Fishbowl

A common goldfish, contrary to popular belief, has a memory span of at least three months. That’s long enough to complete an obstacle course introduced to it a month prior. It’s long enough to know life was probably better in a plastic bag among ping pong balls at the fair than under your care.

These fish remember because there isn’t much going on inside those small, slimy bodies. Goldfish are not reciting the Pythagorean Theorem from memory. Even if it could understand the value of A and B and C, there would be no way for it to recite to us that fact. Put a bunch of goldfish in a room with typewriters and you would eventually just have smelly typewriters.

Humans have a lot more going on in the cranial area. They can understand and communicate verbally with others. They can emote and postulate and pray. They can create, use their imagination and interpret what they see and hear and feel. It’s all very superior-sounding, and it’s likely the high five was invented to celebrate our triumph over all scaled beasts.

Memory and attention span are not the same thing, in goldfish or any other animal. While a goldfish could remember what Apple’s last quarterly earnings were, its interest in the stock market may last mere seconds. Humans are no different. While one’s memory and their ability to care are completely separate, man’s ability to fabricate — to imagine — can send us all back to the fishbowl at the county fair.

Vince Young’s time in Buffalo — now that it’s over — feels almost imagined. The narrative of The Vince Young Story was merely a weird dream the local radio station made into talking points for months and months.

When Young signed with the Bills on May 11, it seemed like a smart move. He came to the NFL as one of the most exciting talents in amateur football, winning one of the best college football games of all time. His NFL career had faltered, though. He fell out of favor in Tennessee and did not play well with the Eagles last season. He was a quarterback looking for one last chance, and the Bills needed a backup. Recent history was not in his favor, but sometimes name is everything. Vince Young is still a big name.

Big names can get the neurons firing, and so the imagination starts working. When will Vince Young get his first start? Is there a quarterback controversy in Buffalo? Will Fitzpatrick fold under the pressure in training camp? We’ll be taking your calls after this commercial break.

With a brain so focused on the present, it’s easy to forget all the things you already know. That Vince Young has struggled with his place in the league from the beginning. That he went AWOL after a bad game in 2008 and his coach called the police, fearing the worst. A man who was “hurting inside and out.” In the immediate aftermath of those incidents, we forgot as well. Gone were the good throws and smart plays. The awards and accolades. All that matters in sports, it seems, is what happened in the last three months. Or three seconds.

Any genuine disappointment that comes from the failure of Vince Young in Buffalo spawns from pure imagination. Practically speaking, he is an easily replaceable backup quarterback with no financial burden whatsoever. The Bills didn’t like what they saw and acted to replace him swiftly.

He was on the roster for just over 15 weeks, and they only played three preseason games in that time. In the grand scheme of things, not much of this matters and never really will. If you try hard enough you could forget that he ever existed. In time, many people will do just that.

The story of Vince Young in Buffalo, though, was sculpted to be one of inevitable takeover. Eventually, so the story goes, Ryan Fitzpatrick will get hurt and Young will replace him as starting quarterback. Then we will see who the Bills quarterback really is. Week 6, it was declared. Before the bye week for sure.

Then the story went from future to fiction, and we forget all over again.

What we saw on Saturday night was that Vince Young just isn’t that good at football anymore. Maybe he was in the past, and maybe he could be again. Just not with the Bills. Our eyes told us that it wasn’t working, that it was time to try something else. But while we saw the truth, it didn’t fit what so many have tried to make real since May 11. When Vince Young wasn’t what we imagined he would be, it had to be his fault.

You just can’t imagine something to life, but you sure can forget you ever thought about it.

Once Tarvaris Jackson arrives, this cycle is likely to start all over again. The hype will be less significant without that Rose Bowl performance to talk about; but the story has to be created somehow, I suppose. We already know that Tyler Thigpen isn’t that good, either. Somehow, we don’t forget that fact.

Maybe soon we will forget about Young like we’ve forgotten about Owens and Merriman. There are other fish in the sea, of course, and the season is still young. As we get closer to opening day I can’t help but notice that these waters feel more than a little familiar, though. Somewhere between the story in our heads and the obstacles outside it is a path we take far too often.

One Comment

  1. Mike

    Classy.
    Not that you can’t find these knuckleheads anywhere, but you’re making me glad I moved from WNY. Reading these comments just makes me uncomfortable.