A few days ago, I asked readers to explain what it meant to them at the moment they knew the Buffalo Bills were in the playoffs, after a 17-year absence, the infamous "Drought."
The answers poured in. Here is the entire collection of responses available thus far, more than 100 tales of tributes, exaltation, disbelief and joy, beginning with the memories of the pastor of Ss. Columba and Brigid Church in Buffalo:
A note from Rev. Jud Weiksnar, a reader:
My claims to being the world's biggest, and worst, Bills Fan.
First, I might have the longest span of watching games with one's father. My dad introduced me to the Bills in 1963, when I was 6. We still watch together, 54 years later. He's 95, and about the only time he stays awake for three hours straight is when the Bills are playing.
I remember the first game we watched together on t.v. The Bills were playing the Patriots in Boston, and I saw that the quarterback #15 was Kemp. I asked my dad if that was my Uncle George, whose last name was similar, and my dad quickly corrected me that it was Jack Kemp, not George Kempf.
Even when I left town for college, and to join the Franciscans in 1987, except for two years overseas I would always catch at least one Bills game with my dad.
World's Biggest Bills Fan?
Along with all Bills fans, I was crushed when the Bills lost Super Bowl XXV to the Giants. A few months later, I left for a mission year in Lima, Peru. Peru at the time was under attack by a terrorist group, Sendero Luminoso, that threatened to take over the country. 30,000 people were killed in the violence. There were kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations.
One day my classmate at the language school where we were learning Spanish, Sister Cathy, invited me to Mass at the Holy Cross house on the other side of town in San Juan de Lurigancho. The neighborhood was very dangerous as it was the site of a notorious penitentiary, nicknamed "The World's Most Dangerous Prison" because of all the terrorists incarcerated there. Many terrorists and sympathizers lived in the neighborhood. My pastor Fr. Tony reluctantly allowed me to go, but insisted I take his new Volkswagen Jetta, which was more reliable than the ancient Hillman I was used to driving around.
I picked up Sister Cathy and she guided me through the labyrinth streets to the Holy Cross house. It was already night by the time Mass started. We had almost finished Mass when we heard a loud explosion that shook the house, and the lights went out. The terrorists had blown up the electrical towers and the bank on the corner. We quickly finished Mass, and the brothers advised us to get back home as quickly as possible. So we got in the car, and I expected Sister Cathy to guide us back to the other side of town. However, she seemed unsure of herself in the pitch dark streets. I urged Sister Cathy that since she had gotten us there, she could get us home. Then she explained that she got us there by following the #44 microbus, but the buses don't run during blackouts.
So we were completely lost, in the most dangerous part of town, in a blackout. As I turned down a street, a man dressed completely in black with a ski mask stepped in front of the car, and pointed an assault rifle at us, motioning us to stop. Sister Cathy and I started praying, as we feared this was a terrorist who was either going to kill us, or was going to take the car, in which case Fr. Tony would have killed us.
As he approached my window, I tried explaining in my halting Spanish that we were a religious brother and nun and were lost, and pleaded for mercy. He then lowered his gun and explained that he was a police officer, and we were heading the wrong way down a one-way street toward the police headquarters. He thought we were terrorists trying to blow up the police headquarters.
He told us to back up, and gave us directions putting us on the highway that would lead us back to our part of town.
As we started driving back, we thanked God realizing how close we had come to being shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity. I realized another thing that has stuck with me to this day. As the man approached the car, before he identified himself as a police officer, I remember the last thing I thought. It wasn't "I wish I could see my mother and father one last time," or "I don't want to die so far away from home." It was, "God, I only wanted to see the Bills win one Super Bowl before I died."
For 17 years, I blamed myself for the Bills' playoff drought. In January 2000 I chaperoned a group of St. Bonaventure University students on a service trip to Saltillo, Mexico. On Saturday, January 8 we were to go visit an elderly woman who was very ill, and clean her house.
However, when I found out the rectory at the church where we were staying had international cable, I decided I would stay back to watch the Bills-Titans game, and told the students to go on without me. When the Bills lost due to the infamous Home Run Throwback, I was so upset at the Bills, the referees, and myself that I promised I would give up pro football and spend my time serving the poor.
When the students returned that evening, I confessed that I had stayed back to watch the game, and that since the NFL was obviously fixed, I vowed to give up watching football. The next season I did not watch a single preseason game, but as the year went on, I found myself watching a few minutes here and a few minutes there, and next thing I knew I was watching all the Bills games as fervently as ever.
Until last weekend I was convinced that I was the reason for the playoff drought, as I had broken the vow I had made before the students and God. It was clear that not just I but all Bills fans were being punished as a result. That's not good theology, as I well know, but it was hard to find any more compelling reason to explain the drought.
So when Cincinnati beat the Ravens, putting the Bills into the playoffs, I cried tears of joy, not just for the end of the drought but for that burden of guilt being lifted off my shoulders.
Rev. Jud Weiksnar
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A note from Nancy Noel and Joe Cavan, two readers:
What are the Odds! Or a Buffalo Bills Love Story
There’s no mistake about it. Our family loves the bills. My husband, being from Wisconsin always rooted for the Green Bay Packers - until we moved to Buffalo.
When our son, Ryan, a young yet ardent Bills fan was four years old, his friend Stephen said “he was done with the Bills! All they do is lose!"
Ryan replied, “How can you NOT support the bills? They are your team!"
Many years later while living in NYC our son met his fiancée at McFadden’s, a bar that Buffalo expats frequent on game days. He probably watched the last time the Bills made the playoffs at that same bar.
Our daughter, who was 15 when the Bills last made the playoffs, of course followed the Bills, cheering them on as the rest of the family did. She, being our most sports-oriented family member, may be a bigger fan than any of us.
So this is our Pedigree as Buffalo Bill Fans.
Seventeen years ago, across the country in Watsonville, California lived another 15 year old, a boy, Patrick, who maybe is THE biggest Bills fan any of us know. Certainly one of the most dedicated Bills devotees I know. He had to be: His family were San Francisco fans, he lived in CA. He had to get creative to follow his favorite team.
He has been a dedicated Bills fan since he was 7 years old when the Bills went to the Super Bowl four years in a row and lost every game. He was a big fan of Jim Kelly, having faith his team would prevail- eventually.
Kelly was the Man!
He only was able to see actual games when the Bills played a national game, otherwise he would follow the games by watching the scrolls along the bottom of the screen as they updated scores and then watch highlights on ESPN.
This was a creative thinker for sure. In 6th Grade he had to write a report on a state. He chose New York so he could research and write about Buffalo, where he always wanted to visit one day.
His family is a loving family and encouraged their son’s passion for the Buffalo team. His Mom has said that they always knew what to give Pat for Christmas and Birthdays.
Life became easier for Pat during his high school years. That is when Direct TV came out with Sunday Ticket. He could actually watch the games regularly. Seventeen years ago found Pat and his family in California watching the Bills game that we all watched here. And he too was devastated at the outcome of that game.
In 2009 our daughter Megan met this boy, Patrick in Graduate School in Southern California. At a break in class, after all new students had introduced themselves, Pat went up to Megan and said “So. You’re from Buffalo?”
She replied in the affirmative. He then got the point. “ So are you a Bills fan?”
Her reply, heavy on the sarcasm if I know my daughter, was “Well, yeah!”
It’s what Pat said next that surprised Megan.
“I’m a Bills fan, too."
She wasn’t sure if it was a line or not, but over time he convinced her he truly loved Bills.
After Megan’s first visit to meet Pat’s family she verified that he really, really loved the Bills. His room was covered in Bills memorabilia, caps, banners, right down to the Buffalo Bills logo bedspread!
Over the next few years, this Bills fan from Buffalo and this Super-Fan from Watsonville would cheer their team on together. And every year the disappointment at not making the playoffs, some years not even coming close, was met with Pat’s upbeat assurance that it takes time to build a team, so maybe next year , well, maybe the one after.
When Megan brought Pat home to meet us in 2009 he was wearing his ever-present Bills hat - well, one of his many Bills hats - and a big smile on his face.
He was in Buffalo! Home of his beloved Bills.
My husband Joe took them to the Bills v. Saints - Sept 27, 2009 - game that weekend and as they left in the rain to go to the game, Pat & Megan both had on Bills jerseys, he was still wearing his hat, and his thousand-watt smile.
I watched the game on TV. I never cared about a Bills game so much. The Bills lost to the Saints. When the three of them walked in the door I said how sorry I was that his team had lost. I wanted so badly for them to win for Pat’s 1st game.
Pat, with his thousand-watt grin still glowing, replied, “Yeah but I got to see them lose on their home turf! It was the best day of my life!”
A few years later, he did get to witness a WIN on home turf, but still no playoffs.
Six football seasons later, in Sept. 2015, Megan and Pat were married in Northern California. Of course, there was a Buffalo Bills component to the festivities. Megan had a groom’s cake made the top of which was a football field, yard lines and all, with a Bills logo across it and an edible replica of one of the tickets to the first game he’d attended. We had a farewell brunch
with an all-Buffalo Bills theme - the banners, the plates and napkins (carried in my suitcase from Wegman’s!).
Best of all, Patrick had the venue supply a large screen TV - tuned of course to the first Bills game of the season so all could enjoy it as the Bills beat the Colts on Sept. 13, 2015. We thought: What a fitting wedding gift from the Bills to their 2 biggest fans!
This past weekend Pat’s wait through many long dry seasons came to an end. The Bills once again made the Playoffs!!! I was texting him immediately, and then I began receiving pictures my daughter was taking of Pat. He was shaking a bottle of Champagne and just laughing! I watched the coverage on the news, videotaping it and sending to Megan & Pat.
I sent the TV footage via video I took as the team was coming off the plane and the crowd was cheering in the freezing cold. And Pat was loving it all. I know he wished he were here. He wants the entire issue of the Buffalo News sent to him. We already sent it!
This might be the end to our 'Buffalo Bills Love Story' except for a very short speech Patrick’s Mom gave at the Wedding Reception. None of us could see this coming.
She held a scrap of worn paper in her hand and simply read it aloud. It was the ending to Pat’s 8th grade autobiography:
“When I grow up I want to work with machines, cars and generators. But, before this I will try to make a pro sports team. I want to have a nice wife and two kids and live in a nice house in Buffalo, NY.”
What are the Odds!? I’d say the odds of the Bills making the playoffs were about the same as 2 kids, born less than 24 hours apart in the same year, on opposite sides of the country, finding each other, making a connection over the love of that very same team, marrying, and having a Bills themed wedding.
Thanks for reading this. It was story too good not to share!
Nancy Noel and Joe Cavan
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A note from Tom Wozniak, a reader:
On that fateful January day in 2000, I, like thousands of Bills fans, confidently felt the Bills would come from behind and beat the Titans. After all, the 1990s rarely saw the Bills out of a game and often victory was snatched from defeat. And damn if it didn't happen again! Steve Christie nails a field goal with 16 seconds left and the Bills are on to the next round of the playoffs.
