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BILLS' OBLIGATION TO GAME IS THEY HAVE TO PLAY THEIR BEST

It's one of those opinionated days about the Bills . . .

There is no question that if anything would have been at stake for either Philadelphia or the Redskins in today's game, Buffalo would have to do the right thing and play its best.

The Bills (or any team, for that matter) have an obligation to the integrity of their game not to play it like a summertime exhibition.

All that talk about "the Bills' first obligation is to the fans to get ready for the playoffs" would seem pretty hollow if Buffalo's situation were reversed.

There will come a time when the Bills need help from another team in order to make the playoffs or win home-field advantage. Imagine the howls along the Niagara Frontier if that team were to roll over and play exhibition football at the expense of the Bills.

There is another element involved, too. When a football team plays a game with the idea of not getting hurt foremost in its mind, that usually is when there are injuries.

Playing hard often is the best preventive medicine.
On the other hand, since there is nothing at stake, or if the game is in hand one way or the other, the second half might be a good time to observe Gale Gilbert under fire.

Gilbert was impressive in the preseason games, but preseason games are completely different from the real thing. Frank Reich almost never plays impressively in preseason games, yet he excels in combat situations.

Considering the late-season carnage of quarterbacks, having Gilbert ready for January makes sense.
This game is almost an audition for wide receivers Al Edwards and Vernon Turner. If the Bills aren't comfortable with their work, they still can add Lionel Manuel, the ex-Giant, for the playoffs.
The Bills did the right thing by banning the sale of beer for the playoff games. The post-game scene on the field after the victory over Miami was too frightening, too threatening, to take a chance in the future dealing with a booze-fueled minority.

Changing and toughening up security for the playoffs are other right moves. The response late in the Miami game wasn't nearly quick enough nor formidable enough.

One reporter, a long-time observer of Rich Stadium scenes, said "what happened after the Miami game was nothing like the happy, joyous scene in 1988 when the Bills clinched the championship. There were a lot of people on that field last Sunday that you don't ordinarily see at Bills games and they were mean, dangerous and looking for confrontation."
Even though the Bills' position was correct, Bill Polian was off-base in his blast at the fans and his admonition that "there is nothing to celebrate yet" in the wake of the Miami ruckus.

The fans don't need Polian nor anyone else connected with the Bills to tell them when to celebrate or when not to celebrate. The Bills' hierarchy just can't seem to resist doing their thought-control number.

When there are 80,000 fans in Rich Stadium, it is the size of a small city. All small cities have to cope with a small element of the lawless.
It would be a good idea if Polian and Marv Levy sat back, relaxed and enjoyed this spectacular season. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Why be the Grinch that spoiled the Super Bowl?

Levy introduces an element of bitterness into almost every post-game press conference.

One of the major sports stories of the year is the manner in which the Bills buried their acrimonious past, healed themselves and became one of the premier teams in football.

But Levy picks a scab a week, continually bringing up the criticism to which he and his team were subject a year ago. Frankly, they deserved the criticism. But that is the past and this is the happy present.

Being a gracious winner should not be that difficult.

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