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Bills fans everywhere weigh in on the end of The Drought

What does the end of the drought mean to you ...

Marv Levy: “Like all those other great Buffalo Bills fans, I am cheering for the team I will always revere. Congratulations to Sean McDermott, to his fine coaching staff, and to all the fine people in the Buffalo Bills organization for never giving up. OK, that’s it, guys. Now get back to work as you prepare to take the next giant step down there in Jacksonville. Play hard! Play clean! And play to win! And – Never Give Up.”
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Wolf Blitzer, anchor of CNN’s The Situation Room, grew up in Buffalo and graduated from UB: “As a lifelong Bills fan, I’m thrilled that we’re heading back to the playoffs. Growing up in Western New York is special in so many ways but our love for the Bills is truly extraordinary. It’s part of being a Buffalonian. Few other sports fans have gone through the highs that we Bills fans have – making it to four Super Bowls in a row — or the lows that we have — losing all four of them. Right now, I’m simply enjoying the moment, gearing up for what hopefully will be only the first of a series of playoff and championship games early in this new year. Let’s hope. #GoBills!”

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Luke Russert, former NBC News correspondent and son of longtime “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert: The drought was a massive burden carried not only by the Bills organization but also by the entire City of Buffalo. For better or worse, mid-size towns are often known publicly for their sports teams. The drought had the effect of turning Buffalo into this outpost in Western New York of humiliating, stomach-churning sports losses and overall futility. It seemed like every game, networks would put a graphic on the screen showing the Bills with the longest playoff drought in professional sports. This is what the country would too often see regarding Buffalo. It’s only since the Bills Mafia and the table antics have garnered a following on social media have the Bills become lovable losers – it used to be just losers. Making the playoffs has liberated the fan base and the city from the weight of 17 years of loss and being looked at as inept. It has allowed an entire generation to finally feel what it’s like to be relevant. I came of age with Kelly, Thomas, Reed and Smith so I’ve always known what the Bills could be; many young Bills fans know only the pain of the drought.  As my younger cousin Jesse Hughes from Orchard Park used to tell me, ‘The Bills haven’t mattered since my mom changed my diaper.’ No more, now the Bills matter and are on the rise. They have a decent chance of getting a playoff win and who knows, maybe they catch fire a have a puncher’s chance against the Patriots.”

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Del Reid, founder of 26 Shirts: “Dad, why do you keep watching their games when they lose all the time?” This was something my then 7-year-old daughter asked me in the midst of a 4-12 season back in 2010. I often joke that my display of fandom for the Bills to my children week in and week out, teaching them to cheer the team on with me
no matter the result, is in part a character-building exercise. To teach them to never give  up, to always keep the faith and believe there’s a better day coming. My reply to her question was simply, ‘This is our team. It’s what we do. Just wait until they starting winning like they used to, it feels so good . . . And the city, it comes alive. You’ll see someday.’
It’s been a tough 17 years. The team has flirted with the postseason only a handful of times, usually ‘out of the hunt’ as quickly as they’ve been labeled as being ‘in the hunt,’ it seems. But we’ve all stuck with it; and for those of us with kids, we’ve continued to pass that loyalty on to the next generation. That’s one thing about Bills fans, you can call us a lot of things, but fairweather isn’t one of them. So what does ending the drought to me? Proof.”