Now, this is my main memory: I go to the fridge to grab a celebratory beer and while I'm rummaging the TV announcers describe a miracle play that will start the curse of the century. I'm partly stooped over, head in the fridge, hand on a can, my jaw dropping. I can't see the TV. The replays, challenges, Wade Phillips' face all indicate this is not a legal play. But the call is in the Titans' favor. Air is sucked out of the universe!
Buffalo still had a kickoff to receive but the confidence is gone and has not returned yet. Eighteen years will happen before a miracle comes the Bills' way.
-- Tom Wozniak, formerly of Niagara Falls, N.Y., McMinnville, Ore.
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A note from Carol Schaper, a reader:
My son-law grew up in Buffalo, but left for NYC and then on to the San Francisco area 20 years ago with my daughter. He has remained a most avid Buffalo Bills fan all this time. When you watch a game with him he is crazy – never misses a televised game. This fall they all came home for the opening game.
As soon as the Bills made the playoffs we got a text from California that he and the family are going to Jacksonville. He even got a hotel room for my husband who lives in Bradenton for the winter, so he could join them. The big thing is, he told me this was in place of the planned trip to Europe for their 20th Wedding Anniversary. That’s how much the Buffalo Bills mean to him.
Carol Schaper – mother-in-law of Michael Comerford
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A note from Trey Bosson, a reader:
Living in the Tampa Bay area, 1985-2007, I have seen bad football teams; in 1995 new ownership came and Tony Dungy, also. Soon: 2002 super bowl XXXVIII champions; I hope the same is happening here.
Good football in an area unites a lot of people. GO BILLS.
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A note from Paul Mullane, a reader:
You were looking for some stories. Here is ours:
We are in South Florida and were at our favorite bar getting ready to ring in the New Year, but had to arrive early to watch the Bills vs. Miami game. Obviously because we are in Miami territory the game was on every TV around the bar.
At the beginning of the game there was only 3 of us Bills fans and we were rather vocal as the Bills got off to a great start.
There were plenty of Miami fans who were looking at us sideways as we cheered on the Bills. We bought them a round of drinks which seemed to shut them up and then we became friends.
As we explained our plight of almost 18 years without a playoff game they seemed to come around to our side. I am not sure if there really is a true Miami fan even here in Florida...and maybe it was our mutual hated of NE which helped us bond.
Anyway...by the end of the game pretty much the entire bar was rooting for Buffalo. Then the game switched to Cincinnati vs. Baltimore and everyone was on board. As Andy Dalton threw the most important pass in the last 18 years for us Bills fans, this entire South Florida bar went crazy and we had about 100 new adopted Bills fans! Hugs, tears, and beers all around!
Thanks for asking .... go Bills!!!
Paul Mullane, Mullane Motors, Inc.
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A note from Pete Kendron, a reader:
You asked Tuesday for folks’ recollections about the Bills. Here’s mine, from rural central Pennsylvania.
Back in 2000, I was a college student. I honestly don’t remember where I watched the Bills-Titans game. Possibly my parents’ South Cheektowaga basement, possibly a dorm room at St. Bonaventure.
But in the 18 years since, I’ve graduated college; found a job near Berwick, Pa.; met a girl; got hitched; bought a house; had two kids; had the youngest turn 8.
We live in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania and don’t have cable. The TV signal from Scranton is an iffy proposition most weekends. CBS comes in just well enough for games to flicker in and out of reception. On top of that, here in deep Steelers country, it seems the Bills are on just often enough to catch their biggest blowout losses.
But because of where their father was born, my son Jack, 10, and daughter Cassie, 8, love the Bills. We knew the Buffalo game wouldn’t be on, but we could watch the crucial Bengals-Ravens’ game if the signal held. So we tracked the Bills’ score online. And we watched through a constantly pixelating screen as the Bengals built and then lost a healthy lead. Finally, the signal on the downstairs TV gave out, so Jack and I crowded into an upstairs bedroom, where a small TV was still bringing in the game. My phone told us the Bills had won.
It was down to the Bengals pulling off a miracle.
And then they did.
And we were screaming “Go! Go! Go!” as Tyler Boyd streaked to the end zone.
And Jack was jumping off the bed.
Jumping into the air, throwing all 97 pounds into each leap.
He was landing hard enough to shake the house. Hard enough to scare the bejesus out of his mother Erika in the next room. Hard enough to shake off the doldrums that he has only lived through the half of.
I don’t know what Sunday will bring, but I know this: This may not be a championship season. But it provided some indelible moments for my kids and I.
Pete Kendron, managing editor, Press Enterprise
A note from Larry Dietrich, a reader, via Twitter:
Sean, thanks for all the fan stories. I saw the Bills at the Rockpile, watched as OJ got 2,000, shared Sabres season tickets in HS with eight friends and saw them play the Canadians, was in standing room after sleeping in Aud lobby to get tickets for Game 6 vs Flyers in ‘75, attended the 51-3 Raiders game, the 10-7 Broncos game, two of the Super Bowls, saw the Aud erupt at New Year’s 1981 when the Canadian attaché was introduced after Canada helped hostages escape from Tehran, cried through the moment of silence for Tim Horton with only the sound of “Cold beer, here” echoing from the bowels of the Aud, but there’s little to compare with watching Dolphins and then the Bengals with my son, who was 6-months old for the Music City game, and especially to see the way the Bills fans have reacted to the Dalton Foundation. Remarkable. Only in Buffalo. What a week! Thanks.
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A note from Jill Morgan, a reader:
How wonderful that you're including your readers in this! I know that my own perspective mirrors that of many others - whose greatest excitement this week comes from the fact that young Bills fans can finally experience what so many of us did in our own youth.
It is currently the 20th year of my career as a high school teacher, and as the game was starting on Sunday, I began to think about exactly what you're asking us right now: Why does this mean so much? The tweets I posted (on a barely hatched professional Twitter account) early on Sunday began to address just that:
I want this. Not just for me & “older” Bills fans everywhere, but especially for the young - For our kids at school who attend as many games as they can & excitedly come in to talk to me on Monday morns about every nuance of the game...
— Ms Morgan (@MsMorganLSHS) December 31, 2017
-Those kids whose loyalty defies logic, who’ve had every reason to pick a “fav team” other than the Bills & yet garb themselves in head-to-toe Buffalo red, white, & blue, sit in (literal) blizzards watching their team & keep believing year after year.
— Ms Morgan (@MsMorganLSHS) December 31, 2017
I want this for the kids who’ve only heard “stories”about Glory Years & have never been alive to see 1 down of a Bills playoff drive.I want this for all of us but I mostly want this for THEM. We’re on the cusp of a New Year & there’s a buzz in the air.Let’s do this, Buffalo🏈🙏🏻
— Ms Morgan (@MsMorganLSHS) December 31, 2017
Along with those tweets above, I wanted it for them because:
These are the kids over the years who have survived my bad moods "for some reason" on certain Monday mornings and have enjoyed and shared in "Victory Donuts" on other happier ones.
These are the kids who smiled and indulged me as I told them (during the very early, non-tenured part of my career) that the blue standing Buffalo permanently inked on my ankle "is a birthmark" of which I was lucky to be born.
These are the kids who sat in my class on Halloween and didn't even bat an eye as I would try to pass off "Super Bills Fan" as a costume when they knew full well I was simply wearing layers of the "Sunday Section" of my closet.
These are the kids who have spoken to me about the team in the same way that people 3x their age used to circa 1990 - long before they were born - and long before their Bills loyalty would be branded by so many as "blind."
These are the kids who have debriefed their home team's games with me with a type of excitement and joy and hope and loyalty (that's YOU, Tino Cala) that would rival any teenager in Foxboro.
And these are the kids who proudly shared with me the stories of their namesakes; how they originated from beloved, iconic members of those Super Bowl years (that's YOU, Tallie Papke) and how their very identities have been kissed with joy because of it (and here's the REALLY cool part - Tallie, with an "ie" is a girl). 🙂
...And they did all of that - ALL of that -without ever knowing or remembering playoff football in Buffalo.
I wanted this SO VERY BADLY for all of them and regardless of the outcome of Sunday's game, their excitement this week will be my greatest joy and takeaway from this week.
Sure, I wanted this for all of us, but I mostly wanted this for THEM.
Thank you SO MUCH for this great opportunity, Mr. Kirst. Stay safe, stay warm, and as always...
Lake Shore High School
PS - Today's "Welcome Back" message on my classroom whiteboard:
1st time in their lives. pic.twitter.com/YCrxtHfBB9
— Ms Morgan (@MsMorganLSHS) January 2, 2018
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A note from Gary Ptak, a reader:
You don't know what pangs I went through to get the Bills live in Costa Rica. I was able to stream the first half but had to follow the rest on a radio app here. The folks here were looking at me strange when cheering because they didn't have any soccer games going. At the worst part now....my flight doesn't get into Syracuse until 1:30 Sunday. It is killing me.
Sean, I have been a Bills fan since the names Kemp, Gilchrist, Bird, Stratton, Sestao etc have been playing. Every year hoping to make the playoffs.
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A note from Matthew J. Kita, a reader:
The first Bills game I ever went to was November 18, 1984. That hapless 2-14 team managed to beat the Dallas Cowboys for their first win of the season. Two weekends ago, I was back at my parents’ house and I found the ticket stub in a scrapbook I made as a kid. I hold on to it the way Dad holds onto his ticket from seeing the Beatles in 1966, two weeks before they stopped touring.
I was 8-years-old at that game. Dad was 33. He and Mom had four kids in seven years; my youngest brother was seven months old at the time. It was a sideline seat in the lower bowl. The face value of the ticket was $15. He got it from a friend at work. Tickets to pro sporting events weren’t in the budget. I felt like we won the lottery.
Dad grew up on a farm in Colden. His dad was a carpenter, and they moved from house to house as his dad built them. His dad died when he was 15---in 1966---when the team was six years old. He never got to go to a football game with his dad. His mom passed when he was 22. Times were tough. He didn’t go to his first Bills game until 1980; when he was 29 years old. Again, he got the ticket from a friend at work. The day he took me to that Bills-Cowboys game, he reminded me that we got to do something he never got to do with his dad. I remember that talk like it was yesterday.
Over the next few years, we got more tickets from his friends at work, frequently discarded by frustrated fans angry at an inept franchise that won eight games in three years. One time, we got seats that were literally in the farthest possible corner of the top row in the upper deck. I didn’t care. I was at a football game with Dad. Heaven on earth.
In 1988, Dad started his own business. His partner had four Bills season tickets. Suddenly, we got to go to more games, just as the Bills were turning things around. We lived in Hamburg. After church, mom would drive Dad and me up Abbott Road until the traffic got thick then let us out and we would walk. She and my siblings would watch the game at home, drive towards the stadium when it was over, and meet us on the road. As I got older, we would tailgate in the backyards of random strangers in Orchard Park. At a time in my life when Dad and I disagreed on every conceivable thing, we always were on the same team on Sundays.
