The world is getting way too weird for some of us. On top of a pandemic, we are faced with the reality of a world where expectations are now higher for the Buffalo Bills than the New England Patriots this season… if we have an NFL season.
As states begin to relax social distancing requirements and reopen certain businesses, it certainly looks like at least the players may get to play the games. The rest of how it will work for fans remains up for debate at the moment.
What apparently isn’t up for debate is all the love the Bills are getting from the national media and primetime coverage. When ESPN predicts a 12-4 season for the Bills and they are slated for four games to be televised in primetime… you know we’ve already entered the Twilight Zone.
I remember having this same feeling around 1988 like it was yesterday. The Bills went from being basement dwellers to real contenders over about a three year time period, similar to what we are seeing now. The difference then was we weren’t also in the middle of a pandemic, left wondering what kind of NFL season we will have, if any at all.
As word gets out around the league the Bills might be good this season, the reaction (by fans who are not self-identified as “BillsMafia”) is similar to what it was during the late 80s. The BILLS? GOOD? WHAT?
Only this time add in the “THEY LOST FOUR SUPER BOWLS IN A ROW” to that list of knee-jerk responses you can expect to see in response to any notion the Bills might actually be good this season.
If we weren’t already questioning living in an alternate reality in the midst of this pandemic, four primetime games and all this love for the Bills from the national media is enough to put us there. After nearly three decades of irrelevance at being the joke of the NFL our bodies are now composed of 90% scar tissue as Steve Tasker once suggested.
So how do we handle all this sudden love from the national media?
Hopefully not the way Cleveland Browns fans did last season. Remember how the national pundits jumped all over Baker Mayfield after his excellent rookie season? How the Dawg Pound was busy staking out their parade spots before the season even started?
Hopefully BillsMafia learned after watching the Browns miss the playoffs just how irrelevant all the media bloviating is with respect to the accuracy of their predictions. The problem comes home to roost when players start believing the hype before opening day and buy into the ridiculous notion they just have to show up and their opponents will fold like a table at a Buffalo tailgate party.
The time to become an insufferable fan is AFTER the players actually hoist the Lombardi. No one knows this more than BillsMafia after getting knocked off the pinnacle four times in a row. So let’s not forget the pain from the past, but learn from it. While I’m the first to put out the ‘grinch’ smile when the Bills do something smart and shock the world, it goes right back where it came from until the final goal of winning a championship is actually achieved.
Being a paper-Bison doesn’t mean jack until the clock starts the first regular season game against the Jets at New Era Field, likely before an empty or almost-empty stadium. It would be our luck to have the best season in franchise history without fans in attendance. It would be totally ‘Billsy’, as some would say.
So how exactly do we negotiate our way through this mine field, BillsMafia? How can we avoid the same fate as the Dawg Pound after they injected the kool-aid into their veins and bought it all hook, line and sinker?
The best way to avoid the same fate is to refuse to get sucked in by media fawning over the Bills. Note it, enjoy it with a little smirk… but do NOT drink the kool-aid. Channel your inner-Jerry Sullivan and be skeptical of every iota of praise uttered by the guttersnipes who would just as quickly laugh at you behind your back.
If we’ve learned anything from enduring the humiliation of four super bowl losses in a row, we learned what it is to be BillsMafia… born from the sting and the suffering from decades of despair and disappointment. The suffering is what binds us like no other fan base on earth.
So if suffering is what defines us, how do we handle the sweet smell of impending success? Hopefully with a little more wisdom than our friends on the south side of Lake Erie. Facing the possibility of success during a pandemic surely creates a significant amount of incongruence for those of us unaccustomed to such praise, no?
Act like you’ve been there before implies you have been there before… which for BillsMafia does not apply. Was there a Super Bowl Parade in Buffalo I somehow missed along the way?
Maybe we can use whatever is left of the Patriots* fan base as an example of how NOT to behave as a guide… that might be a good place to start. While there are certainly some fine folks who have been lifelong Patriots fans before the Brady era, there are a few of those who came of age during the Brady era who bring new meaning to the term ‘arrogant fan’. Let us not become that type of fan base.
So let something good come from our decades of despair as a fan base by using it to better appreciate the good times when they happen, pandemic be damned. We can enjoy watching this beautiful creation by McBeane and appreciate the effort and resources required to make it happen… AND avoid becoming overconfident like Browns fans did during the last off season.
Editor’s babble: Proceed with caution when drinking the kool-aid, BillsMafia. There’s a long road ahead and we have even less idea what it’s going to look like than most other NFL seasons. Hope you are all well and staying safe. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.