The Bills have won at last—enjoy it
For at least one day, friends, it felt good again to be a Buffalo Bills fan. Real good.
Remember that feeling? Yeah, I'd almost forgotten it, too.
We attended the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on a soggy, windy November Sunday in Orchard Park, enduring all the rude behavior, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, as well as risking catching pneumonia, to watch two of the crummiest teams in football duke it out.
The home team did its darndest to blow it, but still managed to beat the Detroit Lions, 14-12. And we'd head down to the stadium and do it again every day of the week and twice on Sunday. (OK, maybe not my poor, soaked wife ... probably just me.) I'm reveling in the fact that, despite the misery and anguish of this dreadful 2010 campaign, we won't be mentioned in the same breath as the 2008 Detroit Lions or the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two 0-for-the-season clubs entrenched in the NFL history book chapter marked "Infamy." We've had enough bamboo spears throttled under our fingernails over the years as Buffalo sports fans, so a winless season is something we certainly can live without.
I've grown fond of this bunch of lovable losers in the last month, after being so incredibly sour on them in September. They've shown gusto, guts and moxie (and a lot of other terms sportswriters and bloggers use to make ourselves appear well-written and intelligent) in losses to Baltimore, Kansas City, and Chicago. While it's unlikely he's the answer at quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick has made this offense watchable. Stevie Johnson has emerged as a reliable No. 2 receiver, and Fred Jackson has proved himself worthy of the feature running back all over again. Simply put, there are things to like about this team, and that's a relatively new development for me.
Even better, the likes of Trent Edwards and Marshawn Lynch were shipped out, allowing the franchise and its fans to turn the page and build toward something they couldn't with them in the mix. The football department has also shown us it's serious about improving the on-field product by signing Shawne Merriman. OK, the former Charger is a fading, if not falling, star who'll probably be gone by late January—probably for the best of both parties.
But at the very least, it's an open confession that the Bills recognize how woefully inedquate their linebacking corps is. And maybe the younger Bills can learn something from a guy who's accustomed to winning and being in the playoffs.
There are fans who actually lamented Sunday's victory, advancing concerns that Buffalo is blowing its chance to nail down that first overall pick in next spring's draft; sounding alarms about not being in position to draft a franchise quarterback—Stanford's Andrew Luck is being made to sound like the second coming of Peyton Manning. Hooey. Shut up and just enjoy this win. Revel in it, since it might be the only one we can celebrate this season. Later this week, we'll return to that conversation. It'll be waiting for us, still warm in the middle, as this fall and winter plod along.
Would some of these fans, emboldened by a 12-pack and a Mel Kiper piece they read online, have the Bills throw the rest of the season order to pick No. 1 in April? It's professional football. If I didn't think the front office, coaches and players were playing to win every day, I wouldn't watch them on TV, let alone attend their games.
After nine weeks of upheaval, blowouts, heartbreaking overtime losses and a firm test of collective faith as fans, we deserved to see a win. We got that Sunday. Can't we be happy about that?
Photo from buffalobills.com.