Owen’s lot in life is to have a father born and raised in Buffalo, NY, and therefore Owen was also fated to be a Bills and Sabres fan, which I admit I carry some guilt over.
The Sabres have never won a Stanley Cup in more than 50 years of playing. I was in the stands with my father and brother when they lost in the finals to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1975.
The Bills are best known for losing four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s. Since then, they have been mostly mired in mediocrity. When I worked for a newspaper in Buffalo, I often had sideline press passes to the Bills games. They won very few of those games.
The fans are loyal, but the teams apparently cursed. The “wide right”; the “no goal”; the “Music City Miracle.” As I grew older my interest in Buffalo’s teams waned as other interests took their place, although I started paying attention again when Owen came on board.
He and I made a road trip to Buffalo a few times to see family and attend a couple of Bills and Sabres games. He kept me up to date on players and stats. But I didn’t have the passion like I once did. I didn’t expect much, I didn’t care too much.
But then yesterday happened. In an era when COVID and the political situation can slash the spirit of even the heartiest, the Bills pulled off their best season in more than 25 years. Yesterday, they beat the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 in a nail-biter that came down to the last play of the game.
I had no idea I could still be susceptible to the turbulent emotions of being a fan. We sat together and watched the game, and as the momentum flowed back and forth, and we high-fived great plays and yelped over bad ones, I experienced the full range of elation and anxiety, the thrills and the chills. My pulse rate actually soared, my belly twisted.
What the hell was going on with me? Part of me was a child again going to a game with my Dad, another part of me was a father bonding with his own child. It was a perfect convergence—but boy was it exhausting.
We were both sweating—from the comfort of our own couch. I was texting with friends, with family. The game connected me with a lot of people.
The Bills got lucky three years ago when they drafted a quarterback, Josh Allen, who has turned into an elite player. The Sabres, a weak team, have a star of their own in Jack Eichel. The NHL drops its first puck of the season next week.
What am I in for? I don’t know. But I wanted to quickly get this written in the giddy moments after the Bills won a tense playoff game, and not after they lose one, which they will likely do in the next few weeks. For now, I’m in full fan mode again—an unexpected and roller-coaster state of mind I thought I might never know again. Thanks, Owen. I think.