See and Hear

Sunday’s Bills game is a great example of why most of the talk that surrounds sports is pointless. Obligated, institutionalized sports talk is dumb. I think it hurts you as a fan and distracts you from how much fun watching sports can be.

Beating the Panthers on Sunday was a revelation. It felt far more significant than a single win. Watching Manuel drive down the field with no timeouts was an entirely new sight. It’s an early flash of what could be the future. What might be the present. It feels worth talking about in a sphere where oftentimes so much of what we actually say doesn’t.

The only reason Mario Williams’ foot and lawsuit were relaxant this summer is because there were no games to talk about. It HAD to be a story, because stories were required. That’s how the Covering Sports business works. If you’re going to get sent out to Orchard Park or St. John Fisher every day, you better come back with something. Really, anything will do. In the summer months as a sports reporter, you’ll write about anything that’s even remotely interesting and slightly related to sports. There are deadlines to make, you see.

Just like the temporary hubbub about Nigel Bradham’s fondness for the devil’s lettuce. It was a non-issue, but a smaller paper scooped a larger one. And football is football. It’s the stuff that has to be important because there is money to burn and time to kill.

Doug Marrone has already played this game to his advantage this season. It was pretty fascinating to watch. What actually matters, though, is what happens between the whistles. The framing we do outside of that really is pointless.

What was great about Sunday is that if you were paying attention to the game you realized that all the preseason narratives are so unimportant once the football starts. Manuel is playing. So is Mario Williams. Even with Byrd and Gilmore out, the defense is managing. Holdouts and injuries and foot problems have been replaced with a 1-1 record and a crack at the Jets on Sunday. We are living in exciting times.

A team-record 4.5 sacks for Mario Williams sort of speaks for itself, but it’s just so refreshing to see someone getting pressure on a quarterback for once. It looks promising. I’ll leave the breakdown to someone looking at the all-22, but the results have been there.

Say it again: the results are there. Manuel delivered. So did Kiko Alonso. And Robert Woods. The draft picks look great. I don’t think I’ve ever said that. And although I’d like to see a bit more aggression on the play calling because 4th and short punts are worse than malaria, the fact that they overcame tentative coaching is also encouraging. Hopefully that gets better, too.

Two games into the season I have exactly two thoughts about the Bills. Both involve me being wrong and excited about it. First, I will gladly be wrong in April if it means for an exciting fall. I was incredibly uneasy about drafting E.J. Manuel. It took a few weeks to come around to it because I didn’t trust the organization to make the right call. Now I’m there. I’m optimistic. I want so badly to be wrong about him. It would be a relief, really.

My initial thought about this season is that the best case scenario for this team is that Manuel is really good and the team struggles. I think that might be wrong as well. I want to see this team get better. If it happens thanks to a high pick in the draft after a poor season, that’s fine. If it happens on the field this season? Even better. There is no moral quandary here. Progress is progress, I just didn’t expect to see much between the whistles this early.

One thing’s for sure: I can’t wait to hear the next whistle and watch what happens.