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Kevin Connors, ESPN SportsCenter host and Bills fanatic: “We’re in. The playoffs!! And as I write that I’m aware that it still hasn’t fully sunk in. We’ve worn the 17-year drought like both a scarlet letter and a badge of honor. It’s a curse that had become our identity. Something we endured like a long Buffalo winter ... but no more! I find myself guardedly excited. Almost afraid to allow myself this moment. I can’t wait for Sunday. I can’t wait to bury the ghost of that forward pass in Nashville. I can’t wait to watch Bills Playoff Football!”
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Maggie Gray, co-host of “The Afternoon Drive” on WFAN Radio in New York: “The feeling was pure joy. I was watching on TV with my husband (a fellow Bills fan from Rochester) and we were both so nervous that either the Bills would blow it against Miami or the Ravens would win, and then ... Andy Dalton converts on fourth and 12?! We played the Bills touchdown song and danced around our apartment. Then we popped the bottle of champagne we had been saving for midnight. It’s been so long since the Bills got a little help – and a little luck – it felt great to finally catch a break.”
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Mayor Byron W. Brown: “The excitement over the Buffalo Bills return to the playoffs exemplifies the spirit that has fueled our city’s resurgence. Just moments before I was sworn in for my fourth term, I was energized and inspired by the Bills win over Miami, and the assist we received from the Cincinnati Bengals. To be able to ring in the New Year with all of Team City Hall and yet another reason to ‘Billieve’ was unforgettable. Thank you Buffalo Bills ... On to Jacksonville ... Let’s Go Buffalo!”

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Marc Stein, NBA writer for the New York Times who grew up in Olean: “I think I’ve enjoyed the reaction even more than the achievement. Seeing all the outbursts of fan joy and then the whole Andy Dalton movement ... man. How much do Western New Yorkers love their team?”
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Breyon Harris, co-founder of Bills Mafia: “What ending the drought means to me is that we’re no longer the laughingstock of the league. I think what’s most important to me is that the city and the great people of the city and the great people that are Bills fans finally get in the spotlight. Bills fans are the most passionate and compassionate people on Earth and the world finally gets to see just how great we really are. I think that’s what people think about most of all. In this city, these people, these fans, deserve this. We deserve a winning program. We deserve a championship. We deserve to hold our heads high as we walk around with our Bills gear on. It means our crazy loyalty that was shown to a losing franchise for 17 years is now validated.”
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Eric Byrnes, MLB Network analyst, former major leaguer and Bills fan: “After watching Jordan Poyer seal the victory in Miami with the pick, I immediately turned to the Ravens game. I explained to my three young kids that the team with the stripes on their helmets need to score a touchdown and the Bills will go to the playoffs for the first time in 18 years ... When it was fourth-and-12 and it seemed like a lost cause, my 6-year-old said, ‘They are going to do it, Daddy’... Pandemonium then took over the Byrnes household as the next generation of Buffalo Bills fans were officially born.”

