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Buffalo’s Cold Reality

Julie Bender | Friday, January 28, 2005

Ahh, Super Bowl season once again, a treasured time for sports fans. For me, however, this time of year brings a host of tortured memories.

Let me clarify. I’m from Buffalo. Besides wisecracks about the snow, Buffalo also has a history of athletic letdowns.

Where do I begin? Maybe with the loss of our NBA franchise in 1978? Or perhaps with our failed bid for a Major League Baseball team? Or how about with former Buffalo Bill O.J. Simpson’s murder trial?

These events all wounded the Buffalo pride, but nothing hurt as badly as our four-year Super Bowl run in the early ’90s.

Though I was only six years old when the Bills faced the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV, I remember it vividly. Buffalo had never been to a Super Bowl before, and football fever invaded our snowy city.

I remember having “Bills Days” at school, which I took to an extreme with my Bills sweatshirt, my large helmet earrings and my “Zubaz” striped hat. Bills songs played on the radio, and young boys had the Buffalo logo buzzed into their hair.

Everyone knows how the story ends, but only those from Buffalo know the pain of watching Scott Norwood attempt the 47-yard field goal with four seconds to go and Buffalo down by one. The echo of that infamous kick still resounds in my head, as do those awful words, “Wide right.”

Stunned, Buffalo fans consoled each other with the sad chorus, “There’s always next year.” And, for once, they were right as we were blessed with four Super Bowls in a row. The pain of losing those four Super Bowls, though, took its toll on the fans. I still remember our last Super Bowl loss to the Dallas Cowboys. I felt disgusted as they showed a television close-up of Jimmy Johnson. As I turned around, I felt sadness watching my brother brush away tears as my dad hugged him.

Though Buffalo football has never been the same, we got another chance at a national championship with the Sabres in 1999. My family sat on the couch, our eyes glued to the TV as game six of the Stanley Cup went into its third overtime against the Dallas Stars. We weren’t giving up.

That is, we didn’t give up until the Stars’ Brett Hull tapped in the game-winning goal. As the Stars poured onto the ice in celebration, the replay showed that Hull’s skate had been in the crease. Despite a review of the goal, Dallas was declared the winner. To this day, Buffalo fans protest the game with “No Goal” bumper stickers on their cars.

Buffalo has gotten the raw deal in sports too many times, but our fans are resilient. Maybe it’s our naive hope and constant pride – or maybe it’s that we’ve come to grips with the cold reality of losing.

Either way, up in Buffalo, we’re used to the cold.

Contact Julie Bender at jbender@nd.edu.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.