The Heart of the Buffalo Sports Fan
I, like many from the Western, New York area, love the Buffalo Sabres and the Buffalo Bills. Now, living away from the area, I realize how much people like us are disrespected.
People laugh at our heartbreak. "Boy, I Love Losing Super Bowls" is an old classic among my harassers. They laugh when they see, "Wide Right." The "Music City Miracle" never fails to entertain. "No Goal" cements in their mind that our city is cursed.
People here in "Steeler Nation" don't understand how I can follow teams that constantly break my heart. Watching them nonchalantly collect another world title brought me to ponder that subject.
Quite honestly, the answer is that being a Buffalo sports fan in my era is something I would not want any other way. There are many reasons I feel this way.
Growing up in Hamburg, Buffalo sports were inherited. I'm told the Buffalo Sabres were the only thing that could quiet me down when I was little.
My first Buffalo sports memories were the Bills 1989 AFC Championship game, and going down to the Aud with my dad to my first Sabres game, which was against the Canucks.
I was hooked after that. I couldn't wait to watch the Bills or Sabres with my parents. I knew all the players and collected all of their sports cards.
Shortly after the previously-mentioned games, my parents separated and I moved out of the area. It was weird seeing Penguin and Steelers memorabilia in the places I was accustomed to seeing my own teams'.
This was around the time I suffered the first heartbreak, "Wide Right." I believe many people, now in their 20s and 30s, shared that moment with me.
Who knew at that point it would come three more times? Reaching the "Big Game" and falling just short. But each time, the Buffalo faithful loyally followed the team despite national ridicule.
We are a loyal bunch. Our reward came on the ice five years later. Our Sabres were in the Stanley Cup finals. We were back and everyone laughed, but with Dominik Hasek it was finally our time.
Game one's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" cemented it in our hearts that we were going to be champions. Downtown Buffalo was decorated in Sabre emblems as we waited for our time.
Watching game six go into overtime, I was on the phone with my father after every overtime period discussing the action. He was the one who hooked me on the team. We were in agreement, it was our time.
But Brett Hull put an end to our hopes again with a little help from what we believe was an intentional disregard of the rules. Another runner-up parade downtown was scheduled.
The list goes on with things such as the Bills' Tennessee debacle, and Carolina taking advantage of a depleted Sabres defense.
The reason it means so much to us is that the disappointment has gone on so long that our lives have drastically changed.
Myself, I've since lost my father and have moved into a career. Something that I'm sure has happened to many. A long way from when my obsession started, living in Hamburg with both parents.
So, at this point in this multi-generational dark cloud, our sports become more about what they mean to us as individuals. Most of you out there whose family, throughout the decades, have supported these teams. Some have grown old, some have passed on, and none of us have yet seen the payoff for our devotion.
We're still faithful that our day will come. That's why we march into Orchard Park in our Bills jerseys. That's why we slide on our Sabres apparel and make the trip to HSBC.
When our day arrives, it will be well-deserved. After all, we were all there for the heartbreaks.
At that moment, when the Lombardi or Lord Stanley's Cup is lifted, the first thing I will think about are those, like my father, who supported the teams through thick and thin, but never saw the payoff.
I don't think I will be the only one who has these sentiments. So, is it worth it for us to continue to believe in our teams, given our history?