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Ryan Nobles, CNN Washington correspondent: “The way that they ended the drought still feels like a dream. As Bills fans, we’re so used to feeling like we’ve been repeatedly punched in the gut over the years. But despite that, I never gave up on my team. None of us did. It’s that resiliency that makes me so proud to be from Western New York.”
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Gregg Easterbrook, Tuesday Morning Quarterback columnist for the Weekly Standard and a Kenmore native: “Central Park in New York City is now safe after dark, the Bills are in the playoffs –
next you’ll be telling me Donald Trump is president!”
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Jeffrey Gundlach, philanthropist: The Bills seem to succeed when the team identity syncs with the character of the City of Buffalo. Coach McD understands that connection. The. Drought. Is. Over! The Bills are back! Go Bills!!!
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Anita West, Buffalo DJ: “The excitement brings back memories of the ‘old’ Buffalo and my early days at 97 Rock. Add to that the feeling of pride that this is all in step with the ‘new’ Buffalo. Sunday can’t come quickly enough!”
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Charlie the Butcher: “It makes me happy to see all the smiling faces and positive talk that is going on!”
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Joanna Pasceri, public information officer for Erie County District Attorney’s Office and former Channel 7 anchor: “It means that the team is on the rebound just like our great city, not to mention more pizza-and-wings parties to enjoy!”
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Taz, former pro wrestler and co-host of “The Taz and Moose Show” on CBS Radio: “It’s a great feeling to witness this drought end.I am extremely happy the Bills are back where they belong playing postseason football in the NFL. I grew up a Jets fan and was sick and tired of all of the horrible front office moves by the Jets for years and that they left New York and basically became a full New Jersey-based team. I never was a Bills hater even though they were in the AFC East like the Jets ... actually a couple of my favorite football players of all time is Fred Smerlas & Conrad Dobler! So I ended up rooting for the true New York team and an organization who really tries who gives their fan base what they want!”
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Jeff Zimmer, owner of Reeds Jewelers: “Nice to see how in harmony the Bills are with the general mood in WNY! Our metro area is blowing up and the Bills are in lock step. Go Bills!”
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Jesse Winkler, Cincinnati Reds prospect from Buffalo: “Finally they’re in. Been waiting pretty much my whole life for this. How cool is it they had help from the Cincinnati Bengals. Game in Miami was sick. Can’t wait to drive to Jacksonville.”
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Carlin Hartman, Oklahoma basketball assistant coach and Buffalo native: “What it means to me is no longer the longest playoff drought in pro sports! No more butt of jokes (though I’m proud of the team and area). I immediately thought about where I was in 1999 watching the Music City Miracle (with Desmond Oliver, Tennessee assistant and Buffalo resident) and how much my life has changed since. I have a wife, four kids, moved around the country five times changing coaching jobs, and I lost my mother to cancer in 2009. She would have been proud of this year’s team. This franchise today reminds me of the ’89 Bills, who lost to Cleveland in the playoffs after Ronnie Harmon’s dropped pass in the back of the end zone. I believe back then we all knew the Bills were on the cusp of greatness and sure enough four straight Super Bowls followed. Proud of this team, happy for all of Bills Mafia and glad the drought
is off our backs.”
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Christine Lisi, ESPN Radio anchor and Olean native: “I am so happy and excited for the team and the WNY region, because I know how much the team means to so many people. I have been constantly scanning Twitter and Facebook for every Bills player and fan video I can find. It’s been so long, I forgot how exciting and fun this isA Patriots fan friend said, ‘See you in Foxboro in two week.’ A Steelers fan friend said, ‘We meet in two weeks at Heinz Field.’ I’ll take either of those invitations. ... I got a little choked up when they clinched. My dad, who died in 2013, was a huge Bills fan and would have really enjoyed Sunday.”
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Lex Luger, former pro wrestler and Buffalo native: “Two words: Ecstatic and Thankful. When the Bengals scored, I let out such a loud roar that I scared my 84-year-old mom who was in another room on the other side of the house.”
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@Bills_Chick: “When the Bengals improbably scored on fourth-and-long, I immediately started crying – weeping, really. My phone was absolutely blowing up with texts and calls since everyone knows how much I love the Bills. The next hours were spent trying to keep it emotionally together – but watching the celebration videos, seeing Kyle Williams tear up, my God, I cried pretty much straight for 24 hours and I am not a crier. It sounds stupid, but the Bills breaking the drought makes everything lighter – it makes me feel like everything (not just Bills-related) will be OK and that good guys can win in the end. It was my second happiest moment as a Bills fan (the happiest being when the Pegulas bought the team and kept them local). I booked my tickets to Jacksonville and can’t wait to have one more reunion this year (maybe more than one? A girl can dream) with my Bills family.”
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Brian J. Kulpa, Amherst supervisor. “I have been a huge fan for most of my life. I used to go to games with my father, grandfather and great uncle from the time I was 10 in 1988 until my grandfather passedThat included some very good years for the team. To this day If I eat a turkey sandwich on a hard roll and there is even the slightest chill in the air, I feel like I should be outside the stadium. ... My favorite player was Cornelius Bennett, I wore his number when I started playing pre-high school football. Seeing him come off of an edge with Smith on the other in a pass rush formation was something to behold. I think this is awesome, My son is 11 and the last time we were in the playoffs my brother was 11. He was in from Colorado (now at 28) and it was pretty special to be able to watch the Miami game and then the end of Cincinnati-Baltimore with my Dad, brother and son.”
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Reid Okoniewski, Catholic Charities development coordinator and longtime Bills fan: “This team embodied the city of Buffalo all season; hard work, determination, drive, never wavering. We went ballistic when Dalton threw for the TD, my brother and I jumping up and down, me eventually running around the apartment, pure joy. After the Bengals took victory formation, I leaned back on my brother’s couch and screamed ‘The Bills are going to the playoffs!’ On the drive home, I cried tears of joy. Watching all the fan reaction videos, the players and coaches reacting to the playoffs, the warm welcome the team received at the airport, I said to myself, ‘This is my team and I wouldn’t have it any other way.’ Looks like my PhD in Blind Faith has finally paid off ... and I love this team!”
