“Someday you’ll understand.”
It’s every parent’s favorite catch phrase. I hated hearing it when I was younger, but of course, the phrase has been proven true over and over again as I’ve grown.
My dad grew up as Steelers fan in Western Pennsylvania in the seventies. With four Super Bowl titles in six years, it was certainly a good time to be a football fan in Pittsburgh.
That’s why it always puzzled me that they had no problems changing their allegiances when arriving in WNY in the late eighties. How can you follow a team for decades to completely abandoning them for a change of scenery? It was completely unfathomable to me.
My dad, now a Bills fan, watched less and less football over the years. He knows the big names on the team, but he doesn’t live and die with the team like so many of us do. I was always a fanatic, I couldn’t understand how someone who thoroughly enjoys football could only be half invested in his favorite team.
“I’m too busy,” he would say. “Someday you’ll understand.”
This school year has been particularly busy for me. I have my hardest workload yet, and I took on a few more extracurricular responsibilities. My weekends are jam-packed, and nights that were once devoted to ESPN and MSG are now reserved for term papers and tedious music theory homework.
Sundays are particularly bad for me, but for the first seven or so weeks of the NFL season, I found a way to catch the Bills’ games.
This past Sunday, I woke up and thought to myself, “What time is the Bills game on? Who do they even play?”
I checked a schedule. Suddenly, it all made sense.
My favorite team was set to play a primetime home game on Monday night, and I didn’t even know. The game that I circled on the schedule when it came out was coming up, and I had no idea.
I let myself fall completely out of the loop. Worse yet, my dad was right. As I’ve gained “big boy” responsibilities, I haven’t had the time for one of my favorite pasttimes.
Do I blame myself? Of course not. It’s not coincidence that I watched the first five or so games of the season in their entirety. The team was on fire and Bills fans young and old were swept into the hype. When they lost a few games, it was easy for a displaced Buffalonian to become a bit distracted from their mediocre showing the last four weeks.
Suddenly, it made even more sense.
A playoff run can be so intoxicating. I think back to the Sabres’ playoff runs in ’06 and ’07. Every single person in the entire region knew what was going on with that team. People packed the arena, people packed the local bars, and everyone was so engulfed in Sabre-mania.
Less than two years later, and it all seems like a distant memory.
I get it, now. I understand how my dad, a once die-hard Steeler fan, could convert so easily. I barely remember the Super Bowl run in the 90’s, but I can imagine that it swept the area like the Sabres did a short time ago, only times a hundred. How can you not get swept up in that?
Can you imagine being a Steelers fan during that time? It would be like being the designated driver at the year’s best party.
That’s why winning is so important in small market pro sports. Nothing unites a working-class city like a sports franchise on a tear. But here we are, with two teams fading fast and another year without a team in the postseason fast approaching.
I’m jealous of Boston. I’m jealous of Philly. I want to be the next town that breaks their decades-long championship curse. I want a lengthy postseason run that brings the region together and has me counting the minutes to the next game.
I just want to be swept in again.
Too bad it’s never seemed more out of reach.