It’s easier for football fans to keep their minds from wondering if they’re occupied by playoff games. Bills fans vaguely remember such focus. Instead, the end of what can kindly be called a transition year just draws attention to how frequently this team has been spectators by now. A weekend that put the “wild” in “wild card” serves as a reminder of how rough it is to watch from the outside 14 straight blasted times.
The Daily Buffalo Bills Buzz in the inbox only draws attention to the hive’s inactivity. January is as usual a rest month, as any game-recap-free update from the team painfully emphasizes. This franchise can end the practice of weakly selling possibility as soon as they stop serving as fodder for other squads’ playoff aspirations. It’s too bad there’s nothing that can be done to reverse the trend like winning 10 games. Enduring a drought this long should be impossible, and yet we can only wonder if a second-year coach and quarterback will improve enough this fall.
This team has been wandering through the desert for as long as it seems. Remarkably, the present absence from the playoffs has lasted over one-quarter of the team’s existence. This era of not earning the chance for a 17th game has become historically long. At the same time, three-quarters of teams have qualified to keep competing over the past five seasons if you hoped other fan bases might be able to understand your pain. The second-worst teams aren’t even really close: the Browns and Raiders have gone 11 tries each without making the postseason, and even the gap between that and where the Bills are should be too long to wait.
Forget simply making the playoffs. Buffalo’s last win in the elimination round came on December 30, 1995, which astute political observers will note was during Bill Clinton’s first term. There have been five presidential elections since they gloriously beat the Dolphins when it really mattered. It shouldn’t be asking too much to have the next such victory occur before our 45th commander-in-chief takes the oath.
This is sadly normal for our team. If you’ve ever seen a Bills game, chances are they lost: Buffalo is 60 games under .500 over their regular-season history. It really creates a sense of appreciation regarding wins, we tell ourselves.
What other assistance can they get? The franchise claimed they needed implementations such as a salary cap and revenue sharing to stay competitive. Roger Goodell, the parity-consumed commissioner, thinks teams not being allowed to sustain progress is good for the league. Considering this playoff famine is almost old enough to get its learner’s permit, we can conclude that the artificial levelers haven’t helped. At least we know it was management’s own lack of skill holding them back all along.
The result is low periods coupled with deeper lows. This semi-permanent hangover isn’t even tempered by memories of tipsy fun during the previous evening. The constant state of rebuilding offers none of the joys of overindulging. Other teams get merriment, while Bills fans get headaches. Football is one area where even typically compassionate people realize ruthlessness is preferable to martyrdom.
Merely existing is not enough. Being happy to have a team for which to cheer is like a reminder that you have your health. It’s not to take the fundamental delight of even having a team for granted, but it would be nice to embrace more than the absence of utter catastrophe.
Hindsight causes ruefulness. Realizing how many Macs ago it was that the Bills made the tournament of 12 is one deflating way to feel old. It’s for the best that you didn’t know what was to come at the moment you became a fan. We’re all here now with too much invested in the game, including a distant, yet possible, payoff to break it off now.
The seemingly endless struggle to advance embodies how fans have very little control over a game and franchise about which they’re crazy. But even those who were aware of the potential frustration and pratfalls of support wouldn’t necessarily walk away. After all, we’re still here. Backing a team despite the way it’s run is a sign of character, not just masochism.
The parched sometimes just hope to know that the tap will eventually be attached to a keg. Of course, assurance of the outcome would negate the value of belief. It would still be nice if this front office did a better job of positively affecting the future.
Nobody can ever question the Mafia’s devotion. Another trying season proving it is quite unnecessary. Riches are gained from the struggle, not being handed success. Trust us, we know.