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Doug Kotlove, North Buffalo native: “During the Ravens game, I texted my 83-year-old dad, ‘Same story, different year.’ Because I was actually out to dinner for New Year’s and not able to watch the end of the Ravens-Bengals game live, I was forced to follow it on my phone. And as soon as the score flipped to show the Bengals had taken the lead, I ran outside in 10 degree weather to call my dad. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him that excited – it’s been a long time since something like this has gone our way, you know! I think he was on the verge of tears as the seconds ticked off the clock in Baltimore. First thing New Year’s morning, I get a call from him, and he opens with, “Want to meet in Jacksonville?” Not sure it’s going to happen, but perhaps later in January in Foxborough or Pittsburgh. Or perhaps in Minneapolis in February. One
can only dream, right?”
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Eric Wright, Bills season ticketholder: “Seeing the Bills drought finally end made me feel like we’re actually a part of the league. No longer some honorary participant. I was a 21-year-old kid watching the last playoff game on a waiting room TV at work. Now I’m 38. Seventeen years is a long time when you remember all that’s happened in that time.”
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Mike Andrzejewski, chef-owner at Seabar and Cantina Loco, who has represented Buffalo at many NFL and Super Bowl weekend events: “The really exciting thing for me about the Bills’ playoff appearance is how it energizes the city, and shows it to everyone through the national media. It makes me proud to see stories about the donations to Andy Dalton’s foundation, to watch the fans welcoming the players in single-digit temperatures at the airport, and to see Buffalo’s generosity and friendliness that we take for granted living here being touted to the rest of nation.”
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Logan Couture, Southern Ontario native, San Jose Sharks: “So proud to be a Buffalo Bills fan. What a team #Billsmafia.”
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Erik Brady, former Courier-Express writer now with USA Today Sports: “Some of my Washington friends were taken aback at the surpassing joy expressed in all those videos of thunderstruck Bills fans reacting to the thunderbolt in Baltimore that delivered them from an exile as old as the 21st century. I assured these wonderstruck Washingtonians that ebullient Buffalonians constitute a fan base that once tore down the goal posts on opening day (1980 vs. Miami) Just imagine the scene when the Bills win the Super Bowl at long last — and their devoted fans dance a delirious winter waltz in blinding snow, naked in Niagara Square.”
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Nancy Kelleher, Bills fan: “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, we’re 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 winMy 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 Dad’s grave before I die!!! Go Bills!!!”
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Bridget Majka, Bills fan: “It was surreal to watch with my boys and their friends. We had three 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 (six 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. They are so excited now that it’s sunk in. Whatever happens with the game, I’m never going to forget the setup in this living room and the hope living here. Memories forever.”
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Susan Schoonmaker, Bills fan: “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 and 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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Willie Nile, Buffalo born-and-raised rocker: “Here’s to the best fans in the world, who stood by their team all these years and never gave up hope. And respect to Terry and Kim Pegula for all they do for Buffalo. Go Bills! Buffalo rocks!”
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Kathleen Murray, Bills fan: “My mother turned 84 November 29. 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 halftime spread. She’s had a rough couple of 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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Pete Weber, Nashville Predators play-by-play announcer, Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer, former Bisons and Sabres play-by-play man, former Bills radio analyst/host: “My wife Claudia and I were at the Nashville Bills Backers with about 100 of our friends Sunday afternoon, with the simple hope that the Bills would win and give themselves a chance. Naturally, when they wrapped up the victory, our attention turned to Baltimore, so we got in my car and tuned in (to good friend) Dan Hoard on the Bengals’ broadcast on SiriusXM. While driving, we heard Dan talk about how everyone in Western New York was rooting for the Bengals. Shortly thereafter, Andy Dalton threw the last-gasp touchdown pass to complete the job. Exultation in the Jeep! When you consider I was on hand at then-Adelphia Coliseum for the Bills’ last previous playoff game and to go through all those years of pain, my eyes teared up. I could visualize Joe Ferguson trying to limp through a playoff game in San Diego; I flashed back to the broadcast booth at the Sombrero in Tampa, watching Scott Norwood’s kick sail wide right. But for the fans of a team that had not played a meaningful game in Week 17 for over a decade, we felt great!”
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Richard Lipsitz, president of the Western New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO: “The end of the Bills’ playoff drought reflects a real sense of joy and satisfaction for literally millions of people all over the country. This achievement is in the same category as the victory of the Red Sox in the World Series 14 years ago.”
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Brian Klock, Western New York native, former M&T Bank Corp. executive, stock analyst at Keefe Bruyette & Woods in Boston: “I have been watching videos and tweets from the Bills and Buffalo News about the reactions and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see the Buffalo fans and players finally get back into the playoffs! I think Buffalo was a special place to grow up and I am proud to be a Buffalo Bills fan. My brother and I were season ticket-holders for a long time and were lucky enough to see them go to four Super Bowls, so I am so happy to see a new generation of Bills fans get the chance to experience the excitement, too!”
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School Superintendent Kriner Cash: “It’s a brand-new year, and we are in an exciting new era in Buffalo. I am happy for the Buffalo Bills football team and even happier for the fans. ... I am especially grateful to our new partners, Terry and Kim Pegula, who recently affirmed a new partnership between the Buffalo Public Schools and Pegula Sports. ... The Bills and the Pegulas will continue to inspire our students to stay healthy, succeed in school, and aim their dreams high!Great things are worth working hard for and waiting for. Go Bills!”Darren King, chief financial officer of M&T Bank: “I may be Canadian, but when it comes to Sunday afternoon in the fall, I bleed red, white AND blue. The world is right again! Go Bills!!”

