Tempered in Tampa

I tell you in 1990 that not only will the Buccaneers win a Super Bowl before the Bills but also that Tampa Bay is going to land an expansion hockey club that will hoist the Stanley Cup before the Sabres. You wouldn’t have known whether to laugh, cuss, or call a mental hospital. Western New York’s sports faithful can only knowingly shake their heads to keep the uncanny way athletic events unfold from causing mass involuntary commitment.

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Buffalo’s fans will remain jealous until they also know the simple euphoria of obtaining a title. It doesn’t matter how long ago or if it happens only once as long as the memory exists. Winning it all means you can feel goofily zonked out if the team craters during subsequent seasons, as you dream of staying drunk on reminiscing.

Envy Buccaneers fans who know if it’s worth it to accept struggles now for success back then. It’s not as if fans are granted that choice. Instead, Buffalo’s backers are painfully aware that some teams flail without the recollection of winning the final playoff game to sustain them. At present, even winning half the regular season games remains theoretical.

Visiting the Bay area served as a reminder of frustration, and not just in a historical manner. After a gutting loss in Southern Ontario, the franchise only made the most superficial of an appearance in mid-Florida. This team rebounded like a chandelier off pavement. The Bills were grabby and sluggish, represented by how they were outscored by three touchdowns while not scoring any. There currently looks to be nothing strong about the season’s finish.

Sometimes, the only way to get better is by getting used to an activity at real speed. Even if we were expecting EJ Manuel to occasionally miss his reads this season, it’s tough to endure it actually happening. At least his unnervingly inaccurate day is assuaged by knowing it was bound to happen. All fans can hope is that he’s getting antsy moments out of the way instead of developing poor habits.

For now, it’s hard to envision deep tosses when short throws are such a chore. Many thought the Bills had entered audition season when they released Tashard Choice to give Ronnie Wingo a shot as their third back. But their top two backs went nowhere first, which made experimenting with either trying a new runner or airing it out much more challenging.

No offense can expect to move the ball while being pursued by virtually unchecked opponents. This was a tough week for blockers no matter how the coordinator planned to move the ball. The line should feel plagued by the recent sensation of failing to knock back both pass rushers and rush attackers until they have the chance to redeem themselves.

Handing away victories is not a sign of a team that’s meeting its potential. Tampa didn’t exactly play like they wanted to save Greg Schiano’s job for some reason. But they performed mediocrely enough to win against an uninspired and unprepared Bills team. It’s going to be a long afternoon when even the redoubtable Kiko Alonso starts off with a rare moment of overcommitment. Sadly, this has turned into a long season, as well. Hoping for seven wins is normal for a transitional period but still a challenge to endure.

The unknown is most troubling when there’s no precedent of satisfaction. It’s not like this franchise is fading after a recent glorious era or even moment. They have not exactly earned the dubious right to coast.

The Bills officially ended their hopes of advancing this season while offering little to look forward to in the next. You’re left hoping a flat effort is the exception and not the rule. Without the advantage of easing to this point, the version of you from a little over 20 years ago would feel jarringly dejected. Oh: Tampa Bay got Major League Baseball, too. That’s enough shocking revelations about improbable sports outcomes to share with decreasingly optimistic dwellers of the past for now.

About Anthony Bialy

Anthony Bialy recently moved back to Buffalo from New York City and acts like he never left. He thinks "Buffalo 66" is biographical and considers it a crime against mankind that Steve Tasker is not in the Hall of Fame. He likes getting Tim Hortons on the way to get Labatt Blue. Follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyBialy.