It took awhile to process what happened over the last few days after the Bills’ fairy tale entry into the playoffs and subsequent loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday. The 10-3 loss to the Jags almost seemed like an immaterial afterthought once the 17-year playoff drought was broken.
This Bills team clearly had the passion to overachieve at a level we haven’t witnessed in a couple decades. So it should come as little surprise to those familiar with the BillsMafia FAMbase, we also overachieved in our collective response to the Andy Dalton’s Foundation and the Western Pennsylvania Youth Athletic Association on behalf of Bengals’ WR Tyler Boyd after their touchdown enabled the Bills to make the postseason.
Such generosity comes as little surprise to those familiar with the kind hearts and benevolent nature of many Western New Yorkers (WNY). It’s this part of the FAMbase that make me most grateful to be a WNY native.
But, like all groups of people, we do differ from one another in many respects. Those differences are on full display on our Twitter timelines and illuminate fascinating dynamics like a gigantic social experiment gone awry on a daily basis.
Obviously Twitter didn’t exist the last time the Bills made the playoffs. So this time, reading through my timeline was like a live-streamed experiment on the sociology of success. To be honest, I found it fascinating.
Let’s face it, the Bills haven’t given fans much to be excited about for a couple of decades. We’re probably as good a sample population of a “success-deprived” fan base as there is in sports. [I don’t count Cleveland anymore because they won a championship in basketball.]
Fan commentary on my timeline reflected a lot of gratitude. Unexpected joy brings out the best in us, that’s for sure. Of course there was also the banter, some criticism of how the game went down, but mostly the tweets I read were a collective breath of fresh air compared to seasons that ended in fired coaches and broken hearts.
However, one thing that has bothered me for a long time are the tweets I read from those who promote an “us vs. them” mentality. “Bills fans don’t understand the concept of X”, or “Bills fans are this or that”. Those types of comments seem judgmental and carry an air of superiority that doesn’t promote a sense of inclusiveness.
Inclusiveness is something I explored a lot with clients in psychotherapy. It refers to much more than just embracing racial/ethnic differences. It can also be applied to our becoming less judgmental in general.
It’s one thing to note differences. It’s quite another when the motivation to do so is to separate yourself from others in a manner that implies “others” are somehow “beneath” you.
Poultry aren’t the only group of animals that establish a “pecking order”. It’s innate to human behavior as well. So when Twitter goes abuzz with thinly-veiled disparaging remarks about certain groups of people, it makes me want to post a 280 character rolling-eye emoji, or maybe I should just post a picture of a turkey?
We can do so much better than this.
If we expect our team to win the Super Bowl, maybe we should also have a goal to become a championship FAMbase. We already (literally) smoke the competition with our tailgate parties.
How can we be an even better fan base?
Maybe the only way to get there is for each of us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we can be a better fan, or person in general. It really boils down to each of us being willing to “do our job”.
For myself, I’m trying to be less judgmental about folding tables and people setting themselves on fire.
As ridiculous as that seems, it’s actually true. I’m trying to avoid the elderly tendency to dismiss the recklessness of youth. Does that mean I’m endorsing the behavior of jumping through tables and setting one’s self on fire?
Oh, HELL NO.
It’s my choice to react or not to react to ‘outrageous’ behavior. If I keep reacting to it, do I then become part of the problem? Does the media feed the flames (pun intended) by glorifying this behavior on television like Bill Cowher did on Sunday when he broke through a folding table?
Remember, whether or not you approve or disapprove of a behavior is different than our human tendency to lay judgment on a person as a whole.
So if we really want to be championship calibre fan base, maybe we can all become better role models by trying to ‘be better’ within ourselves?
Editor’s babble: Thanks to everyone for your tremendous response to our BillsMafia blog this season. Get ready for the offseason blog mode! If you have anything you’d like to contribute to our blog during the offseason – please contact me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO. If not, I’ll be forced to babble y’all to death, so consider yourselves warned.