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Making Buffalo Feel Like Home for Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan

We can stop hating Rex Ryan now that he’s changed his gear.  Enemies defecting to the Bills provide the chance to show that there are no hard feelings over rude gestures.  The Jets would be offended if we didn’t flip them off.  Regardless, recognizing his accomplishments is easier after he ditched the green.

Formerly offensive qualities can suddenly be cast as charming.  Irritation at his bombast mysteriously evaporated once Buffalo’s downtown-rebuilding owner became the one paying him.  Admiration for forceful enthusiasm doesn’t have to be grudging anymore.

You always wanted “Rowdy” Roddy Piper on your side even while he was ticking you off.  In fact, that ability to get under skin is precisely what made him appealing.  We welcome enchanting wrestlers who ditch the heel act as part of the storyline.  Someone who gained prominence siding the bad guys may have thrashed your heroes.  But those manipulative qualities can be useful if he accepts your job offer.

Brandon Spikes, once hated by fans, was a 2014 Bills captain.

Brandon Spikes, once hated by fans, was a 2014 Bills captain.

A sudden attitude change can apply to how we see everyone involved with sports.  Bills backers who dreaded facing someone like Brandon Spikes remain glad management lured him to be a forceful presence for our side’s linebacking corps and locker room.  Let’s sign that guy driving us crazy and see how his former team likes it.

Deciding how much we adore a competitor based on his shirt is one of the absurd aspects of sports we accept as normal.  The competitors will change uniforms; meanwhile, I’d burn a Dolphins jersey I received as a gift so as not to risk anyone tracing its sale to me on eBay.  Franchises will not sign lifelong fans to contracts no matter how many commemorative steins and divisional championship plaques they have displayed in the den.  Diehards have to settle for seeking attributes they cherish in acquired personnel.

Nobody can fault players who move for work.  Guys pursuing careers understandably look for hefty checks along with a chance to prove they deserve more of them.  Sometimes, the challenge is simpler: footballers end up trying to find teams willing to sign them.  Those without superstar reputations often have to align with any club offering a chance instead of choosing the scenario they want.  As with all other industries, those involved in pro sports merely hunt for the best-paying job under restrictive circumstances.

Pro football is a mercenary activity, at least when competitors have accrued enough service to qualify for free agency.  Until then, the draft ensures rosters include youngsters who essentially have no choice where they play.  Don’t take it personally if a team with a better record and ample resources nicks a favorite player once he is free to pursue personal goals.  Conversely, the quasi-traitor should be fine with getting booed if he was unable to find a way to keep the same mailing address until retirement.  It’s not personal: it’s strictly the business of sports.

The negative feelings aimed at employees of rival teams doesn’t constitute real hatred.  Well, sort of.  Contempt for opponents is not the equivalent of genuine antipathy, aside from for true scoundrels like whiny cheater Tom Brady.  Citing the evilness of ISIS to excuse simple sports rule-breaking is the sort of relativistic moral perversity that inspires those who follow the other 31 teams to not only despise the Patriots but also see them dishonorably.

Partisan passion may dictate how we see competitors even if they’re not amorally smug like New England’s precious cover boy.  Fans end up loathing those their team faces regularly, at least in the context of caring about athletics.   A player grudgingly respected while he toiled elsewhere should know the cussing aimed at him was, like contracts, just part of the profession.

To those affiliated with the Bills, the thought of wearing a garment branded with a divisional foe’s logo is like renouncing one’s religion.  But you don’t have to worship differently with sports: you just get new prophets.  At best, new allies feel like they found their spiritual home.  Even with no real natural connection to the location, Ryan carries himself like someone you’d sit next to at a parish hall’s fish fry.

The new coach did spend some time living in a nearby country.  Ryan’s time as a young person in Toronto, Buffalo’s Canadian cousin, famously exposed him to the Bills at a young age.  They didn’t hire him because he once resided a short jaunt away on a highway named for a monarch.  We can still appreciate a slight coincidence.

Finding the right guy is often a matter of who’s available when there’s a vacancy.  It’s easy to forget there are only 32 of these jobs, with many workers who are good at it under contract.  Choosing a favorite city often isn’t an option for an aspiring coach.  With that in mind, the Bills seem to have discovered a fortuitous match.

It’s nice finding a supervisor who appears to enjoy the area as much as coaching its team.  Even if most previous stops to this locale occurred on work trips, he initially seems comfortable in the adopted hometown.  Ryan is the kind of person we could’ve pictured working in Buffalo.  His forthrightness is appreciated in a place known for a similar tone.

An Oklahoma native can nonetheless be a Buffalo-style guy.  The Bills are happily accessing characteristics that were maddening when they were being used against them.  In turn, locals can help people who moved to Erie County as adults feel they’re in the right setting.  In Ryan’s case, it’s easy to make himself at home.


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Anthony Bialy

About Anthony Bialy

Anthony Bialy lives in New York City and acts like he’s still in Buffalo. He thinks “Buffalo 66” is biographical and considers it a crime against mankind that Steve Tasker is not in the Hall of Fame. He knows every bodega in Manhattan which sells Labatt Blue.

Follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyBialy.

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