Without a Drought
This may be the trickiest column to write.
The Times comes-out on Saturdays, but gets mailed to subscribers on Mondays, or Tuesdays after holidays.
And, one HAS to acknowledge the Buffalo Bills breaking its 17-year playoff drought, especially being someone who hasn’t missed a game in 31 years.
Yes, they had to beat Miami.
Yes, they needed help from Andy Dalton, Tyler Boyd and the Cincinnati Bengals.
And, yes, it was the most euphoric fan experience since the Pegulas purchased the team, and perhaps the most-celebrated game since that magical Sunday, 25 years ago, where Frank Reich led the Bills back from a 32-point deficit to defeat the Houston Oilers.
The tricky part? By the time some of you read this, the Bills first playoff game since Bud Adams Revenge (AKA The Music City Miracle) will have taken place.
For the past week, you’ve heard of the thousands of dollars donated to Dalton and Boyd’s favorite charities by Bills fans.
You’ve heard of the Doug Marrone factor.
You’ve heard countless fans shedding tears, unable to share the moment with a fellow Bills fan who has since passed-on after their last berth.
You’ve also heard the Oscar the Grouches who want to blizzard on fans’ joy.
This writer thought about his late father when the final seconds ticked away in Baltimore and talked with family about it; it’s been ten years.
But, knowing Butch Borrello, and having experienced bigger Bills success in his lifetime, here’s what he may have likely said:
“It’s great. But if they don’t win in Jacksonville, so what?”
If you’d ask Bills fans in 1987 if they’d be happy just with a one-and-done playoff appearance, they’d exclaim “we don’t care!”
That got old after losing the 1988 AFC Championship, 21-10 to the Bengals.
If you’d ask them in 1990 if they could go to four straight Super Bowls, but lose all four, they’d stampede to sign-up.
That idea got old after Wide Right.
The losses hurt, more and more, with some even lamenting they’d rather return to the 2-14 seasons of the mid-1980s than get their hopes-up again.
Those goofballs got their wish. Seventeen effing years worth. And they regretted every game of it.
It’s all a bomb cyclone that’s come full wagon circle. And here we are again. Finally, but again.
The Buffalo bar has been set so low, and they’ve been down so long, that Bills fans have gotten nostalgic about backing into the playoffs. And that’s OK! Some have only heard stories of the Kelly years. The fact they’ve become fans of this team and not the Patriots or Steelers is a small miracle.
But this isn’t earning an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament and throwing-up a banner. That’s for mediocre mid-majors.
This is the N.F’n.L.
And this writer sticks to his thoughts on 2018.
So, let’s be honest.
It’s not just breaking a playoff drought; it’s the hope of winning a playoff game.
Nobody expected this team to make the playoffs before the year. They’d be a liar to claim they did. But you can’t separate making the playoffs from the possibility of winning or all you’re doing is extending the season for national embarrassment and setting yourself up for a hangover.
See the Matt Moore-led Dolphins or the Conner Cook-quarterbacked Raiders of a year ago.
See several Texans or Bengals teams of the past decade. That’s no fun.
The goal is to win. Just one. For this team, that’s all.
For those reading this before 1 pm Sunday, there’s excitement.
For those getting this after 4, reality is finally here.
Be honest. How does it feel?
Last Sunday night, New Year’s started earlier than ever around these parts.
By the time you read this, you’ll either be nervous, ecstatic, or disappointed, or even (ticked)-off.
As you should be.
Because results are what it’s all about. And that, too, is OK.
Or else, we wouldn’t care.