“… there ain’t much difference between winnin’ and losin’, except for how the outside world treats you.” – Coach Gary Gaines, Friday Night Lights
1999: On June 19, 1999 the Buffalo Sabres lost to the Dallas Stars. Brett Hull scored his infamous goal (“no goal”) in triple OT depriving Buffalo the chance of capturing its first major professional sports Championship. Although it was a tough pill to swallow, both the Sabres and Bills were competing at a high level, and things looked optimistic for Buffalo sports fans.
In the 1999 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills, coached by Wade Phillips, finished with an 11-5 record, good enough for the 5th seed in the AFC. Quarterback Doug Flutie was not stellar by any measure, but the astute defense let up only 14.3 points per game. Interestingly enough, Wade Phillips replaced Flutie with Rob Johnson for the playoffs. Johnson played well in the Bills final game of the season after the Bills elected to rest Flutie.
Y2K problem: After a 1990’s for Buffalo sports that consisted of 5 conference playoff championships (4 Bills, 1 Sabres), the clock changed to the year 2000. While the Y2K hysteria was centered on computer problems and apocalyptic conspiracies, perhaps that was all misplaced. It seems that the greatest impact of the year change was on one thing: Buffalo sports fans.
January 8, 2000, the Buffalo Bills travelled to play the newly named Tennessee Titans (the team name Oilers was retired before the season). With Rob Johnson under center, the Bills played the typical Wade Phillips defense first brand of football. After relinquishing the lead with 1:48 to play on a 36 yard field goal by Titans Kicker Al Del Greco, the Bills looked all but sunk. Without any timeouts left and down 15-13, the Bills drove the field to the Titans 24 yard line. Johnson even completed a pass to Peerless Price while he was only wearing one shoe. With 20 seconds left, Steve Christie hit a 41 yard field goal to give the Bills the lead, in what seemed like a miraculous finish.
However, the real miracle was the Titans scoring on the ensuing kick return on a controversial (forward lateral), to complete the “Music City Miracle”.
Since that time, as we all know, the Bills have missed the playoffs for 17 straight years. That said, 2017 just feels different. The Chicago Cubs ended their curse in 2016. The City of Cleveland celebrated their first championship in over fifty years in 2016. Donald Trump shockingly defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. New evidence of UFO’s have come to light in 2017. The news cycle appears as if it is scripted every day as shocking revelations and natural disasters have become normalized.
On Christmas Eve the Bills travel to Foxborough, MA to face the New England Patriots. It just feels like the Bills are ready to end their 17 year playoff drought (and longest drought in all of major pro sports). Whether or not the Bills pull off the Christmas Miracle and beat the Patriots, the Bills should have a shot heading into the final week of the season. A win over the Pats would put the Bills in a much better position. The Dolphins beat the Pats just 2 weeks earlier, why can’t the Bills do the same? The Bills are coming off 2 straight wins, and won in Gillette against a Brady-less Pats in 2016.
Here’s to America’s true blue collar team: the Buffalo Bills. Circle the Wagons, say some prayers, drink some egg-nog, and cheer on your oft forgotten team. America could use a feel good story heading into 2018. Hopefully the Bills can be that team, it is our time.
Santa, if your reading this… all I want for Christmas this year is a Bills playoff appearance.
Prediction: Bills 27, Patriots 20.