Ironically, I now live in Dallas. The face value of a sideline seat at AT&T Stadium in the first three levels is $350, with the seat-license price ranging from $15,000 to $150,000 per seat. Parking is $75 a car. The stadium is full of luxury clubs, iconic artwork, expensive food, and beautiful people wearing flashy clothes and gaudy jewelry. It has a retractable roof that is never used. When Jerry Jones was asked why he needed to have all of this---in addition to a 60-yard-long scoreboard---he responded, “Because in an age of large, inexpensive, televisions, the game-day experience has to offer something you can’t get at home.” He’s right but---as per usual---he missed the point. Growing up as a Bills fan in Buffalo, I got to go to games with my Dad. That’s an experience that can’t be defined, let alone projected in high-definition.
My son is seven. His first pro football game was with me. In Orchard Park. The way it should be. After the Bills won on Sunday, he told me that he wants to go to Jacksonville with Grandpa and me. I told him, after he said that, that the Bills making the playoffs was the second-best thing I had heard all day.
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A note from Susan Steege, a reader:
I moved to Buffalo when I was 24 years old, in 1984, fresh out of college. I grew up in the Twin Cities, and was a huge Minnesota Vikings fan my whole life. It took a couple years for me to lay down that allegiance (although I love the Vikes, too), but the Bills soon became first in my heart. As I fell in love with Buffalo--especially its awesome people--I fell in love with the Bills. The friends I have had for 33+ years in Buffalo are amazing: generous, fun-loving, faith-filled, and supportive. I was always sad about the bad rap that Buffalo had around the country because I just love it here. And the Bills somehow embody that for me.
Those Super Bowl years were a blast ... although the Super Bowl parties became torture after the first two. The Buffalo News even published an open letter from me to the Bills before Super Bowl #4--because if you know anything about the Vikings, they also went to four Super Bowls (not in a row) and lost each one. My open letter to the Bills that year was begging them not to let another loss number four become a reality. The truth remains: the only teams I have ever loved with all my heart have only lost in the Super Bowl.
But, I have to say, that throughout the drought, I have been a fan: my allegiance never wavers, my hope soaring at the start of each season, only to be wacked into reality sometimes earlier and sometimes later in the season. I watch with those same friends-who-are-family and root! root! root! There have been so many disappointments, but still there is hope. I have colleagues around the country who know my love for the Bills and often look at me with something like pity when we talk football. And yet, I keep cheering for them.
I was watching with some of these friends-who-are-family on Sunday, many of them with kids who have never known a playoff game. And, as the Bengals took that final drive on Sunday, it looked for all the world like another piece of heartache. Interception! Called back for a penalty. Overthrown! And then a FOURTH AND TWELVE. I was preparing my heart to be done for another season.
We shouted for joy at the first down catch, thinking "Field Goal maybe for a tie and overtime". And then ERUPTED with cheers and hugs and jumping up and down when the Bengals scored. OH MY. Face-timing with other friends-that-are-family. Texts start pouring in from friends and colleagues all over the country. One Facebook acquaintance--not even a close friend--posted, "Well I know Sue Steege is having a Happy New Year".
There are plenty of hard and painful things in this world. For sure. It is a gift to just have pure joy over the end of this drought. Just plain FUN. And it's fun having that kind of joy sweep across a whole region. We are all part of it. I am. You are. We are.
Thanks, Sean--it must be fun to read all these stories.
P.S. Also crazy: the Vikings are currently favored to be in the Super Bowl. What if....
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A note from John Wulf, a reader:
The above program (John attached an image), which I still have, represents my playoff story.
As we both well know, times were very different during the 1960s.
When the Buffalo Bills qualified for the then AFL championship game, I at the age of 13 years old went down to the old Rockpile War Memorial Stadium on an NFT bus and stood in line all night around fire barrels with other fans in line for tickets that went on sale that morning at 9 AM.
I remember the temperature being somewhere in the teens all night with a brisk wind.
I had $120 in my pocket, as I was hoping to purchase six tickets, which I was able to do.
As the clock ticked down, and it was apparent that the Bills had won the championship, many fans begin to filter onto the field along the sidelines.
I have vivid recollection of standing both next to Jack Kemp and former county executive ( at the time, a player) Ed Rutkowski, among others.
It was an experience to remember a lifetime.
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A note from Anna Dickash, a reader:
Dear Mr. Kirst,
I've loved the Bills since my teens, in the 60's. My first time at a game was at the Rockpile the year the Bills had only one win, and that was against the Boston Patriots with Jim Plunkett at quarterback. It continued through the lean years and peaked during the Glory Years of four Super Bowls. I clearly remember saying we will never be down in the basement again. I was proven so wrong.
I taught in Buffalo schools grades 3-7 for 39 years, and my students knew my passion and loyalty. Christmas teacher gifts through the years filled my home with Bills mugs, Christmas ornaments, scarves etc. But in the last 17 years the 10-11 year old students would shake their heads and ask me how I could possibly root for such a disappointing team. I would tell them they had no idea what it felt like to see your team go to the Super Bowl, not once, but four times in a row. What it felt like to have home field advantage. How Monday mornings felt after a Sunday win.
My loyalty never faded. My hopes never died. They were "my boys" win or lose.
Maybe now all my past students who sat in my Bills paraphernalia-filled classroom, and lived through Monday morning laments or cheers, will understand the feeling of extending the season into the playoffs.
I realize it's only the playoffs, and the season could end next Sunday, but I haven't stopped smiling since Sunday night around 7:30 when Cincinnati made our dream come true.
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A note from Mike Esposito, a reader:
My name is Michael Esposito and I am teacher at Niagara Falls High School. My best friend Dean and I talked after every Bills game from late 80's to 2000 when he tragically died. We went to lot of games together. I contacted his sister after the Bengals to win to let her know I was thinking about him.
I liked your words on 'generations will get a chance to share in it.' Many of us will be asked where you were when the Bills ended the drought. I was with my 5 kids , my wife and my mom jumping around the living room like we just won the lottery. Speaking of the lottery I might take a SB win over winning the lottery!!!
Every Sunday watching the Bills after a big Italian meal is special in my family. Sunday night was a night my family well remember for decades!
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A note from Michele Monfuletho, a reader:
Sean, my grandpa, Hughie Monfuletho, passed away 20 years ago in August. Yesterday he would've been 100 years old. He was a diehard fan and never missed a game. He was a season ticket holder and would wear his Bills puffy jacket, wingtips and trousers to the stadium. I spent last Sunday in New England wearing a Bills jersey in enemy territory. I can't help but think my grandpa somehow played a hand in getting us here .... he would've been so proud.
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A note from Kathy Cunningham, a reader:
Like many older Bills fans, I have many stories about how the Bills have been so much a part of my family's life! Many of us have had or still own season tickets ...We went to games with our mothers, fathers, siblings children, in-laws and anyone else who wanted to join our Buffalo love for the Bills ... We chased Jim Kelly at Garcia's Irish Pub (Pearl Street now) made him say happy birthday to my mother, where she made him promise they would beat the Jets that Sunday!!!
The first Super Bowl game and every one was unceremoniously thrown out of our house when we lost! But we went to City Hall the next day to forgive Scott Norwood! We dressed up as Coors Lite cans to try to win tickets from 97 Rock for the second Super Bowl game. Parties at the convention center, sponsored by Russ Salvatore ... We have been beaten up in these last years, but always stuck with our team. We lost some big Bills fans in the drought: Joan, our mother, father in law Ed and baby brother Michael and our text messages and phones were busy saying they all heard us in church that morning, praying it all works out for our Bills ...
Think going to dig my Zuba pants out!!!
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A note from Helen Baran, a reader:
I have enjoyed your articles since you first started writing for the News and did write a letter to the editor praising your articles. They are very much appreciated.
In regards to the Buffalo Bills---yes the drought is over and my late husband and I were ticket holders for a long time—with our seats being in front of Ralph Wilson’s box. My husband was a big football fan and we saw the games rain, shine or snow—no matter what—and traveled from our home 70 miles away—along the shores of the almost frozen Lake Erie. The Buffalo Bills brought much joy to my husband.
Five years ago this week, my husband was in the palliative unit at St. Vincent Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania and some of his Buffalo Bills collection was there with him—including the Buffalo Bills' Santa. It just so happened that on the 2nd or 3rd of January the Buffalo News ran a front page article about the “Greatest Comeback in Buffalo Bills History”---and I read this to my husband that morning and he brightened up and started recalling that game and how we had sat in the stadium until the game was won by Buffalo. Many fans had left but the die-hards stayed until it was over. These were moments of joy for my husband who continued to talk about the game and along with visitors---was animated in recalling those moments. That was the day before my husband died and I had that newspaper buried with him.
He was a true Bills fan up to the end and I am sure that he and his other football buddies continue to cheer the Bills from their perch above all of us.
A note from Mike Schwartz, a reader:
I returned to Boston (yes, that one with the Patriots) on Sunday afternoon just in time to watch the last three quarters with my 8-year-old daughter. She has been caught up in the drought since birth, but still often watches the games with me and my cousins up in NH. She has spent her share of time at many a local restaurant watching the NFL Ticket showing the game, when my only other option was the Pats broadcast.
At least this week we were lucky to be watching at home with the flex schedule and finally a Week 17 to live for. You’d think week after week of Brady this and Gronkowski that she would have secretly acquired a Pats jersey by now, but no. She proudly marched off to school this fall with her Bills Jacket and hat knowing full well from her most recent visit to Buffalo that bleu cheese is the only thing that goes with wings. How proud can a Dad be?
I spent my first Super Bowl away at SUNY Geneseo, where the upstate versus downstate battle loomed over the Giants victory.
Then there were the three others… and the Music City (Mistake) Miracle I watched in disbelief with my other cousin in California …
Then came the dark times … but the city, fellow Buffalonians and I persevered… even when the Pats bandwagon was open for enlistment here in Boston.
They say its better to have loved and lost, then to never have loved at all… who knew that would be 17 years of lost love?
On Sunday, we watched the Bills win with a cheer and quiet hope Andy would pull one through for us…. and when he did, I ran around the house screaming from room to room like a crazy person. I sat back down hoping that another “Miracle” was not about to happen … and as the Ravens went quietly into the night, my daughter turned to me and said, “Daddy are you crying?” I turned to her and smiled without a word and just gave her a big hug, as quietly wiped my eyes.
The curse was over ... and maybe it was time to rekindle what never had really been lost, while sharing it with the next generation.
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A note from Nancy Kelleher, a reader:
I was born in 1954. In the 60s, as a young child I watched grown men cheer and swear in front of a TV set. It was explained to me that this is what the Buffalo Bills are about. I was baptized that Sunday as a full-fledged Bills fan for the rest of my life! There was only one condition. I could not swear in front of my mother.
And so it began. Year upon year. I watched the games with my Dad and if I didn’t were on the phone. I went to games in the old Rockpile as I was lucky enough to be friends of some of the Bills that hung out in The Locker Room in the early 70s. The Super Bowl era was the most exciting time of my life and we know how that ended.
My Dad went to his grave at 84 without a Super Bowl win. My degree of excitement on Sunday was way up there. I was a wild woman like back in the day! The time has come again. We will go to the Super Bowl again and win so I can put that flag on my Dads grave before I die!!! Go Bills!!!
