Welcome to Day 4 of our Celebrity Blog Series!
As you all know, Bills fans are everywhere. In all areas of the world and in all segments of society.
A few months ago, we came up with the idea of asking some of the more well known fans in the media and Twittersphere if they’d be interested in contributing a guest column for BillsMafia.com to help kick off the 2012 season. The topic could be whatever they chose to write on. The team’s outlook, the team’s history, their thoughts on the Bills Mafia movement… anything really. One contributor will even be sharing his Fantasy Football tips.
Wait, “one contributor?” What’s that supposed to mean? Well, we’re going to have some fun with it and wait until the article is actually posted to reveal who that day’s writer is.
Today, Nick Bakay, Buffalo-born writer, actor, comedian and sportscaster shares his thoughts on the team’s recent past, and its immediate future.
I’m just like you — the Bills are a profound part of my life-experience, intertwined with my identity as a proud Buffalonian. It has been akin to every serious relationship I’ve ever had – glorious, humiliating, redeeming, heartbreaking, mysterious… and like you, I find myself daring to hope again.
As I have stated elsewhere, for better the part of this century I watched every snap the Bills played, yet felt very little. Post-Music City Miracle/Proof That God Hates Us, I approached each season with a veteran’s awareness that even the rosiest glasses couldn’t paint the team in an exciting light. Yes the Bills have been bad, but worse than that, they have been boring. Dull as dishwater, or worse, Dick Jauron’s Skeletor game face.
When I was a kid, I could get worked up over anything – a three win team showing the promise of a young QB named Dennis Shaw, or Marlin Briscoe leading the AFL in receiving during another meaningless campaign. Hope sprang eternal through and beyond the Super Bowl years, even O.J. on the 405 couldn’t slow my stride. I’m a guy who, honest to God, has “Go Bills” inscribed on my wedding ring.
Then something changed. You may or may not find this relatable, but the new millennium brought an unprecedented level of malaise. Oh, I watched every game, I still cared, but something in me got real quiet. Almost resigned. Sunday found me slumped into the couch, bereft of adrenaline or any sign of a metabolism, suffering the uninspired inconsistency of world class A-holes like Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch, and whichever artless humanoid happened to be handing them the ball…
Blech. It all felt like the universe was mocking the greatest fan base the shield will ever know. When I read a disturbing story bout a morbidly obese woman who spent so many years sitting on the same couch her flesh literally melded with the upholstery, a very dark part of me said “That’s you on game day.”
Then the Bills open last season with the most exciting football they have played in an eternity, and I found myself standing during games, making loud noises, actually sweating the details of crucial drives. It felt like I had come out of a coma. It felt fantastic.
For me, the first vital signs kicked in when they hired Buddy Nix. Years of following the game have taught me one simple truth – if you can’t evaluate talent, you can’t win in the NFL. It’s not just true for us, I mean look at what happened to the Cowboys the day Jerry Jones decided he didn’t need Jimmy Johnson anymore. Nix has a jeweler’s eye and tons of experience; it struck me as the best football move the Bills had made since the days of Polian and Butler.
So I sucked it up and wrapped my arms around yet another five-year rebuild, only to find myself pleasantly rewarded by the first half of the 2011 season. Yeah, they crashed and burned, but it was interesting, and now we stand on the precipice of a new season filled with high hopes. We signed big time free agents, we addressed big needs, and we finally scrapped that lame 3-4 Defense that couldn’t stop a decent Monsignor Martin JV squad.
That being said, I have a pretty clear bead on what makes me nervous about the 2012 outlook. I have a feeling a lot of this is what you’ve been pondering, too.
BILL BELICHICK CAN EAT ME
I just had to get that off my chest. Now on to the things we can fix..
I did the Rich Eisen podcast last season when the Bills were cresting, and Rich brought up the common Ryan Fitzpatrick refrain – you can’t win a Superbowl without a great quarterback. Most civilians probably would counter that by dropping a Dilfer-bomb, maybe a Brad Johnson, but as Bills fans we know all too well the extraordinary pain of losing the big one to a couple of legends like Mark Rypien and Jeff Hostetler. (Superbowl XXV fun fact – both QB’s in that game were recruited by JoePa to play… linebacker. Sure it turns out he screwed up a lot worse than that, but what an ass.) So it can be done, we just happen to be dealing with a fairly schizoid profile here – which is the real Fitz, the world-beater or the slide? I truly believe he was fighting a bigger-than-reported injury, but the fact they bring in a David Lee means it’s more than that. Here’s to improved mechanics.
THE PASS RUSH
On paper this one has been addressed to a fair thee well, but we need to see how they mesh. I must admit, watching Dareus and Williams both get sacks with inside pressure against the Vikings had me smiling at the prospect of knocking Tom Brady out of his comfort zone. I even have dreams of driving him to the kind of angry, red-faced finger pointing and pouting we used to conjure out of Dan Marino. Hey, a guy can dream.
THE RUN DEFENSE
For me, this has been the hardest thing to suffer for the past decade. We have been a turn style. Isn’t that why none of us got too upset when Poz bolted for Jax – didn’t you feel like asking them “Have you seen how far from the line of scrimmage this guy racks up all those tackles?” Preseason football presents some pretty tough tea leaves to read, but so far the case is out on this one and it is critical, even in the AFC East where none of our rivals run the ball particularly well – they sure seem to find a way against us, and that needs to change.
Which brings us to the switch to the 4-3. I like it; we suddenly have a lot of depth on the D-line, which is almost shocking. For me, the big question here is Wanny – no doubt the 70’s porn ‘stache is a big upgrade from his predecessor, and he certainly beat us twice to win Super Bowls, but who are we getting here? The genius coordinator, or a guy who is no longer on the cutting edge after some journeyman years and a mediocre stint at Pitt?
As for WR DEPTH, I really think that will settle itself now that T.J. Graham finally brings us the kind of speed that can stretch the field, and it looks like we’re actually going to have a bono fide contributor at TIGHT END. Fitz and Chandler have developed great chemistry – it’s kind of perfect that Pete Metzelaars, our last real TE, is now the position coach.
Last but not least, it has to be mentioned, particularly here on a site devoted to the passion of the Bills fan – I look forward to seeing the Ralph rocking this year in a lusty return to the hostile environment we all know and love. I mean where else have you seen horizontal snow flurries get cheered during a Dolphin game?
At long last, the needle is pointing up. The Jets are suddenly hilarious, Miami is bad and I am talking Cleveland Browns bad, and oh by the way, the Pats just aren’t as talented as they used to be. Why not expect the Bills to be AFC East Champs? There, I said it.