Let’s Go, Buffalo

A Bills hat on a tree stump. I am literally the king of metaphor.

My mom is still trying to figure out why my dad, my brother, and I care so much about the Buffalo Bills. Every fall, she has to hear Dad’s house-shaking, cat-terrorizing cries as the Bills get sloppy, get robbed, or get crushed. Then she has to endure the hours of catharsis, when my brother and I call home to rehash every sickening play.

We hang on partly because the Bills were great once. Back in the early 1990s, they went to the Super Bowl four years in a row. They lost all four times. But we told ourselves that we can take it. Hell, we’re from western New York; grief and loss flow from the faucets, fluoridated. Would we really rather be rooting for the (colorful expletive) Dallas Cowboys, with all that money, all those championships, all those impossibly beautiful cheerleaders? No way. We are Bills fans. God’s chosen.

Today I feel betrayed. This article by ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook reveals that, for years, the owners of bad NFL teams, like the Bills, have sacrificed their team’s competitiveness on the altar of profit. For the first time in my life, I feel like ditching the Bills. I feel like calling my dad. And my mom.

About Tom Simpson

Tom Simpson teaches religion, ethics, philosophy, and human rights at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH. He is the author of *American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940* (University of North Carolina Press, 2016) and nonfiction essays about Bosnia for the Canadian literary magazine *Numero Cinq*. Born in 1975 in Olean, NY, he earned the Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he specialized in American religious history. He writes, teaches, and lectures about religion in America, popular culture, Mormonism, and Bosnia. He lives in Exeter with his partner, Alexis Simpson, and their two children.
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2 Responses to Let’s Go, Buffalo

  1. Rick Simpson says:

    Dear Tommy,

    Give a call, and we’ll do the usual–yell and cry a lot. Yer ma will do the usual eye-rolls and dagger-stares.

    Easterbrook makes a heckuva case. I’ll just say two things in the Bills’ defense (woops, that last one may be an oxymoron). The team was an eyelash away from having four, maybe even five more wins last season. Gailey and Nix had the club often playing hard and highly competitively. Ask the Ravens if the Bills showed up in Baltimore. Ask the Chiefs about the Kansas City game. And–it still pains me to say this–ask the Steelers if the Bills showed up in Buffalo. Second, the Bills are saying they traded Evans because of deep talent in the receiving corps. To spare the details, I’ll just say that might not entirely be baloney, the double-talk of a team trying to lose cheaply.

    Which is not to say Easterbrook doesn’t make a case. We’ll see what happens.

    Love,

    Yer Pa

  2. Jon Malesic says:

    Easterbrook is probably right in general, though his evidence regarding Bills’ player personnel is horrible. Walker and Edwards were bad players who had to go. The team was better without them. Likewise Maybin. (And Chan always says exactly what’s on his mind, so it’s no surprise Maybin was cut from the Bills, picked up by another team, and then cut.) It’s inconceivable that anyone in the organization would blame a poor season on the loss of Evans. The fans aren’t quite that stupid. Still, he’s right that there’s little financial incentive to spend on players and coaches and try to win. This is in contrast with the NHL, where each home playoff game in Buffalo clears a million in profit (the players are each paid a set amount and ticket prices are high, with sellouts guaranteed), and probably two million in Boston or Montreal. And if you make the playoffs, you’re guaranteed at least two home games. Terry Pegula knows this. In the NFL, as Easterbrook points out, you can win the Super Bowl without getting any extra revenue from home playoff games. The safer financial bet is to tank the season.

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