The line of questioning at One Bills Drive on Thursday was far from unnecessary, but it was telling.

Why did Mario Williams pick Buffalo?

No really, why? Tell us again, Mario. Say it one more time. Please don’t leave. Ever.

For about 20 minutes on Thursday afternoon, Buffalo became the worst girlfriend in the history of contract-based relationships. The Bills doled out $50 million on the first date and their fans couldn’t believe their beau showed up to the restaurant at all.

What was it that got him to stay? The deer? The housing market? Russ Brandon’s Magic School Bus tour of Western New York?

It had to be something we missed, a factor we didn’t consider. Mario Williams doesn’t really like us, right? He simply couldn’t.

Well, maybe. He sure said all the right things. Williams discussed community and family, mentioned the pizza that had his name on it and defended his new home well before he really had to. Oddly, he defended Buffalo to its own residents. And succeeded.

A less eloquent free agent would have been just fine, but Williams all but melted the hearts of Western New Yorkers with his first impression on Thursday. It felt all too perfect, really, like something is bound to go wrong.

Maybe he will never be the same after that big contract. Maybe injuries will creep up and we’ll never have the defense Dave Wannstedt will dream up in the coming months. Maybe, conversely, we need to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop and just enjoy the freaking ride.

One thing I do know is this: Thank God for Peyton Manning, who has absorbed every word and second of airtime in this free agency period like a black hole. Nothing will escape his media storm. Resistance is futile.

With Manning/Tebow Watch ready to propel us into a post-apocalyptic oblivion, Mario Williams will be all but forgotten as the weeks pass. On a national scale, that is. Make no mistake that without the Peyton Manning Parade, the national media collectively freaks out that the top free agent landed in Buffalo. Instead, expect a feature or two once training camp opens.

It seems being forgotten is something Mario Williams is used to, I’d imagine. This is a player not financially prioritized on the team that drafted him first overall instead of Reggie Bush in 2006. Bush, the ‘sure thing’ whose production on the field has been dwarfed by college scandals and which promiscuous woman he beds.

Much like the 2006 Draft, whoever gets Peyton Manning (Denver) and Tim Tebow (???) will undoubtedly be the larger story of the offseason. Williams will be forgotten in favor of the more high-profile move. In a maneuver that’s positively throwback, the size of John Elway’s genitalia will be praised for pulling the trigger on Peyton like he did in all those comebacks of yesteryear. The news cycle will swirl and crazy predictions will be made and the story will grow and grow.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills are left with the most important free agent signing in franchise history. Most interestingly, fans are quietly allowed to mull over a world where the Bills could be real contenders again. You know, maybe.

In one of the few national pieces about the Williams signing that doesn’t start with ‘Really? REALLY?’; the final line is notable.

For the first time since the Music City Miracle, though, Bills fans have a reason to enter a season with hope.

Hope is the currency we most often deal in around these parts. For better or worse, hope is what keeps Buffalo a struggling town full of optimistic people. A place mired in dysfunction and the slow grind of failure continues to turn its sports teams into a metaphor for potential and change.

Hope. Love. All those things that don’t count in the standings but we seem to value so much. Maybe too much. Listen to what Buddy Nix said about his courtship with Williams.

“A couple times during the process I thought, Why’d we get into this? The downside was huge. If we lose him, I don’t know how long it’d take for our fans to recover. They wanted him so bad. But you know, you’ve got to step up to the plate to have a chance to get a hit. Buffalo’s got an inferiority complex. That’s why it was so important we get Mario.”

Destiny. Inferiority complex. Nix made it sound like signing Williams was more important to the city of Buffalo than to the football team he’s in charge of building. A city where a failed hypothetical hurts more than yet another beating at the hands of quarterbacks with plenty of time in the pocket. Where, hell, Tom Brady’s thoughts on the hospitality industry makes bigger news than the fact that his tight end grew up in the nice part of town.

The truth is that oftentimes we are sad and petty and pathetic in these parts. This place, and the people who inhabit it, can feel there is nothing redeemable about Buffalo and Western New York. Nothing to show off. Progress comes too slow and the politics are too dirty and no one really wins anything. Ever.

It’s right there in the ‘Tell me I’m pretty’ line of questioning Williams got on Thursday. Even worse is that it felt justified to make him repeat the reasons for staying over and over again. Just in case the recorder ran out of batteries or a camera wasn’t in focus. A mic could have shorted out. The fire alarm could have gone off. Heat-seeking missiles… bloodhounds… and foxes… barracudas…

The truth is that we needed it. For posterity, for hope and for all those times where it feels like we aren’t worth it. Maybe landing Williams will help us get over ourselves for once. Get out of our own way.

Maybe someday we won’t sit in disbelief and wonder why a talented athlete is willing to wear red, white and blue in exchange for $100 million in cash from an old guy. Or that he doesn’t mind the climate or lack of an IKEA near the city proper.

Maybe it was the deer or the pizza or architecture. Maybe none of it. Maybe Mario Williams just wanted to come here and it took him three days to figure out an explanation as to why. Maybe none of it really mattered to him and, someday, we won’t have to ask why. We just won’t need to know.

Now that’s a hypothetical worth getting excited about.

One Comment

  1. PKB

    This is excellent. Don’t take this as a criticism but I viewed the Williams question thing totally differently. People asked him why he chose to sign with the Bills. To me that line of questioning read ‘you can’t seriously be signing here for football related reasons so what are they?’

    “…someday we won’t have to ask why.” That day? When the football team gets a reputation for winning. The Bills reputation is so poor (and Williams reputation is so great), people had to press Williams for potential reasons relating to the city.

    My view — there was nothing about the football team or the city that was bad enough that forced Williams to turn down the most lucrative contract ever offered to a defensive player in the NFL.