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A note from Janice Litz, a reader:
Dear Mr. Kirst:
Here is my story about a dedicated and devoted Buffalo Bills fan. My husband's sister, Rosemary Guay, was one of the most dedicated fans I have met. She had season tickets and never missed a game, no matter the weather. Sometimes she was the only one sitting in the end zone during a storm. She never lost faith in them, never. Was always supportive and remained positive that they would win a Super Bowl. She dressed in Bills attire from head to toe, including her earrings. Sadly, she died in 1993 of cancer at the young age of 51. But, not before she watched their last quest to win that elusive Super Bowl from her hospital bed. In the end, she took the Bills to her final resting place wearing all her Bills attire.
Thank you for your wonderful human interest stories. They are so heart warming and interesting. There is so much negative and depressing news, that reading your column is a breath of fresh air.
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A note from Ben Mitchell, a reader:
Hi Sean, my name is Ben Mitchell, and I saw your article in the Buffalo News calling for submissions of reactions to the Bills FINALLY ending their playoff drought.
First, a little about myself. I was born and raised in Skaneateles and went to undergrad at St. Lawrence University. I currently live in the small town of Hood River, Oregon, where I am in a master's program in multimedia journalism. I actually worked at The Post-Standard right out of college and am very close friends with Richard, Judy, and especially Matt Sullivan. I saw this article posted on Rich's wall, which is why I am emailing you.
As trying as it is being a Bills fan in N.Y., it is even more difficult being a Bills fan in Oregon. There are Buffalo fans here, but they are few and far between.
In my small town of Hood River, Oregon, I have become well-known as the sad-sap Bills fan, who dutifully shows up, year after year, to the only bar with NFL Sunday ticket (Bills games are, of course, rarely on the Portland CBS or Fox affiliates), moaning and cursing at the television when things invariably fell apart with his team.
I was born in Syracuse in October of 1986, so my memories of the Bills' four consecutive trips to the Super Bowl are faint ("Never been repeated!" I would tell people, who would give pitying looks or inform me, as if I didn't know, that the Bills had lost all four). I didn't really understand football that well, and I remember thinking that the Super Bowl was just something that the Bills were automatically in every season.
I do, however, vividly remember our last playoff appearance, screaming at the TV about the forward "lateral" during the Music City Debacle, as I like to call it. I felt like the world was against Buffalo, and up until last Sunday, have felt that way ever since.
For the past 17 years, it's been truly difficult to be a Bills fan. I went to college with a lot of New Englanders, and was ceaselessly mocked for my fandom. In Oregon, which is home to a great deal of Seahawk bandwagoners, I was viewed as a curiosity – why would someone continue to (defiantly) support a team that has brought them nothing but heartache and disappointment?
They just don't understand.
I knew the playoff drought had to end sometime, but like others, I didn't think it would be this year. The Bills started out 5-2, but we've all seen this movie before, and the inevitable mid-season slump fell upon us. Going into the final game, I tried to temper my enthusiasm. I knew what the odds were, and I've come to expect disappointment. Buffalo never gets the breaks when we need them.
On Sunday, I was at the same bar I've gone to for seven years in Oregon to watch the Bills. I was with my one Bills friend (grew up in Florida, parents from Jamestown, NY) and my girlfriend, who grew up in Oregon, the latter of whom cares little for football, but always comes to the bar with me for moral support.
I nearly spent as much time nervously watching the Ravens game as I did the Bills game. As we were pounding Miami, and the Bengals were up 24-10, I finally allowed myself to hope, if just for a little bit, that we would make it, and the universe quickly put me back in my place. Miami closes the gap. The Ravens go up on Cincinnati. Another shot on the postseason gone. Why bother?
And then, after all the years when things never went right, when we never got the breaks, when the calls never went our way, the miracle that long eluded us finally appeared. I held my breath, I gripped the bar, squeezed my loved ones' hands, made entreaties to deities I didn't believe in, and wouldn't you know it, our miracle took the form of Andy Dalton, ANDY DALTON, and the hands of Tyler Boyd, who sent the Bills, improbably, into the postseason. I screamed so loud that the entire bar turned to look at me and my friend, who were jumping up and down, and in our fervor, knocked over a bar stool, fell onto the floor, and held back hard, ugly, cathartic sobs. I could finally feel true pride in my team, my tears of joy washing away 17 years of letdowns.
After the game was over, I received and continue to receive congratulations from fans of all kinds (even New England!). The national media has taken notice, and are promoting it as a feel-good story. They say our fans deserve it. We do.
For the first time in two decades, I don't feel like the world is against Buffalo. I feel like they're with us.
Welcome to the best fandom on the face of the Earth.
– Ben Mitchell
Hood River, Oregon
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A note from Bridget Mg Majka, a reader:
It was surreal to watch with my boys and their friends. We had 3 TVs in the living room. We had red zone, Team USA and the Bills on the big screen. As the scenarios whittled, we turned red zone to the Cincinnati/ Baltimore game ... Team USA won and that screen went black. The Bills game ended and we switched the Cincinnati game to the big screen.
My husband was holding my hand, I had my hand on my sons back and we all (6 of us) waited. The boys (ages 18, 20, 21,and 22) stared at the TV in disbelief. It was like they were too afraid to get excited for fear it was not real. My husband cracked open a bottle of champagne in red Solo cups lol....they are so excited now that it's sunk in. Whatever happens with the game, I'm never going to forget the set up in this living room and the hope living here. Memories forever.
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A note from Don Freedman, a reader:
Three weeks from now, there is no phrase I'd like to hear more than, "...the Buffalo Bills' improbable playoff run..."
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A note from Michael Twist, a reader:
Congrats to the Bills and their fans everywhere. Sean Kirst's piece reads a bit like one written after the Red Sox made it to the World Series after 86 years. It also helps put the Patriots amazing run in perspective. Life is cyclical. It would be great if Buffalo wins next weekend and ends up back in Foxboro. Go Bills!
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A note from Michele Graham Hiczewski, a reader:
I'm happy for all the fans who are truly invested in the Bills, emotionally and financially. For me, however, it has no effect on my life whatsoever. Any love affair I had with professional football in general was lost years ago, as the sport became nothing more than an overly commercialized business, and a pathetic platform for politics. It's no longer something that I care to put any of my energy or money into; there are better directions I chose to go in.
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A note from Ken Martin, a reader:
I've been a fan since '65 and will be a fan forever. This is the best new year ever.
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A note from David Lederhouse, a reader:
Proves to me that "Infinite Monkey Theorem" is accurate.
If you put enough time into something, eventually random attempts will lead to success.
A note from Susan Schoonmaker, a reader:
The very first text message I received was from my 19-year-old son and it read- " The drought is broken!!" He has never known the Bills as a winning team and isn't really a Bills fan himself for that same reason. But he knows what a tried & true diehard Bills fan his mother is, so he knew how happy I'd be!
I'm ready for more - come on Sunday!!! LET'S GO BUFFALO!!
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A note from Mike Bowers, a reader:
There is joy in Mudville! My wife and I had a full house for the game. My daughter and her family, including two grandkids (two-years-old and five months). A young captain in the Army, his wife and one-year-old son. Last Christmas he was deployed in a bad place. His parents joined us.
Eleven people, munching beef on weck, playing with kids and constantly circling the table for goodies at every commercial.
The lost onside kick caused groans and dire predictions. It's the Bills..... yes, it's the Dolphins third string QB. Yes their two best running backs were kicked out. Yes, we have a good defense ..... but it's the Bills. We'll settle for 8-8 with #95, our favorite Bill having scored a touchdown. Then the second "immaculate interception" and the living room erupted.
Amazing. After 14 years of season tickets I canceled this year, realizing this grandparenting thing was lots of fun but took lots of time.
So there we sat, of all things watching the Bungals ... yes, the Bungals. Our future on the Bungals. Surrounded by toy trains and diapers and left over Christmas cookies .... a two-year-old wrestling at every commercial .... the Bungals come through on the road .... the Red Rifle is on target on FOURTH DOWN!!!
My living room erupted. Grown men hugged. One grown man had tears in his eyes.
I immediately went to my fireworks stash. All that was left were bottle rockets and sparklers but outside we went. My grandson, held by his dad, experienced the celebration .... right there in the driveway .... 0 degrees ... clear sky .... our screams echoing through the neighborhood.
Back inside to phone calls and text messages from around the nation.
A friend texted the next day, "I had a dream last night the Bills made the playoffs."
This Sunday I'll be on a mission trip in Cambodia. If there is a sports bar carrying the game I will be watching .... but it will be early Monday morning. I'll have trouble finding beef on weck, but you can bet I'll find a way to watch.
One more conundrum .... Jason Rebovich is a graduate of Clarence High School and was an assistant defensive line coach for the Bills the last three years. He is now coaching for Jacksonville. He finally made the playoffs and so did his beloved Bills. What a dilemma for Jason and his family.
Happy New Year!
Mudville.........errrrr Clarence Center
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A note from David Snyder, a reader:
Dear Mr. Kirst,
One of my subscribed Facebook pages is titled "I Hate Sports."
My attitude toward Bills fever is a mixture of indifference and contempt.
Karl Marx got it wrong. Athletics (I'm using the word in singular mode), especially professional, is the opiate of the people. Someone else I know described professional sports to be America's undeclared state religion. I agree.
One would think that Super Bowl wins and other such events will cure all the social and economic problems of Buffalo and Western New York. Possibly diverting the tax dollars that go to these fully "for profit" institutions would help, but I'm not betting on seeing that happen.
You may publish this with my name, but don't be surprised if there isn't a follow up story about a howling tailgate mob, with torches and Molotov cocktails, storming my home to destroy it and drive me out of the region, if not the country!
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A note from Kathleen Murray, a reader:
My mother turned 84 November 29th. She lives for Bills football. Literally. She used to go to the games but these days she goes to the local tavern to join her friends in cheering on the Bills and enjoying a half time spread. She's had a rough couple of past years health wise but once football season starts she perks up just fine. She is as devout a fan as they come and come hell or high water she will be watching the Bills every Sunday decked out in all her Bills finery. Thanks, Bills, for making my Mom's year on Sunday!
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A note from retired Rep. John J. LaFalce, former member of Congress:
Kyle Williams for President, Andy Dalton for Vice President.
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A note from Loretta Kaminsky, a reader:
My name is Loretta Kaminsky, I am 81-years-old, and have been a loyal Bills Fan since '69. I remember the old Rock Pile, sitting through 4 Super Bowls, crying as we lost, in four strange cities, and cheering every game through rain, and yes, snow. My husband and son and granddaughter all joined in. I lost my husband 4 years ago,and my son now lives in Philadelphia with 4 crazy Bills sons. When the Bengals did that amazing thing for us, my phone went crazy with texts from my grandchildren, saying "THE DROUGHT IS OVER!!!!!! I KNOW my husband Allan is in Heaven jumping up and down as he did so many times, and sending wining vibes to our wonderful Bills. Only time will tell the outcome, but for now we can smile and look forward to Sunday!
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A note from Amanda Blake, a reader:
I'm sure we all have the sad stories and the biggest fan stories to tell .... This one is for my mom and dad who made me the diehard fan I am today. Miss them both and wish they where both here today to cheer them on one more time.
