore, Chris Hogan, Dominik Hasek, Michael Peca, Jason Peters, Marshawn Lynch, Antowain Smith (remember him?) leave and succeed better than they did here, or are from here, and get passed over by a winner for a bust: (see: Gronkowski, Rob and Troup, Torrell).

Cursed? Nah. This is beyond that.

Gross negligence is more like it.

OJ was a Shakespearian tragedy without the British accent.

The Bills were run by a checked-out former scout and a meddling owner, then a paranoid control freak, then AGAIN by that same owner who empowered a legendary octogenarian who still wanted to coach and later quit, therefore enabling (whom one prominent former NFL executive dubbed) a used car salesman disguised as a wunderkind, who allowed the “football people” to work from home, before bringing in another ex-scout to oversee football ops before handing the keys to another over-hyped scout before new ownership could take over, with bumps. And now, their future rests on the arm of a quarterback who has the potential to become the next Brett Favre, or just the “next.”

The Sabres? Just a franchise with hockey’s greatest goaltender who once punched a writer, and was dragged into a personal issue by his former head coach, who demanded to leave long after that coach was dismissed. Then there’s the story of a team captain who also waved goodbye before ownership went Enron. It’s had it’s moments, more frequently than their Orchard Park neighbors these past two decades, but still ones that capsized when the ice wore too thin. Tom Golisano treated the franchise as a lean investment, before the Pegulas over-promised Cup parades, yet to be delivered. They also brought back Ted Nolan, and Pat Lafontaine, only to watch Nolan actually help the team tank with his archaic coaching style, and one of the most beloved Sabres in history tell the region’s adopted parents he’d had enough, a month on the job.

Curses don’t work nearly that hard. Or that well.

But, how do you not look back and laugh?

No, really.

“Life is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel,” Jean Racine once famously said.

Think it’s time we had something to celebrate, instead?

Maybe another anniversary like 1/20/90, or 1/3/93, but bigger.

Sports isn’t life, but it’s an extension of who we are. It’s a doorway into our vicarious nature.

Or, more importantly, it’s just entertainment.

So, laugh. Somebody has to be the punchline.  It’s even funnier to think that it’s always us.

But for once, it would feel good to be on top.

And that anniversary, nobody will ever forget.

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