As a native Western New Yorker who’s lived in Wyoming for nearly three decades, I’ve been blessed with a unique perspective about the blessings (and curses) of living in both places – and there is one truth that emerges over all others.
Laramie, Wyoming (where the University of Wyoming is located) and Buffalo, New York have a lot more in common than most people think.
What in the world would a small University town in “flyover country” have in common with a post-industrial rust-belt city rising from the ashes on the shores of Lake Erie?
Turns out, quite a bit if you dig a little deeper into the collective psyche of each community.
Laramie, Wyoming faces the same misrepresentation about it’s beauty, culture and passionate love of sports despite having few trophies to show for it. Wyoming is constantly criticized for being little more than a monolithic wasteland. Sandwiched between Montana and Colorado, Wyoming has always been the forgotten state in between.
Growing up in Western New York (WNY) during the 60s and 70s, I felt the same stigma. Anytime I met someone from outside the region, I heard the litany of “armpit of the east” remarks by people who had never set foot in the area. Wyoming often suffers the same fate. Being dissed by people who have never been to WNY is commonplace.
So when Josh Allen was drafted by the Buffalo Bills to hopefully become a franchise quarterback on Thursday night, you can imagine I had a mixture of emotions. The fact that the Bills drafted a guy from the university representing the place I’ve called home for almost 30 years was a connection I never expected to happen.
Regardless of what your opinion of Josh Allen is as a quarterback, there are some aspects of his ‘fit’ in Buffalo most people wouldn’t understand because they haven’t lived in Wyoming. Let me share with you a couple of points that provide supporting evidence that a marriage between Laramie (or Wyoming in general) with Buffalo is a match made in heaven.
Get this, Buffalo. The people I’ve talked with from Wyoming since the draft are literally thrilled Josh Allen was drafted by the Bills because Buffalo is exactly the kind of place who will embrace our pride of Wyoming. We are a culture not dissimilar to BillsMafia and having been intimately immersed in both, I can honestly say I couldn’t be happier.
Laramie is a party town and tailgate parties at the University of Wyoming are respectably raucous, even by our lofty BillsMafia standards. They know all about our legendary exploits around New Era Field and get why we are rabid fans despite decades of despair.
Laramie and Buffalo are both cities outsiders laugh at and the pitiful record by their sports teams hasn’t helped either place get any respect on the national stage.
Add Josh Allen and how disrespected he was all the way from high school through the draft, and you have a guy coming in with a mountain of things to prove to himself and the rest of the football world. Straight up, I was afraid he would end up in Buffalo and become a bust and rip my heart to shreds.
But after doing more homework than just watching the tape on his college games, I’m convinced he is not doomed to become the second coming of EJ Manuel or JP Losman. Mostly, it was this interview with Jordan Palmer that convinced me to let go of my fear. You can listen to the interview (and should if you haven’t already) by clicking the link below:
I suspect Jordan Palmer knows a thing or three more about evaluating quarterbacks than most Bills fans, especially yours truly. His comments about Allen were eye-opening and quelled my irrational expectation of failure to thrive as a Bills’ quarterback.
So take heart, BillsMafia. I believe this quarterback is fulfilling his destiny in a place not unlike his ‘loser’ university in a flyover wasteland. Allen’s own personal journey being dissed at every step along the way won’t hurt his development either. Laramie and Buffalo will have tailgate parties for the ages if this marriage works out the way most of us hope it will.
Editor’s babble: There is truth to this rumor:
— Leigh (@leefumi) April 30, 2018
And because I’m such a Buffalo/Wyoming homer, here are a couple of video clips to watch if you want to know what our ‘wasteland’ really looks like…
This one is for those (like myself) who enjoy less “professionally produced” videos – I believe @DownWithCrown from Twitter would especially appreciate this ride. This location is a 35 minute drive from our home…
And last but not least, here’s a drive up the road about 20 minutes from our house. This year I’ll try to get up there during the wildflower season and show you some of my favorite places.
After the Bills forever connected Wyoming and Buffalo, NY and the Sabres won the NHL draft lottery, I’m not sure my joy can be contained. If you can stand the vicious optimism, you can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.