Let me get one thing straight: I love Buffalo. Absolutely love it. I grew up here, hope to build my dream home here, and quite possibly, will probably die in the frozen tundra that is (not) Buffalo.
But let me get something else straight: Buffalo is shortening my life.
And it’s not because I’m throwing out my back shoveling feet of snow (I actually enjoy that activity) or eating too many chicken wings (any food is good for you in moderation, after all).
No, it is something that, upon first glance, seems decidedly less ominous. It’s even enjoyable sometimes … sometimes.
It is the Buffalo Bills.
I live and breathe Bills football. I could probably name a large majority of the 53-man roster and many of the Bills’ beat reporters feel more like personal friends. I love watching the team, but just as playing football brings on the potential risk of long-term brain damage, watching the Bills comes with the risk of profound sadness and heartbreak on a weekly basis.
It has been 17 years since the team last appeared in the playoffs. I was just under 2 months old in their infamously terrible last playoff appearance. (The "Music City Miracle" was much less of a miracle in Buffalo). They have not won a playoff game since before my parents – who celebrated their 20th anniversary in September – were married.
But even with all of this in mind, I still cannot get enough of the Bills.
The way I see it, being a Bills fan teaches you to be relentlessly loyal (or maybe a blind follower, if the glass is half empty). Sure, there may be suffering now, but surely that will be rewarded with years of success in the future. Good things come to those who wait, right? (No, not in the real world).
In a way, the Bills’ failures over the past two decades have actually helped to further my love for Buffalo. For, no matter how horrendous the team is, 70,000 hearty Buffalonians still inevitably show up eight Sundays a year, packing the stadium to watch a football team sputter through another fruitless season. It could be raining, snowing, sleeting or hailing, and Buffalonians would still show up to lose their voices and spend too much money on mediocre football and rubbery hot dogs.
The passion and love is infectious, and Bills fans don’t take anything for granted. An upset over the Patriots – who may as well be Goliath to the Bills’ David – is celebrated as if it’s a Super Bowl victory (you have to take what you can get, after all).
This fierce loyalty, while admittedly almost foolish, has, in fact, taught me how to be patient, optimistic and, perhaps most importantly, skeptical of promises for quick turnarounds. What rather profound lessons to learn from a perennially losing football team.
But being a Bills fan has its downfalls. Constant heartbreak, utter confusion and building madness are common feelings come Sundays in September, and there is a reason Buffalo loves its beer (the large Irish population notwithstanding).
Seventeen years is a lot of heartbreak that can’t be fixed overnight. Being a Bills fan is often more suffering than enjoyment, and truthfully, the continual stress the team provides diehard fans cannot be good for one’s health.
So college will be good for me. Even though I love Buffalo, it will be good to leave the area, if only for a few months at a time. In a way, it will be a spiritual cleansing (because the Bills are, in fact, a religion). I’ll be somewhat detached – Twitter is truly a wonderful thing – from the mania that is the Buffalo Bills. And that will be good for me. But I’ll be back. College is just a hiatus.
Jack Watson is a senior at Orchard Park High School.