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Erik Brady: Buffalove is coming from everywhere for these Bills, and why not?

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Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano celebrates with fans and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds after a pick-six at Highmark Stadium on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.

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“You like me! You really like me!”

That’s what Sally Field famously said – or is said to have said – in 1985, when she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

The Buffalo Bills know how she feels. NFL fans across the country, and around the world, are finding that they like – really like – this talented, high-scoring bunch.

Teams this good are usually hated by everyone except their own fans. That could come someday if the Bills stay good enough for long enough, which would be a nice problem to have. But for now, it seems that football fans here, there and everywhere really like the way the Bills play. Love is in the air. Oh, and on the air, too:

* ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt: “Everybody is rooting for them, unless you have an AFC team you’re pulling for. … They’re an easy team to root for because, man, they’re fun to watch.” 

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NBC’s Peter King: “I’m picking the Bills to get off the 0-4, three-decades-old, wide-right schneid to win the first Super Bowl in franchise history.”

ESPN’s Michael Wilbon: “I’m rooting for the Bills. I mean, I’d like for them to get one in my lifetime. They’re the Cubs, for me, in pro football.”

That is high praise from a Chicago guy who loved beyond all reason the Cubs’ winning the World Series in 2016, for the first time in 108 years.   

So why is all of this Buffalove cresting just now, as the Bills take their bows for a pair of impressive victories on national TV to kick off the 2022 season?

Josh Allen: How could anyone not like this guy? He plays with the joy of a kid on a sandlot field – leaping linebackers and stiff-arming safeties, as though he were 26 going on 12.

Bills Mafia: These are not entitled fans who preen and strut as if the world owes them. They endured 17 seasons without a playoff game and kept coming back for more. And they are justifiably giddy at how good their Bills are now.

Buffalo: We are a small-market city with a history of heartbreak. So, yes, the team may be a powerhouse, but our fair city is ever an underdog. And, doggone it, people like us.

This can all end in heartbreak yet again, of course. But for now the Bills are soaring – like, say, Sally Field in “The Flying Nun.”

That was an ABC sitcom that debuted in 1967, at the dawn of the Super Bowl era. And Field’s 1960s sitcom roles are what she was referring to when she brought up likability in that long-ago acceptance speech. (Months earlier the Bills had finished their 1984 season at 2-14, and they would do it again in 1985.)

Most people remember Field’s speech for that line we mentioned up top. Truth is, though, Field didn’t actually say it that way. (Memory is funny like that.) Here is what she really said:

“I haven’t had an orthodox career,” meaning she was a flying nun before she was a movie star. “And I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. This time, I feel it. And I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me.”

And right now, many NFL fans elsewhere like the Bills. As for those in Buffalo – well, they absolutely love these Bills.

The season is only two games old: It’s a long way to Tipperary, not to mention Glendale, Arizona, site of this season’s Super Bowl. And next up are the Miami Dolphins, a hot team in a hot clime on a short week for the Bills.

But so far, so good. The Bills are winning big – and half the fun is that half the country likes them.

We won’t call them America’s Team. The Dallas Cowboys claimed that title long ago. Better anyway that we should think of the Bills as North America’s Team, given their many fans in Canada.

Field won that Oscar, her second, for a 1984 movie called “Places in the Heart.” That’s precisely what Bills Mafia members have for their Bills:

A place in their heart of hearts for what they hope will be their team of teams.

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