The Bills are in the playoffs, but you already know that. An era – perhaps the darkest in Buffalo sports history – has finally ended. And like a war leaves behind a generation of disillusioned men and women, The Drought (a term that can so thankfully be used in the past tense) has left in its wake a generation of Buffalonians who don’t even know how to react to a Bills postseason appearance.
The Drought Kids are a hearty bunch. Not only has middling football been a way of life, but so too has been listening to stories of the esteemed "good old days," days when the Bills were terrorizing the NFL. The stories of going to four straight championships have been teased as actual happenings, the notion that the offense and defense were both good in the same season marveled.
But until now, the Drought Kids, the oldest of whom are not legally children any longer, could only really believe that these stories were nothing but a figment of the older generation’s imagination. For while those who came before the Drought Kids gush about Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and even O.J. Simpson (as conspiracy theorists have it, it was Simpson’s 2017 prison release that brought the curse to end), Drought Kids have suffered through the likes of Drew Bledsoe, E.J. Manuel, and Thad Lewis. The Kids are likely better acquainted with Brian Moorman and Rian Lindell than any quarterback, especially seeing as how so many of the Drought’s coaches were very fond of punting – even when they probably should have gone for it (including one Doug Marrone, who the Bills happen to visit this week).
But one thing easily lost amid 17 playoff-less years was that the Bills were rarely at rock bottom during The Drought. There was only one season with three wins and only one with four. Otherwise, the Bills were always staggeringly mediocre, kings of the 6-10 through 9-7 finishes. They were never bad enough to draft that one "franchise player" (to be fair, it can be seen how well that has worked for the Sabres and the 0-16 Cleveland Browns …) but also of course were never quite good enough to qualify for the playoffs.
It was a cruel cycle that had no end in sight. Even this year, the Bills were supposed to be a listless bunch, a rebuilding group who would achieve nothing. Status quo, as far as most fans were concerned.
In this sense, the Drought Kids have been used to the Bills epitomizing the Buffalo of yesterday: old, rundown, and with a rich history but no seeming future. That has all changed. Buffalo has undergone an extensive renaissance, both culturally and on the football field. The kids, perhaps led by Bills newcomers Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde, trust the process. The #billsmafia is a culture, for better and for worse (Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s foundation funds are still growing immensely, but so too are the Orchard Park Police operating costs).
So, like at a war’s end when a generation of young men and women are finally able to come home from the battlefield, the Drought Kids are finally able to step out from the dark abyss into the light. It was cloudy, but now it is sunny. The light at the end of the 17-year-long tunnel is finally visible. Because even though the temperature is hovering around zero, the snow is blowing sideways, and Lake Erie is certainly not helping prove any global warming theories, the Bills – with just a bit of help from the Cincinnati Bengals—have ended the Drought, so life is good.
Jack Watson is a senior at Orchard Park High School.