Tonawanda News

November 7, 2012

PARRINO: "Bill-ieving" defines us all

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Being a Buffalo Bills fan is about more than just football — it's a lifestyle. It's something that outsiders usually can't understand.

Or so I thought.

Relatively-new sports outlet Grantland published an article by author Ben Austen to its website on Wednesday, titled "The Glorious Plight of the Buffalo Bills," that captured our culture better than anything else I've ever seen from a non-Buffalonian. It was a difficult read because of the painful memories, but an important one for all of us that have suffered or revelled during our time as a member of Bills Nation. For the hardcore Bills fan with any knowledge of the team's history, it's a must-read.

The new generation Buffalo sports fan doesn't understand how special what we in Western New York have — it's really unlike any other team-fan relationship. The Bills have been so bad for so long, how could we expect them to understand? Add to that the recent success of the Buffalo Sabres and all of this "Hockey Heaven" nonsense, and you have a portion of the fan base actually believing a Stanley Cup would mean more than a Super Bowl.

This delusion is a nice illustration of how backwards our hockey-crazy city can be sometimes. I admit that I am an NBA guy, but if we're being realistic, not too many people around the U.S. are clamoring for the end of the NHL lockout. In fact, I'd wager that a large portion of the country could care less if the NHL and its players ever figure things out.

But this isn't supposed to be a hockey-bashing article. I hope it can serve as a reminder that despite the past decade-plus of absolute garbage football — 12 years and counting since the Bills have played in the post season — the Buffalo Bills are an important fixture in the Buffalo community. If the day ever comes when we have to say goodbye, our area won't be the same.

The Bills help us deal with, at times, the harsh reality of a broken-down city. Austen may have said it best when talking about why we've been able to stay loyal to the team: "Because Buffalo (has) fallen so far, it clung all the more to its football team — a last vestige of its former prominence as a 'major league' town. At least for 16 games a year, the city remained part of a national conversation. The Bills offered a possibility of redemption."

We'll always show up on Sunday because it's who we are as a community and it's what we expect out of our team. It's something to be proud of and something we should all remember.


Find Sports Editor Matt Parrino on Twitter @MattParrino