Chris Dickson loves his jobs as teacher and coach of various scholastic sports.
Dickson also realizes his career could have taken a different path if not for the Music City Miracle that capped the 1999 Buffalo Bills’ season.
Dickson, currently a physical education teacher with Lancaster Central Schools and the St. Mary’s of Lancaster football coach, was an assistant on Wade Phillips’ coaching staff that day, the Bills’ last playoff appearance until their lengthy postseason drought ended Sunday.
Dickson, the offense’s quality-control coach at the time, recalls heading into that playoff game against Tennessee thinking along the same lines as many folks – that the winner of that Wild-Card game perhaps had the best chance at representing the AFC in the Super Bowl that year.
The Bills had the top-ranked defense in terms of yards allowed and won 11 games. The Titans came in with a 13-3 mark, a crazy number of wins for a wild-card team.
“Absolutely we felt that,” Dickson said. “We were confident going into that game that whoever came out of it had a good chance at getting to the Super Bowl. ... Tennessee proved that.”
The Bills were 16 seconds away from ending the Titans’ season, as Steve Christie kicked a field goal for a 16-15 lead.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Dickson said of what it was like on the sideline. “The excitement was there. The excitement was we’re moving on.
“I remember Joe Panos, a guard on the team, he grabbed me. ... He’s going ‘We’re moving on, we’re moving on.’ Typical coach, I’m like ‘The clock hasn’t hit zero.’ I was feeling the euphoria of the kick – this is happening – but knew it wasn’t over.
Every Bills fan knows what happened next.
“I haven’t been on such a high and then such a low in a matter of seconds,” Dickson said. “To me it was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had being involved in sports. I was stunned.
“There’s no question it was a forward pass,” Dickson said.
The Bills failed to make the playoffs the following season, thus starting the drought. Phillips and his coaches were relieved of their duties – which ultimately led to Dickson taking a different path.
Though Dickson continues to root for the Bills, it wasn’t until this season he became a season tickets-holder for the first time since being employed by the team. He takes his son to games.
He, his wife and their two children were taking part in New Year’s Eve festivities at Lancaster Lanes during the Bills-Dolphins game last week. After the Bills triumphed, all eyes were on the finish of the Cincinnati-Baltimore game as the Bills needed a miracle Bengals comeback to end the drought.
Then everything fell into place:
"You’re sitting there bowling, the Bills scored a touchdown and everyone’s cheering and having a good time,” Dickson said. “Then they flipped to the Bengals-Ravens game. When Andy Dalton threw that touchdown, that place just erupted and got louder, people high-fiving each other.
“It was pretty cool being there with people I didn’t know and the enthusiasm of knowing that the drought had ended. ... I’m very happy for them. I’m very happy for the community, too.”