We made it. That's all that matters.
Amanda Blake, Lackawanna
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A note from Barbara Petranto, a reader:
It was really so cool. My grandson Cole called my husband Mike to share the news about the win in case Papa missed it. So sweet.
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A note from James Ginal, a reader:
Hello, Sean, my name is James Ginal, and I was beyond excited to see that you are letting the fans have their voice heard in this, so here goes:
You want to know what it means to me? I think that would be hard to quantify. I would liken it to some kind of Biblical event where the fans are liberated. I think it is apt. Think: "And on the seventh day, the 365th of the year, God banished the drought to hell. But first, he lifted the drought off the shoulders of the fans who were there like the burden it was, gave it to them, and the fans proceeded to smash it to pieces. And the burden was gone, never to return again."
I'm now an out-of-towner, but I'm a Buffalo native. I grew up going to the games. People in the Midwest don't understand what it's like to be a Bills fan. They have no idea what it's like to put your heart and soul into a team this bad. They don't understand why just making the playoffs is so important. It's important because I feel liberated now. Of course I want the Bills to win the Super Bowl, but I feel LIBERATED now. No more drought talk. It's over, done with. I still have to hear all the other jokes, but the Bills are at least RELEVANT now.
The Bills are going to be playing a game in January, and the best part about it is I get to watch it with my dad on his 58th birthday, who is a diehard who has been going to games since the Rockpile. A 15-year season ticket holder. He was at all three AFC Championship games at Rich. He was at the miracle comeback and stayed the entire time (I can vouch for that). We all collapsed on the couch in celebration when Christie made the field goal to put us up in Nashville before the event that is never to be spoken about again happened. It was the day before his 40th birthday. I was 16. Now, we get a redo.
Let's make it count.
I love this team more than I should, and I can't wait for Sunday. Go Bills.
James Ginal, Omaha, Nebraska by way of Angola, New York
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A note from Matt, a reader:
I grew up in south NY state, then moved to north NJ. My grandparents live in western NY, my Mom's parents. I didn't see them much and I also didn't grow up with Sunday ticket; I'm 33 yrs old.
I lived for Prime Time with Chris Berman and newspaper clippings my grandparents sent. I learned early to stick by my team, proud to even go to the Super bowl. The newspaper clippings came often and in piles then. Then slowly, it stopped, winning stopped. Then in 1999 and beyond, you coped, learning patience but excited for a Bills win. I would call my grandparents and we would chat about the game. Just an excuse to say hello, the Bills were a great excuse.
Eventually rooting for the team became tragic. Rex Ryan really snuffed out a lot of hope. Phone calls came less often. Interest in going to games dwindled (shacking up in WNY to break up a 7 hour drive). Eventually Buffalo was nothing to talk about, it became a quasi-sore subject. My grandmother had suffered from Parkinson's for a few years so my grandfather did all the talking and would tease grandma just to get a rise out of her.
Grandpa died in spring. Now I wish I had called more, when they (Buffalo) were losing. Now I wish I could call because they're winning again. I just balled my eyes out writing that much, I'm losing some composure, sorry. Buffalo winning feels like the celebration of life my grandfather always wanted, instead of a somber eulogy. Buffalo winning gives more meaning to my memories. I know it's just a game but when you live so far from family and you share one love, you invest in it. I did.
Sorry, I won't proof read this. I just can't handle it.
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A note from Jack Vance, a reader:
My dad was a Bills fan from the day Ralph Wilson Jr. purchased and founded the team. My two brothers and two sisters, spread out between four decades, were all raised to be Bills fans.
Our neighbor was Elijah Pitts (former assistant coach for the Bills) and Robert Smith (longtime photographer for the Bills). From day 1, I had no choice but to be a Bills fan because it ran in my blood and community. He raised us just like the morals Buffalo is all raised on, hard work, loyalty, and family first. All of us siblings are as close as it gets and one of the things that connects us all is the Buffalo Bills.
I am the youngest out of all of the siblings and was the only one who missed out on the Super Bowls being born in 1995 and really don’t remember the last playoff game. I have had my own season ticket since 2000 and have never seen a playoff game with the Bills in it. We continued to go to almost every single home game since 2000. Whether it was be Stevie Johnson dropping that deep ball against the Steelers, Leodis McKelvin fumbling against the the Patriots on prime time, or all the different QB and coaching combinations we have had isn’t that what Buffalo is all about? No matter how tough it gets we bounce back and continue to fight.
Almost three years ago, our dad passed and one of the things I always wanted to do was go to a Bills playoff game with him like my siblings. Watching the Bills win this past Sunday, seeing Nick O’Leary score the first Td of the game and then seeing legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, I had a great feeling because he was one of my dad's favorite golfers (being a big fan of playing golf). I had a good feeling that it was a sign from our dad that today was going to be a good day.
I was watching with my best friend, mom, stepdad, brother, sister, brother-in-law, and my three nephews. When the Bengals scored that touchdown to win the game we couldn’t believe it. We all were jumping for joy, all the siblings opened up a bottle of champagne, and we all enjoyed the moment and the feeling of all the tough times were all worth it. As Coach McDermott says, “Trust the Process."
What this win means to us is that no matter how tough it gets, no matter how stacked the odds are against you, no matter if no one else believes you can do it ... you can do it. Even though the lesson was a little longer then we wanted it to be, it made this city and it’s fans tougher. If I could I would say 'Thank you' to the owners, coaches, and players for creating a moment that we will never forget.
A special thank you to Kyle Williams for sticking with us and I wouldn’t want anyone else representing the city of Buffalo.
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A note from Michael Tiso, a reader:
My dad and I have had Bills season tickets for 19 years, one season before the drought began. Since then, I have finished high school, college, med school, and residency, have lived in three states, seven addresses, and have a 20-month-old baby. I now live in Ohio and, similarly, have had a couple missed chances to move back to Buffalo in recent years. I have renewed confidence that this too will take place in the coming future.
Michael Tiso, Columbus, OH
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A note from Greg Jack, a reader:
I have been watching the Bills as a fan in earnest since the mid sixties. It it just a natural thing when you grow up in the Buffalo area. I moved and have lived Wisconsin for 25 years now. Not missing too many games using the NFL Package even during the lean times. I have managed to survive with people cheering enthusiastically the storied franchise here, people who found it difficult to understand my frustrations and devotion to the Bills. Losers, of course, of four straight Super Bowls.
In this time, the most recent period of success ranged from 1993–present, where the franchise has reached the playoffs 17 times, including three Super Bowl appearances, winning two in 1996 and 2010. A time they went from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, while Bills went through over 15 after Jim Kelly. And in a strange switch of fates, I find myself crazed over the Bills ending the drought, and the Packer fans, staring at the TV this weekend watching other teams this year.
I return to work tomorrow with with a little extra spring in my step. Fresh off the best weekend a Bills fan could have. That and watching the Badgers silence the loud mouth “TO chain gang,”also from Miami. I will respect the Packer fans, 'cause I have been there for too many years. I hope they can respect me an understand the grin on my face for the rest of the week.
Thanks Bills, I can finally talk with my friends and work personnel about football in a January. Go Bills!!
A note from Doug Clinton, a reader:
I still remember watching their last playoff game. I still say that was a forward pass. I really am not excited as I thought I would be. They backed in, and possibly lost their best offense player.
I loved seeing Kyle Williams run the ball in for a TD. That was awesome! I am happy Kyle finally gets to play in a post-season game. He deserves the opportunity.
I thought this team would be lucky to win 3 or 4 games and that was before all the trades. Can they win next week? Maybe they can. I will certainly be rooting for them. Can they win the week after in New England? I doubt it but how amazing would that be.
I have been a fan since I moved to Youngstown back in '77. I just hope Pegula gives this coaching staff and GM the full four years to get this team going. Changing every few years, well, we have seen how well that works. Go Bills!
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A note from Nick Rein, a reader:
I’d like to start with a thank you. That article reminds me of every thought, every memory I’ve had all my life with the Bills. My aunt (your cousin) Jen tagged me in your post and I’m glad she did. All my life growing up my dad and uncles, including Jen's husband Darrell, were the biggest Bills fans i know.
My late Godfather/uncle was the reason i bleed blue and red. He took me to many games growing up. I can still picture Jim, Thurman, Bruce and Andre tearing the league up. I don’t have a lot of memories from when I was a child, but what i do remember is our Bills. When we laid my uncle to rest, he wore a Jim Kelly jersey and the 6 of us who carried him to his final resting place were also wearing Bills gear. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Fortunately for myself, I was born into the most loyal fan base in the world. There aren’t many teams fans who would stick out 17 years. A lot of heartbreak, a lot of anguish and frustration. But we hung on for dear life and finally after a long wait we’re there.
After shaking all day inside and out having a slim chance to make the playoffs, Cincinnati came back and won the game, I literally dropped to my knees and cried like a baby. I couldn’t believe it. Over the 17 years the luck always went the other way.
To many “fans” around the league, they call it just a game. To me and many other Bills fans it’s more than that. To me it’s amazing memories with even more amazing people. I will be at the game Sunday and I’m sure my uncle will be right there next to me rooting our team on. GO BILLS!!!! #billsmafia
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A note from Max Kalnitz, a reader:
Dear Mr. Kirst
I saw your article asking for what the Bills in the playoffs means to readers, and i had to answer and share this with you. I’m a journalism student at UB currently spending some time with family in Germany before studying abroad in Berlin. I’m currently 20 years old, too young to remember the last time the Bills were in the playoffs.
Ever since I was a child my mom and I watched every Bills game together, and at the end of every season she gave me “the sigh” and explained “you just don’t understand Max. Back when Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas played, the energy in Buffalo was unbelievable.” And every year I said “oh yeah mom, I’m sure it was crazy” not knowing what I had missed out on.
Sunday night my cousin and I (one year older and also a Bills fan) stood at our NYE party constantly refreshing google to check the evening’s scores. As our night was finishing we checked again. The Bills won. We switched to the Bengals game ... and they won. In disbelief we closed the app and refreshed the page. After seeing that the Bills were going to be in the playoffs we jumped up and down, hugged each other, maybe exchanged a few expletives in disbelief and cheered over and over again that the Bills were IN.
I asked my cousin’s friend to turn on his hot spot for one second since I didn’t have cell service and I had to text my mom, who I’m sure was crying for joy that her Bills were finally back in business. For me, the Bills in the playoffs is my mom’s dream finally coming true again. It’s being able to be hours away in another country, who play a completely different kind of football, and still celebrate with fans just as I do in Buffalo. No words can describe the feeling of happiness and uncontrollable tears because of the Bills.
Thanks for such a touching story, and I can’t wait to see the Bills in action this weekend. I’ll be routing them on with some fellow students.
Max Kalnitz, Senior Features Editor, The Spectrum
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A note from Margaret Anderson, a reader:
I have loved this team since I attended my first game in the old Rockpile. When Rich Stadium was built, I soon found myself as a season ticket-holder attending with friends and my dad. My husband and I continue attending to this day.
