The first week of football is over and I find myself bombarded with potential topics for discussion and debate. I could talk about the Eagles’ high-paced offense, RGIII’s slow, but ultimately irrelevant start, or Ndamukong Suh’s continuing mission to become the dirtiest player in football. Instead, I’m going to talk about the most emotionally charged game of the week: Pats vs. Bills. Now since this is a Bills-driven blog some might think that I’m pandering, but I was honestly riveted during the fourth quarter when the score stood at 21-20 and it looked like Buffalo might actually pull off the improbable win. After the initial disappointment faded away I was left thinking about exactly why this game was different from all the others and this led me down the path to football rivalries.
As a Green Bay Packers fan, I’m no stranger to rivalries (The Bears-Packers rivalry began in 1921, making it the longest running of its kind). However, I’ve noticed that there is no rivalry more galvanizing than the Pats-Bills despite the fact that the outcome is often so one-sided. The obvious answer to this question is that the Bills are the underdog and everyone loves to root for the perpetual loser, the little guy, good triumphing over evil (Am I actually calling Tom Brady evil? Hard to say). However, I think the real answer lies in the incredible disparity between these two teams and the areas they represent. When one thinks of Buffalo, one draws up images of poverty, blue-collar industry, and the birthplace of “Superfreak” Rick James. New England puts us in mind of puritans, financial prosperity, and prominent writers like Emerson and Poe. New England is home to Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale, while Buffalo has a high school graduation rate that has been struggling to stay above 50% for the past decade. In the pre-Obamacare days, New England was named one of America’s “Healthiest areas” due to the fact that most of the population is covered by private healthcare. Conversely, Buffalo was named “friendliest city” by USA today and received their “City with a Heart” award.
Buffalo isn’t just an underdog, they’re THE underdog. They’re every person who has felt bullied, short-changed by life, passed over for recognition. When they succeed it gives us all hope that we can rise up from our humble beginnings and achieve greatness (I know I’m reaching, but this is a football blog so I’ve pretty much got free reign to make bold and ridiculous statements). As soon as the football season starts, it’s easy to get lost in the endless parade of “experts” who tell you exactly which team is going to crumble or prevail in a given week. Games like this remind us that this is all just speculation and bullshit and that on any given Sunday you’re gonna win or you’re gonna lose. The point is: Can you win or lose like a man?