Bills top wide out Stevie Johnson had a performance to forget on...
The Journey of a Bills Fan
I just watched the Bills lose to the Giants 27-24 at the Meadowlands. It wasn’t a particularly heartbreaking loss; there was no comeback, there was no game-killing fumble loss, no last second field goal miss, no stupid play calls. Some would argue that the officials had a factor in the result, the Bills had a ton of injuries, or that Fitz threw a couple unnecessary picks, but overall that game felt like a normal loss. One team played better than the other on a Sunday afternoon. That’s how you lose. Unfortunately for me, every loss feels the same.
I was born a Bills fan. When I argue with other people about their choice of favorite NFL team, it’s partially because I’m ignorant. I literally didn’t have a choice. My grandfather is my first and most important memory as a Bills fan. When I was young, I used to visit him at a nursing home with my family every other week (he suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left half of his body at a relatively young age). That’s the only way I remember him. At the time, I don’t think I had any concept of the effect that had on my grandmother, on my mom, or on the rest of the family. My only memory of my visits was how passionate he was about the Buffalo Bills.
I’m not sure I went into my first visit to the nursing home as a Bills fan, but I learned pretty quickly that if I wanted to converse with Papa, I needed to know my Bills. There wasn’t a visit that we didn’t go without talking about our favorite team. And quickly he began to recognize that I was growing into a huge fan of the team. The first gift he ever gave me was a Steve Christie football card, my first memory as a sports memorabilia collector. And then it was a Bills sweatshirt. And then it was a hand-stitched Bills helmet to hang on my wall. The workers at the nursing home got some of the players to sign a Bills pennant for him. Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith were some of the notable players to put their pens to it. I got that too. I didn’t inherit these items, he gave them to me. His only keepsake that I didn’t get was the Buffalo Jills signed poster; that was his.
When Papa passed on, I feel like he accomplished his goal with me. I was a full-fledged Bills fan. Starting at the age of five, I would tear through the newspaper every morning until I got to Section D, hoping that Bob Matthews or Sal Maiorana would write anything about the Bills that I could read. This probably influenced my passion for writing (I wrote an e-mail to Bob Matthews when I was 11 basically asking him how I could get his job. He said “get good grades, save up and go to Syracuse”. I didn’t save up enough money to go to Syracuse). Mondays were the best because Bob would make his power rankings. I would argue with my mom about how the Cowboys or 49ers were rated too high; I’m not sure if she cared or knew what I was talking about, but it still felt like a necessary battle.
My parents went to their first Bills game together in 1994. It was a midseason game against the Chiefs, and I remember this vividly because I was pissed as hell that I couldn’t go. I was six years old at the time, and my dad would not let me go with them because he felt like the Bills fans were too… overzealous. Even with my begging and pleading (and probably crying), I watched the Bills-Chiefs game at my grandmother’s house. I made sure to record the game on VHS in case my parents showed up on TV (we still have a video at my parents’ house in Rochester labeled “Bills-Chiefs ‘94”). The Bills stomped on the Chiefs in that game, which made me even angrier that I wasn’t allowed to go. This anger would quickly subside; I went to the home opener the next season. Apparently Dad thought that nine months was long enough for me to handle four-letter words.
My life has been filled with moments in time that will stay with me for the rest of my life, no matter how small they were. Because I haven’t gotten married, haven’t graduated college, and chicks suck (no offense chicks), many of the prominent memories of my life involve the Bills. I had a friend throw a Bills team program at Mike Williams. My dad got Jim Kelly to autograph a restaurant menu at the Dinosaur BBQ. I saw JP Losman tell Kevin that he was going to win him his fantasy league. I made a diving catch thrown by Doug Flutie. I got a black eye when a football hit me in the face from a JUGS Machine at Bills training camp. I was part of a web site that passed on a rumor that a Buffalo Bill addressed. A man at church took off the sweatshirt that he was wearing and gave it to me (it was signed by Bruce).
Papa never saw a Bills Super Bowl win. I haven’t seen a Super Bowl win. Every fan that I’m speaking to right now hasn’t experienced the euphoria of winning a Super Bowl. We can only pray that my grandfather has a say in heaven. If he only had one wish, I think I know what it’d be.
I think the reason I wrote this is that everyone has their own story. Every Bills fan, no matter what their background is or where they grew up, has their own story and way that they became a Bills fan.
This is why every loss feels like this. This is why every game matters.