As a longtime Bills fan, I’ve known many highs (defeating Raiders 51-3) and lows (2-14 seasons). There is nothing like the thrill of a winning season, defeating a long-time nemesis (Miami back then), hosting a playoff game and ultimately playing in the Super Bowl! But that was so many years ago and we haven’t had a playoff berth in 17 years, until a magical New Year’s Eve in 2017.
There have been so many fan favorites over the years but seeing Shady go down early hurt. This team showed they played together and for each other. It may have been another cardiac finish, but we are well seasoned to handle the roller coaster of emotions.
When my daughters were little, we made our basement into a Bills room. They got a kick out of the party atmosphere as we had friends come over to watch away games and had great food and snacks. Fast forward to their adult lives and they know the game of football and love the Bills as much as I do. Together, we’ve rooted for our team in Buffalo and 'represented' at away games. Our Bills flag waves proudly throughout the season.
During the season we text each other about plays, refs, etc. Yesterday after seeing Kim Pegula pacing, I texted my girls to say, “Kim Pegula watches games like we do!” At a home game, I can stand, yell and get rid of all my energy. At home, I need to do the same!
I experienced such joy yesterday watching Kyle Williams score and the team celebrating afterwards! That was something special. Like others before him, Kyle is a long-tenured, hard-working, shining example of what the Buffalo region is all about. We love him and all those who have played their hearts out for us. Getting the win in Miami was doing our part in the playoff scenario.
When Tyler Boyd caught that pass and ran it in for a TD, my heart was racing and I was jumping up and down. With tears in my eyes I reached over, high-fived and hugged my husband (my voice of reason) who quickly reminded me there was still time on the clock. Bills fans have been here before, the sinking pit in the stomach, and, like Kim Pegula, pacing. But the heavens were smiling down on us and our frustration was lifted as it became clear the Ravens would NOT deny us!
Last night as I listened to the post-game show, I was completely giddy. That’s what I want everyone to understand; how special playing in the postseason is! I love hearing the excitement in people’s voices as they called in during the post-game show. I loved watching the news over and over and with social media, the videos of all the celebrations.
Now my girls have had that thrill too!
So proud and very thankful that a new generation of fans get to share in these special moments. It gives me such hope for the future! Let me tell you, there is NOTHING like a home playoff game. The energy in the air is electric and having had a taste of the post season, I’m betting our players will want to return. May this be the start of another run of winning seasons! Go BILLS!!
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A note from Marty McMahon, a reader:
Born & raised in Blasdell, graduated from Orchard Park high school. I've lived in the Southwest courtesy of the U.S. Air Force then moved to the Northwest over 20 years ago. Ironically, this was my first time in 22 yrs not subscribing to DirectTV Sunday ticket. It was not because I'd given up on the Bills, it was because of my frustration with the NFL, Patriots' annoying dominance, poor officiating and ineffective application of the use of replay.
Yesterday was incredible in that something happened, that all these years of doubt has allowed such level of cynicism to creep in that I was just assuming Lucy would pull the figurative football back one more time from Ol' Charlie Brown as has happened so many times in the past.
My phone blew up with congratulatory texts and banter between my son and I texting in disbelief as the Cincy game went to the wire. It was a reminder that sometimes the black cloud does not actually park itself stationery over your house as it sometimes seems as a Buffalo fan.
I know this team is not ready or equipped for a deep run in the postseason but just getting into the dance has shed the 800-pound gorilla off the backs off a team and the entire fanbase that supports it. That fan base extends a lot farther geographically than some Bills backers might realize. We are everywhere!
Battle Ground, Washington
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A note from Shawn Isaacs, a reader:
The Buffalo Bills are the heart of the city. I was about 4 years old when the Bills went to their first Super Bowl. The city was electric heading into each game. Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Bruce Smith, Daryl Talley, Don Bebe, Steve Tasker, Steve Christie... and more. You knew them all. Each were household names.
I remember my dad and I talking to cab drivers, coming home from the Broadway Market, listening to the game on the radio, getting Sunday papers for those Buffalo News posters that used to say things like Squish The Fish, and my family uniting around the success of the team, watching the Super Bowls together.
It’s an emotional thing, for Bills fans to be able to share these moments, not only with each other, but with our families. We, with the team, have hit rock bottom, we’ve suffered through almost two decades of disappointment, but we’ve been there every step of the way, grinding, attending games, buying merchandise, showing love, criticizing, and defending our team from any non-fan, holding out hope that one day, if we keep at it, if we make smarter moves, we’ll see success.
It’s been a long drought. Bills fans have waited an entire generation for this moment. For those of us that remember the glory of the 90s, there is a sweet, somber nostalgia evoked when we hear the Bills and Playoffs in the same sentence. It not only brings back memories of good times, but also of loved ones no longer here, that we wish could revel in this moment with as much joy. A grandfather. An uncle. A father. A mother.
You were there. You know how you reacted. You saw the videos of how others reacted in kind. There was a wave of electric energy that surged through us all... all of us connected to this team, when we all saw the Bengals score that touchdown... because to us, this is about something more than just football. This is our city. This is our heart. This is our family. It is a diehard passion we all share. We are the underdog story. And we’re back! No matter what happens Sunday, we ended the drought this year, and that is historic. Can you imagine our reaction if we win again??
We see you, Buffalo Bills, and we’ll be there with you this Sunday, everywhere around the world, cheering our heads off as we root for the home team on national TV, in the post season, for the first time in 17 years. We’re ready. Are you?
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A note from John Francis Rosenburg, a reader:
Joy! The thrill of victory!
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A note from Tracey Baron, a reader:
My dad was the Bills' number one fan. He actually was a PR rep for Thurman, Andre, Bruce and others. We were literally raised on the Bills. I carried my passion for the team over and took a job at a men's hair salon full of memorabilia and local support for the team. My dad passed away in September five weeks after being diagnosed with stage four cancer. I said then we would make it this year; he was watching over the Bills, taking them to the playoffs.
We will be taking our first vacation in six years driving down to the game. I bought my tickets this morning. We will be there in honor of his memory. #gobills #f@ckcancer #jacksonvilleorbust
A note from Jason Brusso, a reader:
Good for now but we will see what happens this week.
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A note from Eric Steverson, a reader:
It as meaningful to me as any Bills achievement such as making the 1st super bowl in 1991. I have been following them since 1965 which has been painful at times. Ending this 17/18 year playoff drought is so gratifying. I can hardly believe it happened, but it did!!
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A note from Joe Beilein, a reader:
Being from Niagara County, I obviously was a misplaced Bills fan living in St Louis. I raised my kids Jill and Joe Jr., for better or worse, as Bills fans. As youngsters they rode the super bowl roller coaster years. My daughter cried for me at Super Bowl parties, as it is not a good look for an adult man to cry in front of peers.
My son as a college freshman and I met my cousin Bill Niland at the last playoff game in Nashville. We drove the 5-hours back to St Louis in stunned silence. My son now lives in Hamburg NY and is married to a Buffalo girl and a big Bills fan. He is now a college professor.
A lot has changed since that game.Every year since then I have shared texts, emails, phone calls with my kids, family ( including Coach Beilein) and friends (including John Murphy) that THIS year (name any of the 17) we would make the playoffs again!!!! It was not a prediction, it was only hope, but as the saying goes hope is a good thing and a good thing never dies!!
Sunday night all those texts - emails - phone calls and shared videos were spectacular!!! Here's to all the families that had hope and joined ours on Sunday night in grand fashion!!!
Best Regards - Joe
A note from Lynette Wilson, a reader:
I was literally in tears. It's tough being a Bills fan, but we do it with pride anyways through all the mockery. Through nobody but us fans on the Bills side. We live the many losses with our team and the key phrase is there's always next year. We love our Buffalo Bills no matter what. It was a great New Year's only because my beloved Bills are going to the playoffs. Sad moment, my brothers who both passed in 2012 are watching from heaven instead of living it. We have never won a Super Bowl; that would be the ultimate day!!!!
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A note from George Grover, a reader:
I lived in Fredonia, NY, temporary summer home of the Bills for many years ... worked most of them ... moved to Vegas ... watched the Bills games in the casino ... everybody cheering for the point spread ... moved to Charlottesville, VA ... Redskin Country ... moved to Largo, Florida ... Tampa Bay Bucs Country ... Still proudly wear my Bills t-shirts every Sunday of football season ... yesterday was my Bills sweatshirt weather!!!
Florida is a one-DOT-plate State .... leaving plenty of room for my Bills plate on the front..
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A note from Matthew Moravec, old friend and soulful Buffalonian:
'Miraculous!" was the only and precise word I managed to text seconds afterward ...
...and Buffalo is not too shabby of a Music City, anyhow!
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A note from Maureen Harding, a reader:
My brother and his son Scott Harding Vincent Harding and my nephew Billy G were in Miami for the game. Here's their account:
"OMG what a crazy time at that game! Complete emotional roller coaster!!!! .... We’re loving life at the half thinking we got this, the Bengals are up two scores then the Ravens get that td before the half and we’re like “wth”? Then the Ravens go up and Miami almost comes back then we close it out and we’re trying to finish watching the Ravens game on the TV in the suite and then the other TVs turn off automatically and we’re like “wtf” !
So then everyone else leaves the suite and Billy, Vinny and I are left practically (alone) in the whole stadium and Billy pulls the Ravens game up on his phone and we’re watching the Bengals last ditch drive and it’s 4th and twelve and Billy and I are saying “it’s over” and the three of us huddled together and literally prayed to God passionately and then that play to Boyd and we all look at each other and start hugging and yelling and jumping in the suite! And we were ecstatic and then Billy’s phone buffers at the Ravens fourth down play and we’re like “what happened?” And then he got it back and we saw them come up short and we started screaming!
All the Bills fans were screaming on the way out! It was awesome! We were so discombobulated with what was going on and the craziness and chest bumping and high fiving other Bills fans that we walked out of the stadium and went the wrong way and walked around the whole stadium looking for our car! lmao! Well worth it, though, what a day and night and New Year's that I’ll never forget!"
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A note from Jay Ziehm, a reader, all caps:
I NEVER GAVE UP ON THEM FROM GAME 1. THEY WILL BEAT JACKSONVILLE. PENCIL IT IN.
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A note from Mike Christel, a reader:
Dear Sean Kirst,
I'm a lifelong Bills fan, growing up in Cheektowaga but residing in Pittsburgh since 1986. I've had Bills season tickets and keep coming back for home games each year with friends and family (2 this fall). I took my 10-year-old son Jim to two NFL games in one day on Sept. 3, 2000 (Steelers in Pittsburgh and Bills at the Ralph) and asked him to pick his favorite team to fully back. He chose "Bills!" and thus began a drought of epic proportions, until yesterday.
My son Jim was traveling with his wife and stuck in the airport in Istanbul, Turkey, watching the Bills game and then Ravens game in the wee morning hours on his phone. My 24-year-old daughter Steph, also avid Bills fan, was visiting a friend in NYC and at Times Square and texting back to me as well. Both kids insisted the Bills WILL WIN and the Bengals will help. I had my doubts, conditioned by all that's happened since Jim declared Bills allegiance. Jim and I were at that Cowboys home loss, Steph and I at the Steelers overtime dropped-catch-and-loss, and the painful memories of dozens of other home game frustrations from the drought years came back to haunt me. Then, the Bengals scored, and then the Ravens didn't and the Bills got the help they needed.
