Thank you Bills (and Bengals)

January 5, 2018
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When something really bad happens in Buffalo sports (obviously a rare occurrence), my Twitter feed will always include tweets from fans who feel bad for me and my colleagues at WGR. The tweet usually says something like “I’m glad I don’t have your job tomorrow.” I’ll bet everyone wished they had our job this week. It was / is a great week to be a sport talk show host in Buffalo thanks to the end of the drought.  

In fact, it's one of the most enjoyable weeks I’ve had in my Buffalo broadcasting career. It's the most fun we’ve had since the Sabres' back-to-back conference final seasons from 2005-2007. Everything just felt right in my world. I was on a natural high all week. Driving home from work on Monday, some guy cut me off and all I could think was, "The Bills are in the playoffs". I just smiled and went on my way. And NO, this doesn’t make my psychologically pathetic!

This week reminded me of the Bills' early 1990s seasons or a playoff run by the Sabres deep into the spring. The whole community comes together and everybody is consumed by the team. Fans were flying flags, wearing Bills gear and couldn’t get enough of Bills talk. Bills fans from all over the country and around the globe were calling WGR shows and tweeting all of us throughout the course of the week.

How it went down, with the Bengals' last-minute touchdown on a 4th-and-12 play, will go down in Buffalo sports history as one of the most memorable moments. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the clip of that amazing pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd. I could sit at my computer all day and just keep watching videos of the reaction in the Bills locker room down in Miami. Every time I see Kyle Williams hug his two sons, it brings a tear to my eye. Even though I know it's coming.  

While many Bills fans have said they cried when the Bengals won and the drought officially ended at 17 seasons, I wasn’t emotional at all. For me, it didn’t happen until I started seeing videos of celebrations from Bills fans across the country. The first one I saw was from fans watching the end of the Bengals-Ravens game in a concourse at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Since the Bills game ended first, they had stayed to watch the outcome and learn the Bills fate. They exploded when Boyd ran into the endzone. I couldn’t help but get choked up because that was the moment I realized what Bills fans everywhere were feeling. This wasn’t just an amazing moment for Western New York.  

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the callers on the WGR post-game shows last Sunday night as they cheered, screamed and cried while talking about what it meant to have their beloved Bills back in the playoffs. We were getting calls from fans who talked about loved ones no longer with them who had been the ones that handed down being a Bills fan, and how much this would have meant to them. 

Hundreds of fans showed up at the Buffalo airport in frigid temperatures at 1 a.m. to welcome the team home. Fans all round town have been sporting their Bills gear all week. Bills head coach Sean McDermott received a thank you letter from a first grade class. Think about all of the young Bills fans who have never experienced their favorite NFL team actually playing a game after the regular season had come to an end.  

Then we have the donations. When was the last time a fan base was so thankful for help from another team that they inundated charitable organizations with their money? Andy Dalton’s foundation had received more than $300,000 in donations as of Friday. Tyler Boyd set out to raise money for youth football in his hometown and set a goal of raising $20,000. As of Friday, more than $56,000 had been donated. Simply unbelievable. I got a great tweet about that and it read “But we’re just a bunch of drunks who jump on tables and light ourselves on fire. Way to go Bills fans, that's how you do it”.

As the week went on, we shifted from the celebration to the game in Jacksonville. Now the stories were flooding in from Bills fans who were making their way to Florida for the game. One caller talked about taking his 82-year old father to the game because the Bills have always been a shared love between them. 

Someone tweeted a video from a flight leaving Buffalo and passengers were singing the Bills shout song. I saw a story on the news about some Bills fans who were driving to Jacksonville, and when they stopped to gas up in West Virginia, they ran into other Bills fans making the trip. I can’t wait to see all the Bills jerseys in the stands on Sunday.

But don’t forget what Kyle Williams said. Amidst the crazy celebration in that post-game locker room last Sunday, the veteran Bill, who has been the face of the end of the drought, said this isn’t the end, it's the start. I hope he is right. Let's hope we get back to the days when a playoff berth was expected at the beginning of each season. It wasn’t a question of whether or not the Bills would be in the playoffs, the question was how many home games would there be.  Let's get back to a time when you left your January calendar open because there were Bills playoff games to plan for.  

In the meantime, continue to soak it all in this weekend Bills fans and hopefully we get to talk about the next round of the playoffs next week.