I’m not a Red Sox fan but I once felt like one. I grew up rooting for the Yankees; I went to my first game at the Stadium in 1996 and cheered them on through the Dynasty years.
But I also grew up in Buffalo in the mid-’90s. I don’t remember the Bills in a Super Bowl and I was in sixth grade when the Musical City Miracle happened. I don’t remember there ever really being good times for the Bills. I’ve been raised on the coaching of Phillips, Williams, Mularkey and Jauron–consistent mediocrity.
Fans my age, in college, long to just make the playoffs. Forget a Super Bowl for right now, let’s try and make it to the dance first and experience that.
When the NHL came out of the lockout in 2005, the Sabres were expected to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. They struggled a bit out of the gate but pulled together through adversity in December and took off from there.
That 2006 Sabres playoff team was the one that should have won the Stanley Cup. They had everything except a little more depth on defense. But they fell short.
And, like the Red Sox until 2004, they always seemed to fall short. Whether it was the Bills or the Sabres, we were tortured fans with that lingering question in the backs of our minds: “Will it happen in our lifetime?”
When I first read Bill Simmons’ Now I Can Die In Peace, all of that hit home. For the first 200 pages or so, we were rooting for the same thing.
Then the Red Sox won and everything changed. No longer could I really relate to Simmons, who despite experiencing multiple championships with the Celtics and decent success with the Bruins, only really wanted that banner for the Sox (although his Celtics were sort of like my Yankees although the connection isn’t as strong).
They got the ring but now, as we learn, it came with a price. His column on Manny Ramirez yesterday pulled on many of the emotions that were felt during that magical year for the Nation.
The Sox won, but the culture of baseball at the time has put a giant question mark on probably all of the World Series rings won from 1997 until 2006– and maybe longer (Roger Clemens did win a championship for the Yankees back in 2000 during his “revival”).
There are now countless doubts surrounding the game. It’s become more fun to play “Who DIDN’T cheat?”
What is it like to have the greatest moment of your fandom tainted?
As the steroid era in baseball seemingly comes to a close, cheating is one thing fans in Buffalo will not have to worry about. If the Sabres or Bills ever win a championship in the future, with the new drug testing standards across the world of sports, I feel confident that we’ll know they did it clean. We won’t have to look back and wonder if what we have witnessed was done honestly.
You can look back at that ’04 Red Sox roster and point to all but maybe three or four guys that probably didn’t juice (Schilling among them). While no one cared at the time, having those championships questioned now can kill a fan inside. Wait 86 years for it to happen and then have it all come tumbling down like the walls of Jericho.
So I guess my question is does it still make it worth it? Simmons pictures his dad saying he’d do 2004 all over again despite the validity of the nature of the talent on the field being questioned.
Are we that starved in Buffalo for a championship that we’d look the other way at red flags as it happens and then remain in a state of denial even 10 years after it all? Are we that desperate?
I’d like to hope not. But then again, it’s something none of us have truly experienced. Yet.