My son called in from Istanbul with the words "That was the most amazing game I've seen. I started yelling and woke up the other flyers here. I'm just so happy right now!" Steph texted in equal jubilation. This had been an amazing day. Perhaps these playoffs will have more Bills gifts for the devoted fan base, spread far and wide.
Mike Christel, BN Blitz subscriber and Bills fan living in Steeler country, with my office painted Bills blue and red with tailgate pictures from the past decade. Hope to see more Bills success!
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A note from Ryan in Seattle:
Hi, emailing you in response to the article on Buffalo News and the fandemonium that occurred on New Year’s Eve yesterday.
It's crazy to think that seeing all the joy and excitement from greeting the team at the airport last night to all the social media madness, etc., from an outsider’s perspective you’d think the day had finally come that we just won the Super Bowl!!
That’s what its like to be among the Bills faithful. Success hardly happens in WNY. When it does, it's like 'Victory in Europe or Japan Day' in 1945.
I was 10-years-old when Wide Right happened and it seems Buffalo hasn’t been the same since. Twenty years later I moved to Seattle, the Seahawks got 'Beast Mode' from the Bills and won their first SB. Not to say I stopped being a Buffalo devotee - they are always on your mind when you move away from WNY - it's just that not a lot has changed in almost 20 years other than Pegula literally saving the city and WNY when it needed it the most.
I was 19 when the Music City Miracle occurred and here we are almost 18 years later back in the playoffs. It's hard to fathom if you ask anyone. We are the true spirit and definition of the underdog. I don’t think going all the way, which has to happen eventually, will be any greater when it comes from Buffalo. Our story is a rarity throughout pro sports history. So much heartbreak and loss...
I WILL BE WATCHING NEXT WEEK AS WE TAKE ON THE JAGS AND HOPEFULLY GET ANOTHER W!!
Ryan in Seattle
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A note from Janice Childs, a reader:
Al Davidson. Tim Russert. Ralph Wilson. My dad. My mom. Me. My friends. My fellow Bills fans. For every Bills player who bled their heart and soul into this team. That's who this is for!
Al Davidson was our friend. He sat in those stands. We believed together. We cheered together. He painted his face every game red, white, and blue. He made you smile and now he is smiling in heaven .... cheering with us all right now.
This is for my dad and mom. Diehard Bills fans like me. We have had season tickets since 1994. We lived through the glory years. The comeback was my 17th birthday and yes, we stayed. We've been there through thick and thin watching and waiting every Sunday hoping and praying that this would be the year and here it is .... the Bills are our lives and our lives just got a little brighter this new year.
Let's go Buffalo .... nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.
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A note from Chuck Unsworth of the Alaska Bills Backers:
We have been meeting at the Peanut farm since the year of the Music City ... Meh. Never seen a playoff game at the farm. Been the joke of many jokes of course. The Farm loves us because, well, we are Bills fans. We show up. Every week. Every year. So yesterday was special. I'm guessing 99% of the fans in the bar were actually rooting for us as we watched the Bengals clock count down. Then it happened. The place erupted. The high 5's. Hugs. Tears Shock. I'm 52 years old. Born breed raised a Bills and Sabres fan. I will tell you this. It was special. So the Anchorage Alaska Bills Backers will be out in force next sunday at the Farm.
Loving the Bills
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A note from Peg Bodie, a reader:
Sooo excited!!!! I'm a Bills fan now living in NC and can't stand to watch the Panthers and Fig Newton dominate the tv time each Sunday ... GO BILLS!!!!!!
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A note from William Saunders, a reader:
My quick story:
I grew up in the 70s and remember playing in the yard, listening on a radio to the call as the Bills beat the Dolphins for the first time in ten years. I remember going to the games in high school when only 30k people showed up for the teams that only won 3 games.
I moved away from Buffalo in 1988 and the Bills proceeded to get good. We were in downstate NY - about a 6-hour drive to Buffalo. I still maintained season tickets and came back whenever I could to go to the games ... especially the playoff games. There was no greater feeling for a lifelong fan who had seen a lot of tough times on the field.
I moved back to Buffalo in 1993, and the Bills haven't done much since. My son was also born that year.
This year, my wife and I retired and we moved away again - to Wilmington N.C. Plan for the Bills to get relevant again for a few years! You're welcome, Buffalo!
My son must know how I felt all those years, and I can't wait for him to have that great feeling when his team is finally good. Oh, and we just bought our tickets to the game in Jacksonville. After all, it's only a 6-hour drive from here!
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A note from Debra Kroening, a reader:
Watching the Bills game on TV while monitoring the Ravens on my phone. Would not believe it was real until the Ravens walked off the field.
The memories I have of the glory years (superbowl years) I love to talk about because they were the best.
Wherever you went you saw Bills colors and I mean everywhere. Every business had a Bills sign posted. Complete strangers would start conversations with, "How about those Bills!" The city, region, and people felt indivisible. The feeling was like what I remember as a 5 year old child, realizing that it was Christmas eve and Santa was coming soon. The wonderment and joy. That is what the community walked around experiencing during those playoff years.
When the Bills did lose a game the next day, Monday was horrible. Everyone was miserable. Thankfully, during that time, they rarely lost.
I don't really remember the 1999 season. My kids were young and I was a busy mom. The Super Bowl years seemed long ago.
Now I can remember that playoff feeling like it was yesterday.
Thank you for letting me share.
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A note from Stefan Mychajliw, Erie County comptroller:
My dad was a typewriter repairman. My mom worked numerous blue collar jobs to make ends meet: factory worker, overnight shift cleaning at a nursing home and even a school bus aide. We didn’t have much from a purely material perspective. Seven kids. Two parents and one grandfather. In the same house smaller than most apartments folks rent. All cramped into a tiny, two bedroom house in an alley off Fillmore near William on Buffalo’s East Side. If we opened the window of our parents room we could touch the house next door.
Life was tough. We were incredibly poor but literally didn’t know it. I assumed everyone else used the oven to heat the house, and hung wet clothes over the stove burners because they didn’t have a dryer. I assumed USDA was a name brand like “Kraft” or “Velveeta.” Although I do miss eating government cheese and peanut butter. I can do without the powdered milk. We didn’t even have a phone. To call someone we had to go to our grandparents “front house” on the other side of the alley. That being said, Buffalo sports was always a great escape for us. We could disappear from our troubles and tough life for just a few hours, and it felt like heaven.
That’s why the Bills and Sabres mean so much to us. They united us. Rich and poor. East Side and Spaulding Lake. The Bills are the “great equalizer” in bringing our community together for one common goal: winning a Super Bowl. As a younger kid, I remember three things from watching games with my Tato (Father in Ukrainian) on TV. I was small enough to fit, curled up in a ball, right at the base of my old man’s legs when he stretched out on the couch.
The other two things: I was the remote control when he needed the channel changed and the waiter when the old man needed another beer. I cried like a baby when the Bills lost to the Chargers on the road in the early 80’s. He was on the couch again when we watched the first Super Bowl together, but I was in high school and threw a blanket on the living room carpet for that heart breaking loss.
My Dad and I watched the Redskins Super Bowl loss together at my brother Dan’s house in North Buffalo. We were left heartbroken and shocked at my sister Charlene’s house following the Music City Miracle. While we were dirt poor, there were even more amazing memories with my Dad when he was able to score cheap tickets from friendly Seneca-Babcock “street sellers.” For the politically incorrect: scalpers. Win or lose, and we mostly lost, the most memorable and greatest memory of times I spent with my Dad revolved around Bills and Sabres games.
We have a 12-year-old daughter Mia. It breaks my heart that I don’t have those types of Bills and Sabres memories with her, the same ones I shared with my Dad. He’s from the old country. An “OTB’er” from Ukraine. “Off The Boat” for those not familiar with being the child of immigrants. He’s a man of few words. For the many lulls in conversation, we can always bring up the last Bills game and talk for at least a few minutes about the last win or loss.
It’s a generational thing that’s been lost for almost two decades. That fire for the Bills, that passion for the Sabres, has been nonexistent for years and years. It saddens me that I don’t have those amazing, Bills related playoff memories with our daughter Mia. She very understandably, doesn’t understand how we scream like maniacs for every touchdown. How heartsick we are for every loss. She’s never, ever experienced a Bills playoff game.
As a father, I couldn’t understand why Mia seemed disinterested on Bills Sunday. She’s only known failure and mediocrity, at best. There’s never been a heightened awareness or anticipation for a playoff game, let alone the hope of reaching the Super Bowl. That’s what is so great about Bills playoff football. Any team can win, on “Any Given Sunday.” No matter our lot in life, blue collar or white collar, we all share that passion and glimmer of hope that the Bills can win the Super Bowl, one playoff win at a time. I finally get to share that fire with my daughter Mia.
I pray it’s not too late for her. Maybe she’ll share those same bonds I had with my Dad over the past Bills playoff games, whether they won or lost. I’m incredibly thankful to at least begin the first chapter of Bills playoff football with our daughter Mia. Let’s cross our fingers it’s just the beginning of many more playoff games to come.
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A note from Cathy Halsdorfer Osika, a reader:
Our family has waited a long time to see us in the playoffs again. We were there for the 4 Super Bowl loses but we still continued to believe that our Bills could get a championship. It’s been a long time but we will continue to support them. Sunshine, snow or subzero temps will not keep our fans away. We believe in the process.
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A note from Bruce Simon, a reader:
Growing up in Clinton, NY, I was mostly a Jets fan while my little brother was mostly a Giants fan, but we would support any NY football team in the playoffs. For the Bills' first of their Super Bowls, I was rooting for the Giants because of Joe Morris (short guy from SU!). But when I moved to the metro NY region for grad school, I needed/decided to assert my upstate NY roots, and became a Bills' fan for life. So of course I got a job in Fredonia in 1998 and have been a WNYer ever since.
Fast forwarding to last night, when I realized that I would be driving my wife and girls to a New Year's celebration on the Canadian side of the Falls, so would miss all the 4:25 games where everything would be decided. (New Year's is a huge holiday in Japan, so all the American husbands knew there would be no other option.) When our data connection cut out, we knew the Bills were up big and the Bengals holding their lead was our only path to the playoffs.
Fortunately, there was a television tuned to the Bills game at the restaurant, and one of the dads kept leaving the table to update the rest of us. Everybody else had grown up in the Buffalo area, so was ready to have the rug pulled out from under them. Lots of knowing/pained nods when Baltimore pulled ahead. And nobody believed the news of Cincy's TD. We all figured we were being pranked! None of our kids are old enough to have witnessed what's going to be happening in 2018 (the oldest among them is 16, maybe 15). Between the Snow Bowl and the playoffs, I'm holding out hope that even my girls become Bills fans!
