This is the year. Definitely. This time it will be different. We have a great shot. Also, the Patriots don’t look good anymore.
Those and many other self-assured, idealistic and yet incredible unrealistic sayings have permeated throughout Buffalo Bills fandom over the many years. Usually they come in the offseason, right up to when the season starts. As September moves on, the comments usually change to something like, we just need to win five of the next seven to have a shot at the playoffs. Or, if we win our last three, and these seven teams all lost at least two, we can make the wild card.
Yes, being a Bills fan means being the most optimistic and hopeful and even confident when the team isn’t playing, and often denying what is in front of you when they are. Sure, maybe this season is different, and maybe we have a franchise quarterback. But while some fans will continue to be positive year in and year out, even though the team has laboured most of the last two decades, others are grimly realistic.
Take late Bills fan Lee Merkel, who passed away this week at the age of 83, and let the Bills know that as a dedicated fan, he was less than thrilled with them (and had a sense of humor). He left a line in his obituary, “Lee has requested six Buffalo Bills players as pall bearers so they can let him down one last time.” It’s a clever line, one used by a Browns fan years ago, but there is sad message in it too: a lot of people have gone a long time without seeing the Bills achieve the greatest success.
Still, Merkel and others who have watched the team since the beginning have seen a lot of highs. Though for those younger, the trials and tribulations are overwhelming.
Bills Fan Age 60
Congratulations, you’re older than the Buffalo Bills, have been there since the beginning, and have proven without question your loyalty, dedication, and perhaps lunacy in backing the team for so long. You’ve been alive long enough to see the Bills begin as an AFL club, and were so lucky as to soak up back-to-back championships in the 60s as the Bills trounced the Chargers in successive years to take the AFL crown. Granted, there were only eight teams in the league, but winning is winning, and defending the title is even tougher. We were the champions!
Bills Fan Age 50
Welcome to the NFL! It became a much bigger world when you were born, you 50-year-old anonymous Bills fan. The Bills joined the National Football League in 1970 and won only four games in their first two years. Five years into the league though, the Bills made the playoffs, losing in the division round to the Steelers. I hope you enjoyed it, because it was their only playoff appearance in ten years – which seems better than our current state.
Bills Fan Age 40
Gone are the somber nights of the team, and back are the glory days! Well, not really. If you were born in 1978, you were alive only two years before the Bills made the playoffs. And not only did they make it, but they had playoff appearances in back to back years! Of course, they lost in divisional rounds both years. On the bright side, you were alive just in time to witness the Bills first ever NFL playoff win. They nabbed a wild card spot in 1981, beating the Jets to advance before falling to Bengals the next week. Unfortunately, none of those three playoff games were at home. Maybe next year! (Hint, it would be many more years).
Bills Fan Age 30
Congratulations, the Bills have a home playoff game in your lifetime! In fact, it’s the year you are born (and we are just ignoring that fact that you probably have no memory or active, conscious interest in the Bills when you are an infant because this is a fun exercise). On January 1, 1989, the Bills hosted their very first NFL playoff game, besting the Houston Oilers 17-10. So began an exciting and heartbreaking stretch of football that represents the most memorable, for better and worse, time for Bills fans. Buffalo would make the playoffs six straight seasons, and ten of the next 12. They won nine times at home, including the Frank Reich miracle comeback against the Oilers. However, they also lost four straight Super Bowls. So that sucked.
Bills Fan Age 20
Equal congratulations to you as well, because while you didn’t know any really great players, coaches, or games, you didn’t endure the massive heartache of losing four straight Super Bowls. However, just because you weren’t there for those soul-sucking defeats doesn’t mean you don’t get a new one for a new era. That’s because in 1999, the Titans throw a forward pass on kick return to win to beat the Bills in a Wild Card game in dramatic, head-exploding fashion. Moving forward, in the next 18 years, you will enjoy only three winning seasons, though never more than 10 games, and a rolodex of quarterbacks and coaches who you couldn't pick out of a lineup of one.
Bills Fan Age 10
You’re still young, the world is so connected, and it’s easy to watch every team from wherever you are. I’m not saying pick another horse, but, yes, pick another horse. You can even literally even pick the Broncos or Colts, they seem to have a plan in place. But that hope you possess as a child shouldn’t’ be crushed each and every year by being a Buffalo Bills fan. Lest you become jaded, cynical, and yet still sucked into the hope that this year’s quarterback will lead us to victory.
Week Six Mini Preview
The Buffalo Bills geared up and grinded out a win against a team that looked a lot like them on Sunday. They now face an underperforming and underachieving group in the Texans, a team that has star players on both sides of the ball but have failed to translate that to a sound victory or any sort of consistency. At 2-3, with that big upset in Minnesota, it’s hard for the Bills to creep up on anybody, and against a QB that can scramble effectively and gun it down the field, as well as an oppressive defensive front, it’s hard to see the Bills moving the ball. Our one-game winning streak is snapped, convincingly.