When you grow up a Buffalo Bill fans there are certain universal truths. Like the pervasive sense of paranoia that the world of professional football is out to get you. Or that the gods are not on your side. How else do you explain “wide right” and four straight Super Bowl losses? There is every confidence that your team will actually find a way to lose the game rather than win it. Moral victories and nobel efforts enter your everyday language.
Which is why so many Buffalo Bills fans are a bit over the top with their enthusiasm over Sunday’s dramatic win over the New England Patriots. The Patriots had won 15 straight games over the Bills. The Patriots had won Super Bowls and created a celebrity quarterback while the Bills languished with no-name players and years of not making the playoffs. By the time I had tuned into the Bills-Pats game on Sunday afternoon, New England had a 21-0 lead. And so, I did what I normally do on Sunday afternoons in the early fall — I recovered from my long run and putz around my apartment. It’s been years since I was a fervent Bills fan. Losing a sense of fandom is one of the potential side effects of becoming a sportswriter and the Bills didn’t do much to inspire me to buck the trend.
But Sunday afternoon, I found myself sucked into the game. Why? Because the Bills came back. For the second straight week the team dug itself out of a double-digit hole and went on to win. They intercepted celebrity QB and all-around NFL MVP Tom Brady four times, practically an unheard of stat. With the score tied and the ball on the 1-yard line, they manufactured a series of snaps that ran the final 1:43 down to three seconds, allowing place kicker Rian Lindell just enough time to boot the game-winning field goal. The strategy worked, but as a lifelong Bills fan taught that fate is never on our side, the series made me nervous. I understood the principle, but had little trust in the execution, enhancing my feeling in incredulity when the Bills actually won the game.
And so, something shifted for me on Sunday. Oh no, I’m not driving the Buffalo Bills bandwagon. It makes no difference in my daily life if the Bills win or lose and I have no expectations of Super Bowl grandeur. But they did provide three powerful examples to me:
- Behind in a game? Don’t panic. Don’t hang your head. Don’t freak out. Sometimes a game is decided by one play, but that one play rarely, if ever, defines the entire game. Do what you can with where you are.
- You are only defined by your past if you allow yourself to be.
- Trust in yourself. You may be surprised by how effective you execute when you get out of your head and stop second-guessing.
Next Sunday won’t have in front of TV awaiting the next Bills game. There’s the business of the marathon to run followed by my niece’s first birthday party. No, there are a great many things I will be out and about doing on Sunday afternoons in the fall. That’s just how I personally roll. But for the first time in a long time, the Bills have given me something positive to think about and reinforced ideas that needed a little support in my world. And that’s reason alone for me to be a bit of a Bills’ fan these days.