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A note from Kylene Riley Marche, a reader:
I grew up a Bills fan in Fredonia, where each summer the Bills were just another part of your day and Marv Levy would stop to talk to everyone on his daily walk. I moved to Rochester after college, met and then married a lifelong Bills fan from Fairport. We've cheered the Bills on together year after year, the introduction music at our wedding reception was the Bills Shout song, and we've taught our 18 month old daughter to cheer when we say "Go Bills!"
Last night was the first time we've been able to look toward the playoffs together. We were watching with a small group of friends, but were really the only die-hard fans. We jumped, we cheered, we cried. Our daughter made the "touchdown" sign when we yelled "Go Bills!" It was magic.
A note from Paul Sorgule, a reader:
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FROM BUFFALO AND BE A BILLS FAN
You can be a fan of the game of football and cheer on your favorite team and you can claim the right to be biased about certain players who wear the uniform that reflects the support that you have for a team, but there is something different about being born and raised in a town that gave birth to a team.
Buffalo is, at its core, a blue-collar city. Those who live there and are part of generations past can talk about the days of steel plants and auto manufacturing, and of flour mills and Bell Aircraft. This is a city of cops and firefighters, of cooks and bakers, of assembly line workers, teachers and construction workers. In its heyday as a hub on the Erie Canal, Buffalo enjoyed prosperity and growth and in spite of its unpredictable weather was one of the great cities in America. Buffalo went through some hard times as steel plants closed and manufacturing no longer took center stage. It’s downtown began to shrivel up and neighborhoods showed signs of neglect. Buffalo was a city in decline as its population diminished when jobs started to dry up.
Still in their hearts, Buffalonians hung on to that spirit of a city as diverse as New York, as culturally strong as Boston or San Francisco, and as proud as any place on the planet. Buffalo’s museums, world class philharmonic orchestra, colleges, and social life centers were always there to show the country that this city had every intention of picking up the pieces. When times got tough, Buffalo people got tougher. When there was little to celebrate – the people of this city turned to a common thread, something that they could rally around, talk about, evaluate, and above all support – that something was and is the Buffalo Bills.
It may sound strange to put so much emphasis on a sports team, but Buffalo does. By all rights, a city with a population under ½ million shouldn’t have an NFL team and an NHL team, but Buffalo does, and they are supported. A season pass for the Bills or the Sabres is a prized possession, something that is handed down from generation to generation. Wind, rain, sleet, snow, and freezing temperatures will never slow down a Bills fan – these conditions invigorate them. Tailgating at a Bills game is not just a party it is a gathering of the tribe, an opportunity for the Bills family to unite on a Sunday (sometimes starting on a Saturday as cars and campers position for the best spot in the parking lots) and feel the energy of the larger team of fans. Many of these fans will even travel thousands of miles to support their team on the road bringing the Bills Experience to other cities.
During the wild Super Bowl run in the nineties, Buffalo was electric. Everybody had their Bills gear and wore it proudly. During the playoffs and Superbowl, entire businesses would make Bills apparel their official work uniform. Many even closed on Sundays to allow their staff to be part of the games. When we lost those difficult Superbowl games (four in a row) the people of Buffalo were disappointed, yet immensely proud of their team. They turned out by the thousands to say thanks to their teams and shout – “There’s always next year.” Making it to the Superbowl is an incredible challenge and Buffalo was there four years in a row. No other NFL team has ever done that. In 1999 we watched what was penned the Music City Miracle as the Titans executed a wild (controversial) series of laterals to take a playoff win away from Buffalo in the final seconds. Many Buffalonians will blame management for taking that game opportunity away from Doug Flutie who, as quarterback, brought us to that playoff scenario only to lose the starting job on that day, but regardless – Buffalo lost the game and had not been back to the post season since – until NOW.
Throughout 17 years of “Wait until next year”, numerous coaches, changes in quarterback, changes in ownership and rumors that the team would move – Buffalo fans remained strong and true. Sure, they would criticize the team, management, ownership, and specific players when another season went by without a post season, but next year spirits would be high and season ticket sales would soar. The Bills were part of Buffalo, part of every person who lived and worked in the Queen City.
Today the city celebrates a milestone, a monkey off the backs of everyone who lives in this place. We have endured the jokes about our weather and the team’s inability to get very far, but it only made us stronger. Last night after beating the odds (with loads of help from our friends in Cincinnati) in week 17, Buffalo fans jumped and cheered, smiled and cried, and hugged and high-fived everyone they could. Today, this city of 400 some thousand residents is smiling, today Buffalo is renewed again. The steel mills may be gone, but Buffalo is rising again as a center of technology, culture, and growth. Buffalo is back and will continue to be a force and a model of living – a place where neighbors clink glasses and celebrate their heritage and their Buffalo Bills.
We are in the playoffs and no matter how far they go in the next few weeks there is a feeling of real accomplishment and recognition. Our coach says we are building and just beginning, but it was Kyle Williams who said it most clearly – “There is nothing like a team”. I think he was not just referring to the players and staff of the Buffalo Bills, he was talking about the larger team of people who live in, were born in, and who know that their hearts will always be in their city.
Thanks to the Bills and to the Pegula family for keeping our team where it belongs. Buffalo Pride! GO BILLS!
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A note from Renee Marie Clare Muscato, a reader:
The Buffalo Bills will always have a place in my heart for hope. I was fortunate enough to go to the first three superbowl games and became a die hard fan. Win or lose I will always be a fan. This season was laced in wonder, hope, and something different. I feel the coach is on the right track, but the qb situation is questionable. The players need to continue to perform and play to match their incomes. They came through yesterday with the help of Cincinnati.
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A note from Tom Robinson, a reader:
It reminded me of the game Jim Kelly took it into the end zone in Miami on a do or die 4th down quarterback sneak that marked the start of the glory years, hopefully we are now pointed in that direction again!!!
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A note from Sharon Misnik, a reader:
We moved to Florida three years ago ... you can take me out of Buffalo, but you can't take the Bills out of my heart! I wish I could have been at the game, but I bet they could hear us in Miami, and Buffalo cheering them on! For the people who are saying that they don't deserve being in the playoffs, boo to you...I and my family are BILLievers!!!!
Keep going ... you made us proud! Congratulations to the team, the Pegulas, the coaching staff and the city of Buffalo ... I am there in spirit cheering you on! Wish I could be in Jacksonville, but you will hear me from Port St Lucie... Buffalo has the spirit, talking proud!
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A note from Mikki Tourot Tutterman, a reader:
It makes me and my family very happy! The young grandsons are so excited about the playoffs too!!
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A note from Michelle Farmer Botwinick, a reader:
Went to my first game as a kid with my family! So excited to see OJ play! Then went to college at UB. Got to take my family to a Monday night football game vs my brother's Dolphins. I then married a Giants fan from NYC who always made fun of my love of the Bills. Who's laughing now!
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A note from Paul Graves, a reader:
It can be summed up in a few words. "Do you 'Billieve' in miracles??!!!!" Cue Al Michaels, please ....
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A note from Bob Siuda, a reader:
I ran outside, shouting and whooping loud enough for my neighbors to hear through closed windows. In sub-zero temps. Because it was over. And I never let myself believe they could do it. Too many other things needed to fall into place that never fell into place. Until they did. So we hugged and yelled. Then the phone started to buzz with texts and calls. Friends who remember the glory days as clear as yesterday were speechless and happy and proud. So very proud. My son Andy was only a few months old when the Music City Miracle happened. Disappointment is all he has known. Until this year. A glorious New Year's Eve when the improbable became possible. I am savoring it. That Buffalo on the helmet means something to all of us. No matter how far we roam. Go Bills!
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A note from David Scott, a reader:
I don’t understand all the excitement. A 500 ball team makes a playoff game that will get get beaten badly in. Bills still learning how to run a play while the good teams learning to win!
A note from Michael Peters, a reader:
When the Bills clinched in 1988 and won the AFC east I remember my dad being super-excited, he was happy they finally did it. I didn’t understand why he was so happy at the time (I was 12). Now, 29 years later, my 8-year-old son got to see me screaming like a maniac with tears in my eyes. I thought when Baltimore went up that we were going to have another close-but-no-cigar moment. To see this team finally break through!!! My son gave me a big hug!
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A note from Mary Prusak Paterson, a reader:
There is a very big hurrah for the Bills. I have followed the Bills since the beginning even after moving away more than 50 years ago. I remember Kemp, Kelly and so many more. Keep going and you deserve all. Don't listen to the naysayers. They are jealous of the fans and their unwavering support of the Bills, no matter what the team does. GO BILLS. I'm behind you all the way, win, lose or draw.
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Via twitter, reader Bill Tooke says:
I can finally let go of that 1988 AFC Championship grudge.
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A note from Andrew Maxwell, a reader:
My take on what the Bills playoff moment means: While I have lived in Syracuse my entire life, my dad's family is from Buffalo and Buffalo and Syracuse share such a common story of being knocked down and counted out. This is a great lesson in perseverance. Knocked down and counted out for 17 years, and they got up and got it done. A blue collar town with blue collar fans that needed a pick-me-up. And there it is. LET’S GO BUFFALO!!! #
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A note from Russell Mielcarek, a reader:
Did you ever play golf with one of those guys that pars every hole and never has a bad shot?! .... that’s what New England fans feel like every year!
To Bills fans, it’s like breaking 90 after shooting in the 100’s all your life!!!
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A note from Bob Abraham Sr., a reader:
I hope that during the off season; the Bills work to improve their weaknesses and become a better team so they don’t need to get into the playoffs again from the back door; know what I mean ???
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A note from Mike Vaughn, a reader:
Does anyone remember the Lou Saban era, or the Chuck Noll era? Didn’t think so. Long time coming.
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A note from 'Lisa Johnson-McP', a reader:
It's bittersweet because my father passed away the day after Thanksgiving. He was a huge fan and taught his 5 daughters and a son about football. He was waiting for this ... he would have been so excited.
I like to think he's a guardian angel at the moment.
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A note from Jim Pittaro, a reader:
I live in Harrisburg, Pa. Every summer my buddy calls me and says "You know I can get luxury suite tix to any Flyers' game. What game do you want?" I check the schedule and tell him, "Sunday, Jan 6., 1 p.m. start against the Sabres!"
This now presents quite a dilemma. LET'S GO BUFFALO!!!
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A note from Steven K. Mojsovski, a reader:
It was so unexpected, the season was supposed to be a rebuilding year, 5-11, fight for a top 10 pick. But the ups and downs of those 3 straight blowout losses then the last 4 weeks, the drama in Miami, the delirious finish in Baltimore (Thank you St. Dalton for the prayers answered).
Yeah it means a lot. And I don’t get the salty comments, “Oh Buffalo didn’t deserve it, they suck, they’re lucky , they’ll lose badly to Jacksonville, etc.” So what? Throw a couple cubes of sugar in that bile and vinegar smoothie you drink 4x a day. I have just 1 thing to say: “Let’s go Buffalo!!!”
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A note from Heather Gee, a reader:
My 13 and 16 year old were thrilled since its the first time in their lives that Bills made it.
Sean Kirst is a columnist with The Buffalo News. Read more of his work in this archive.
Story topics: buffalo bills