Buffalo is special.
That’s what people in Buffalo tell you, at least. Things happen differently here. There’s a certain sense of pride in that, a sense of individuality that’s supposed to smooth over the problems and shortcomings that are both sickness and symptom of Buffalo itself.
Every place is inherently different in terms of longitude and latitude. We are separated by degrees and minutes, city limits and state lines that flesh out the cartography of our lives. But Buffalo, both the city and its regional identity, is always marked by its denizens as inherently unique.
It’s flawed and desperate, but its citizens will defend Buffalo’s honor at all costs. There are endless problems and little progress, but so many still find a way to stay here and build a life. People have invested in this community, and its culture of sports, for better or worse.
We may not deserve more than what we’ve gotten—nothing—but it’s entirely possible that we need something else if we’re ever going to actually succeed. That’s what I can’t help but think when Ruff said farewell on Friday afternoon at First Niagara Center.
Ruff’s farewell was Buffalo, through and through. He was gracious in defeat, thanking everyone from current ownership to the family rotting in prison after bankrupting the franchise. He accepted responsibility, made a wry joke or two and reminisced about how close they got to getting the job done. A few more thank yous, a nod to the media and he walked away from the podium.
It was weird. A press conference like that doesn’t happen in many other cities. Maybe none of them. Other teams don’t string up a black backdrop for the coach they just fired in-season to hold court in front of. This was just the best way to handle a bunch of media requests for the guy who has been around for almost 16 years. The practicality of it still doesn’t make it any less absurd.
Friday’s press conference was abnormal, but that’s not a red flag to anyone around here. Instead, it’s another indication of how unique Buffalo is. A glimpse of the fabric of this community and a chance to remind everyone how truly “Buffalo” Lindy Ruff is. This is why Buffalo is different. It’s a place for second place parades and empty nostalgia because we just care that much.
Special doesn’t always mean better. It means unique, it can mean important, but it can also mean a whole mess of the same thing for a long time. I understand appreciating the emotions that come with moving on, but I think it’s always a good day when you realize all that static just isn’t good enough.
Lindy Ruff will continue to live in Buffalo. It’s a nice gesture, another reason to like him as a citizen and spokesperson for this area. He will live in Buffalo and win somewhere else. And when he does, it will not be ours to celebrate. Ruff, now just a Sabres alumnus, is a wealthy unemployed man living in Buffalo. Soon enough he’ll get back on his feet. The Sabres will move on, too. They’ve already given Ruff’s office to another guy, and there’s a home game tomorrow night.
Maybe now they can finally be like everyone else and win something.