Early last week, Maggie Gray was debating just how much Buffalo Bills swag she should wear to the Thursday night football game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. The host of "SI Now" for SI.com and "The Moose and Maggie Show" for CBS Radio hadn’t been to a Bills game as a regular fan in over four years. She was excited. But she was also super anxious.
“No matter how many teams I’ve covered in sports, there’s still just something about the Bills that makes me nervous. Because I can’t help but care,” said Gray, 34. “Once you’ve expended enough emotional capital on a team that has consistently broken your heart over the course of so many years, it’s hard to stay optimistic.”
The Jets inevitably tore apart the Bills on national television, quarter by quarter, and sent the coaches, players and fans back to Buffalo to nurse their wounds and regroup with a 5-3 record. Gray, a resident of New York City, said jokingly, “Probably should have seen that coming.”
Gray has a been a Bills fan for most of her life. She grew up in Binghamton and says her uncle “indoctrinated” her into Bills fandom at an early age. “People don’t normally choose to be a Bills fan. You’re born into it. Especially with the last decade or so of futility. And that is my story. It’s been great bonding for my uncle and I, for my whole family. We’re so wrapped up in it.”
While on the job, Gray tries to not to fly her Bills flag too often. She covers a variety of teams and sports on a professional basis, and is focused on staying as neutral as possible. But sometimes it’s harder said than done. She interviewed (former Bill) Marcell Dareus at the Pro Bowl a few years ago and ended up asking him details about his contract situation, which wasn’t planned. After the segment, her producer laughed and said, “That wasn’t for the audience; that was for you, wasn’t it?”
Name: Maggie Gray
Current location: Manhattan
Previous location: Binghamton
Favorite Player: Bruce Smith
Most memorable moment as Bills fan: Meeting the ’90s greats and getting a chance to interview them
There’s also little hints here and there on the set of "SI Now," Gray’s daily talk show that streams live on SI.com, that can easily tip people off about her fandom. “You’ll notice there’s a Bills helmet in the background. It’s there for a reason,” she said.
“Everyone who I work with knows I root for the Bills, but I try not to put it out there so much because it can cut both ways. I've had the chance to interview the legends, like Andre Reed and Bruce Smith. But I’ve also done interviews with Bills players where sometimes, if the season isn’t going well, I’ll find myself being a little harder on them because I’m watching the games so closely.”
For most of the 2017 season so far, Gray has been able to temper her expectations. After last Thursday night’s debacle, that hasn’t changed. She says she’s living in the moment, enjoy it week by week and taking stock in the fact that, at the very least, the new coaching regime has a plan. And for Bills fans, that’s a start.
“We have a lot of history working against us. But, we have new people in the building, new life. And I think there are other things working in for us. The AFC isn’t as good this year on the whole. There’s still an avenue for the Bills to make a wild-card spot.”
If you or anyone you know is a diehard Bills fan and has an interesting story to tell about rooting for Buffalo no matter where you or they might live, email LynsD21@gmail.com.