On the morning of February 5, 2017, the day of Super Bowl LI, I woke up to a moment of sheer panic. What was I seriously doing going to a bar situated in Boston surrounded by Patriots fans no less? I was born and bred a Bills fan. Super Bowls are a very touchy subject in my family. I always chose to watch in the privacy of someone’s living room rather than venturing out and dealing with the drunken public. This would be the first time I broke away from that tradition and spend it with friends… who were all going to be cheering on their Patriots to get to five rings.
My next dilemma was what to wear to this event. In the past, I typically threw on a faded Kelly jersey or a more current Nike t-shirt with the Bills logo on it that I wear during regular season games. I completely nixed that idea.
The self-deprecating fan in me didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb for once. I’ve been through the ridicule before. As a Boston resident, I’ll find myself in a bar, a guy will approach me, ask me if I’m a Patriots fan and the conversation will go one of two ways:
1). “I’m so sorry to hear that. How do you deal with that?”
2).”Wow, wide right, am I right?”
I’ve seriously have heard all the jokes.
“Q: What does BILLS stand for? A: Boy, I Love Losing Super (Bowls)…”
“She’d make a good girlfriend because she’s not looking for any rings…”
The list goes on and on.
I decided to call myself an Atlanta Falcons fan for a day. Julio Jones assisted me with a win a championship in fantasy football in the past so it’s the least I could do to return the favor.
I already knew I would still probably get dirty looks as I would be sporting Falcons colors (red and black). When it comes to rooting for a team in the Super Bowl, that is not my own, I generally base it on my respect for AFL history and/or my overall allegiance to the American Football Conference as a whole. However, due to the Patriots being a contentious AFC East rival, I would have to set aside my principles for one night.
To clarify, if the Chiefs or the Steelers were in it that would be a whole different story. This was the New England Patriots. To further emphasize my feelings on supporting the Pats, my friend had offered one of their Pats jerseys to wear and a respectfully declined with a “Hell no. I wouldn’t be caught dead in that.”
Bottom line, I was rooting for a good game. With the exception of the Cowboys vs. Packers game, all other playoff games were total snooze fests. I’m one of those people who watches the actual football game and is not just there for the commercials or the halftime show.
I wanted to see exciting plays. Well, I got that. Please refer to Julian Edelman’s catch of a lifetime on Youtube for further review.
I didn’t just get an exciting game. Instead, I witnessed the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.*
*For clarification purposes, the largest comeback in NFL history aka “The Comeback” still belongs to the Bills-Oilers playoff game back in ‘93. Plus, it was achieved by a back-up QB in Frank Reich which is pretty impressive, but I digress.
31 unanswered points in the second half will put you in the history books. Despite my blatant biased opinions towards the Patriots, I have to admit, I was completely speechless by the turnaround. I’m pretty positive I shouted “wow” a ton during the second half.
Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu alleged that the length of the halftime show played a role in this collapse, but I would chalk this up as a poor excuse when in reality the Falcons choked. They had their chance and they blew it. Insert a Golden State Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead joke here.
During the first half there were a lot of upset and nervous fans especially those dejected at my table. Things looked bleak.
As for the second half and the final overtime, it was all high five city.
And so here I will confess my final reaction when I watched Brady hoisting the trophy and here I was amidst a sea of Patriots fans celebrating the victory.
It’s a very surreal experience to watch fans celebrating something that you cannot fully participate in. I assumed a role as a voyeur, an outsider look in. To dispel these feelings, I made sure I drank a ton of beer. I even channeled my inner background dancer during Lady Gaga’s halftime show, which was a sight to see and I’m relieved it didn’t end up on social media.
Ultimately, I was happy for my friends who were hyped for this moment, but I just couldn’t relate.
We all know the track record of the Bills in the early ‘90s Super Bowl run. Four straight appearances and no rings to back it up. Numerous documentaries have been made surrounding this phenomenon. I can’t escape the pop cultural references to it. I was literally watching an X-Files episode the other day and a character had alluded to it. The ghost of the Music City Miracle still haunts me to this this day. The longest active playoff drought in North American sports history still lingers.
When Lady Gaga was singing her heart-wrenching ballad “Million Reasons,” the lyrics resonated with me.
“Every heartbreak makes it hard to keep the faith.”
This song is not about a person. It’s about the dysfunctional relationship I have with my football team. I just can’t seem to ever quit this team.
The Bills have a new coach in Sean McDermott. I had asked a buddy of mine who is a diehard Panthers fan his initial thoughts on the hire and he said, “As a fan, I thought he was a very good coordinator. His defensive schemes put players in the best position to succeed and was instrumental in our Super Bowl run. Clearly he is a strong communicator and has a track record of building strong defenses from the last six years with the Panthers. We will miss him.”
Will he be instrumental in a Bills Super Bowl run? Per usual, I’m taking the “wait and see” approach.
Since Marv Levy’s departure as head coach, the Bills have gone through a revolving door of head coaches. Over the years, their records have been stuck in this broken record of 8-8 or 7-9 seasons and can’t seem to break out of this vicious cycle.
Growing up in a northern suburb of Chicago, I have many Facebook friends who are Cubs fans. I was ecstatic for them when I saw their celebratory Facebook posts after the historic World Series win. I was certainly able to empathize, as a lifelong Red Sox fan, I had experienced that same euphoric joy when I witnessed their win in 2004.
The unimaginable can happen in sports. That’s the reason why they draw me in.
Perhaps, I need to take this into consideration before I lose all hope.