Former Buffalo Bills cornerback and current New England Patriot Stephon Gilmore tweeted out that he “finally” gets to be on national television after five years in Buffalo and as fans our collective sphincters puckered. Add in a healthy dose of former Bills running back Mike Gillislee commenting that the New England backfield is the most talented backfield he’s ever been part of and our blood pressure begins to rise.
Follow it up with Patriots team Hall of Fame inductee Raymond Clayborn disparaging the entire Bills history over letting both of the aforementioned players leave (“No wonder they lost four straight Super Bowls) and many Bills fans were ready to march on Foxboro with swords and pitchforks (while also feeling rather perplexed as to how Gilmore and Gillislee impacted games played before these two guys entered kindergarten).
WGRZ’s Jonah Javad put together a montage of Gilmore getting beat at various times over the past five years in response. People on the radio quickly pointed out the Gillislee was cut twice before signing with the Bills and only played because Karlos Williams was run out of town for his myriad of problems. And who the heck is Raymond Clayborn anyway? (Seriously…Gilmore was 1 when the Bills went to their first Super Bowl. But sure, maybe he could have kicked a 47-yarder a little bit straighter…)
Ultimately, it seems, there is just no place in professional sports for players throwing shade at other teams. It’s petty and mean and simply cannot be tolerated.
Unless we do it. Then it’s totally ok.
This was the tweet (since deleted) from the official account of the Bills after Tom Brady’s suspension was upheld last year. Retweeted hundreds of times, it followed a similar tweet from the when Brady’s suspension was first announced. Petty? Absolutely. Well played? You bet.
The true shame is, the Bills have essentially been a losing franchise since six years before Twitter even came into existence. Trying to find similar digs and verbal attacks from Bills players directed back at previous teams is incredibly difficult to find. If memory serves correctly, Takeo Spikes talked for years about how awful it was in Cincinnati once he signed with the Bills. Lawyer Milloy blasted the Patriots for cutting him in the days leading up to the opening week.
To Western New Yorkers, the Bills are part of our identity as a people. These digs quickly get to the heart of an irrational perception that Buffalo, and perhaps all Western New York, is somehow inferior. When we hear these attacks on our teams, our hackles rise. Tom Brady didn’t like our hotels (which is fine, we’d prefer he’d retire and not come back to our hotels).
Reggie Bush didn’t like our women (our women didn’t like that he finished an entire season with -1 yard rushing). Bryan Cox flipped the whole stadium off (alright, that was pretty funny). Buffalo fans get all bound up when some athlete takes a shot at our teams or our city. But the reality is we all know why we have this reaction. We just don’t like to face this reality.
The truth is we all know the best response to any of this nonsense and the truth is why we’re so peeved about these types of comments. The truth is all of this goes away if the Bills start winning football games. We need a scoreboard check to be in our favor for a while. And that’s what irks us the most; seventeen years and counting of not having a leg to stand on; seventeen years of mounting losses and no legitimate defense to comments like these; seventeen years of essentially having to agree with Gilmore: we’re all disappointed the Bills aren’t good enough to be involved in national games more often.
If the Bills would just start winning games our players would get to take the shots, talk the smack, make some digs, and throw some shade. Players would want to come here from other teams and we’d hear about how awful their former teams were. Best of all, we fans would have some ability to stand up to the smack talk we get from the fans of other teams. We’d have a little more dignity, more credibility, behind our retort. And maybe we wouldn’t get so worked up when the likes of a Karlos Williams replacement player leaves our team and joins a crowded backfield in New England with the high aspirations of getting at least a majority of the red zone carries.