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Ken Kujawa, regional director of National Grid: “I am happy for the young people of our community who knew nothing but the drought. They now get a taste of what their parents and many of us experienced during the Super Bowl run in the early ‘90s.”

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Donny Kutzbach, Buffalo concert promoter: “A lot of friends have given me a hard time in the last ten years because every season, I’m the eternal optimist who says, ‘We’re going back to the playoffs this year!’ And I always do think that way. So this means everything. I’ve never given up hope, so this feels so great. I go to every game because, at some point,it clicked with me that if I was gonna live in Buffalo the rest of my life, this is just what I do. People who thought we were crazy being die-hards are now back in. And I don’t mind seeing the people getting back on the bandwagon. More than anything - we needed it. My son’s 8-years-old. I want him to be a fan forever.”

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Gary Quenneville, KeyBank Upstate New York regional executive: “Having the Bills in the playoffs is truly the icing on the cake for all the good things that are happening right now in Buffalo and Western New York. This city, with its vibrant waterfront, economic growth, and renewed energy is in the midst of a great renaissance. What was even more heartwarming to see was how Bills fans generously responded when Andy Dalton threw the touchdown pass that knocked the Ravens out and put the Bills in. This really is a special and memorable time to be in Buffalo. Go Bills!”

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Jeffrey Gundlach, philanthropist: “The Bills seem to succeed when the team identity syncs with the character of the City of Buffalo. Coach McD understands that connection. The. Drought. Is. Over! The Bills are back! GO BILLS!!!”

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Janne Sirén, director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery: “Great victories, like all magnificent masterpieces, are born through the combination of creativity and grit. I’m rooting for the Bills to be the artists of a great win on Sunday. Go Bills!”

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