As my relationship with the Buffalo Bills enters its seventeenth season, it is clear that this story arc is on a rather downward slope. Or course you remember the fabulous Bills of 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993? Well, I met my husband (let's call him Uberfan today) in 1994. I am not saying that I would've wanted to occupy a couch with him as they lost any of those four Super Bowl games, but the excitement during each of those seasons might have been worth something (like at least the cost of the season tickets). I would have also been more compassionate right from the start as we watched the downfall of Jim Kelly, as I would've immediately recognized all that he had been.
In order to feign any kind of interest in the Bills, as our relationship started out, I had to first muster up some interest in the game of football...which meant I had to understand something about this sport. My questions (and there were lots of them) were always received well and answered succinctly. The Uberfan has been a Pop Warner football ref for over twenty years, so I got explanations that a ten year old could understand, and that did not insult me at all. Once I had some general pigskin knowledge under my belt, and had made several trips to the Uberfan's hometown of Buffalo, I began to gain some appreciation of this team he loved so much. I was also extremely grateful for the fact that my Uberfan was still a reasonable man on Sunday afternoons and evenings, regardless of the team's performance. A loss did not spoil the rest of our day after away games, and he had always regained his composure somewhere between Batavia and our driveway after home games.
In an effort to show my support, I typically tried to watch any televised games he went to. I would note anything spectacular or quizzical. I just assumed it was proper to display an interest in what I figured was an actual hobby. The Doug Flutie years provided some moments of excitement, and our son liked him for some reason (the four-year-old boy demographic can be unpredictable). I was still holding firm as someone with moderate interest in both football and the Bills. With two small children, I had not yet entered the world of flopping down on the couch for a few hours in the middle of a Sunday. I tried to encourage them to have some general interest. (What else would we talk to Daddy about on Sundays?)
Once our kids got older, and I got lazier, I began to watch more football. As the Bills were getting worse and worse, I was being exposed to teams who were playing really well, against each other. I probably spoke more than was necessary about how easy other teams seemed to make the game look to play, and asked what was wrong with the Bills on more occasions than appropriate. However, my actions paled in comparison to when our son, on an apparent whim, jumped on the Patriots bandwagon right before they won Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. He was almost five then, but he sure had good taste! He respects the Bills, but I really can't begrudge him for jumping ship to shout some "hurrahs" for a slightly more winning team. I got to the point where I was rooting for coaches (Tony Dungee), players (Brett Favre), or random underdogs. Eventually, I lost sight of actual teams and even in the sport itself (no thanks to Brett Favre and Bill Belichick). I was intolerant of poor behavior, both on and off the field.
In honor of the annual Family Day Bills game yesterday, and the Uberfan's desire to attend...with his family...we hit the Thruway. So, I went to my first Bills game in two years, and while I was not kicking and screaming, I will admit to pouting and grumbling. The Bills actually beat the Bengals, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean a whole heaping lot in preseason play. The Uberfan would agree, but that was not clearly evident, as his shouting began in minute two of game play. (I should mention that my husband is by no means a boisterous man...except during football games.) I guess nearly seven months is a long time to keep your outside voice dormant, and he had some preseason yelps of his own to work out.
I was focused on a variety of topics during the game, with apparel being the biggest. I scanned the crowd and found many decked out fans who I did not believe would even be able to answer how many downs for how many yards it takes to keep things going. I was amused by the variety of jerseys people wore. One woman actually had on a Losman jersey, now even I know enough to realize that was not a good purchase. I was alarmed at the Simpson jersey two rows in front of me until I realized it was not OJ Simpson's number (I know he was a great player, but yikes!). I decided that true sports fans should not have any glitter on their team threads. I am still baffled by the people who show up for a game wearing a jersey that is for a team not playing on the field. "What? The Colts aren't here today? Well that's who I really root for, and now I'm unsure what to do!" I felt a little badly that I was the only one of the four of us with no Bills flair on, but I could not be accused of being a poser...that's for sure. I had on a "half-full" Life is Good t-shirt, and hoped it looked like I was trying to display some optimism. They are claiming this is the "Season to Billieve"!
Another big distraction for me was the Jills cheerleaders. I am all for scholastic cheerleaders, as I do find those girls to be hard working athletes who do play a role in firing up the crowd. I just throw up a little in my throat when the hoochie outfitted ladies come out flinging their hair and pom poms around. I realize I am not their target audience, but aren't the men already paying attention to the game? As a special treat, the Junior Jills were on hand for the Family Game. As you can imagine, the Big Jills did not dumb down their routine for the youngsters; but, rather the youth took on their shake-what-they-don't-have-yet moves...yikes!
Luckily, I was not jonesing for a beer badly enough to pay $8.50 for one. I could've gone for a water, but at $4.00 a bottle, I refrained. The most troubling part of the water actually wasn't the price. The water servers took the caps off before handing them over. I was rather dismayed to think that we've gotten to the point in time when the risk of fans having full water bottles is too risky. You can be sure that if I actually paid the $4.00 for the water, the last thing you'd see would be me hurling it at another fan. If I did choose to throw the capless bottle, I guess I'd only really hurt the first person it hit, and everyone else would just get wet. I saw some people making paper airplanes out of the paper in the programs, and I was concerned that just one papercut to the face might cause them to eliminate weekly programs!
The Uberfan is not optimistic about the Bills chances to advance this season, due to the solid teams they will have to face in their division. However, he still bought his season's tickets, and will make that drive to cheer on his team. He has taught me a lot about the game of football, but has also shown me what it means to be a fan. The best I can do is make sure there is some dinner left when he gets back from home games, and try to plan mealtime appropriately for the games he watches here at home. Um, I suppose I could also try to keep SOME of my comments to myself.