The Buffalo Bills fit the archetype of a talented team with a community to play for.
Professional sports frequently become larger than life thanks, in part, to the way they connect us culturally to our fellow humans. Many playoff runs have been woven into the fabric of history beyond sports thanks to teams going on runs that are back-dropped by some sort of struggle or conflict beyond sports.
A few examples from just the last few decades: Remember, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series after the Boston Marathon bombing. The Yankees won the American League in 2001 after 9/11. The Lakers won the NBA Finals the year Kobe Bryant tragically died in a helicopter accident.
It might seem as though sports are so perfect in these moments that it’s predetermined, simply scripted. While I appreciate a good conspiracy theory, it’s impractical that professional sports have been scripted all this time since it would take buy-in from hundreds, if not thousands of people simultaneously, all while not spilling the beans.
Rather, this phenomenon is much more likely the product of events being more memorable because we have an anchor to reinforce them, a bookmark because of a life or historical event, and secondly because there is something very real that seems to happen when a community rallies behind something together. It gives players on the field or court something to play for beyond just their own aspirations and can serve as a motivator that allows them to dig deeper than their opponent.
If you’re looking for that element this season, it has to be the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills have everything to play for, and a community looking for a positive cause to rally behind
Buffalo is easy for the common American to forget about. Tucked between Great Lakes and practically in Canada, it’s an afterthought in pro sports as one of the cities with just two professional teams. Its location makes it inaccessible to most Americans as a drive-through city. Buffalo is simply different. It doesn’t run on Dunkin’, in Buffalo it’s all about Tim Horton’s. The only real comparison is Detroit, but their status as an export city for vehicles has given it much more prominence culturally than Buffalo.
Furthermore, it’s a blue-collar city that can, at times, lack glamour. There aren’t sprawling suburbs, there are farm towns and Native American reservations that have just a handful of stoplights.
But, I beg of you, don’t forget about Buffalo. And definitely do buy into what its people and its football team has to fight for.
Recall, months ago a tragic act of racially-motivated hate violence took the life of 10 and wounded three more in a supermarket in a low-income community. That supermarket was one of the only in the area, leaving the community paralyzed with fear and a lack of resources.
Then, at Christmas, 37 people died in a snowstorm that left Buffalo – a city well-prepared for blizzards – caught off guard. This came after a previous blizzard that relocated a Bills home game to Detroit.
And now as we know, one of the Bills players, Damar Hamlin, from the beloved football team has suffered a public heart attack that shook essentially an entire country to its core, only to bring us all back together through the story of donations to his charitable organization and his incredible recovery aided by selfless medical professionals.
We also just learned that the long-time voice of the Buffalo Bills suffered a stroke before even the scary situation involving Hamlin.
Again, Buffalo is different. The small-town feel throughout Orchard Park and surrounding suburbs create a strong community. Your perception of Bills Mafia might be all about drinkin’ beer and smashing tables, but remember, Orchard Park neighbors shoveled Bills players out of their homes so they could get out and play. Most Bills fans will tell you that’s the real true essence of Bills Mafia. You won’t read stories like this involving many other pro sports teams. The bond the players have with the real, normal people in their community is so unique.
Buffalo has had itself a troubling half-year or so. The Bills have everything to play for, and the community has every reason to rally behind a common cause.
Storybook seasons have come to pass many times before, and if there’s one way for this season to follow that archetype, it would be the Bills pulling off their first Super Bowl in franchise history and giving the Buffalo community a needed win.
Other teams might have something to play for, but the Bills have a whole lot more.