Bet you thought the title referred to this year’s crop. No, not by a long shot. Despite C3PO as a coach, they have some abilities, but to expect much would be silly too. They do however, make me think of the golden times.
The years between 87-95 were pretty sweet. The Bills’ four trips to the Super Bowl and the two playoff runs in 88 and 89 had even the biggest stoic queing up at the old Trench print shop on Main Street to keep their title sweatshirt collection up to date.
I still remember video of the Oakland Raiders at Rich Stadium on a 10 degree day with mouths hanging open as Darryl Talley and Cornelius Bennett took their pre-game workout in shorts. The K-Gun fired with such frequency it wasn’t long before Bruce Smith and Bennett were up on the benches dancing. Good times, to be sure.
That era, along with the Simpson window, the brief flurry in the early 80 and of course the 60s title teams would make you think that we Bills fans are used to this. You tally that up and out of 50 seasons, 12 or 13 haven’t hurt our feelings.
More typical was the team I saw when I went to my first game, back at the Old Rockpile when I was all of 7. My dad figured it was time for me to check one out. We lived in a neighborhood where a lot of the guys rented places during the season. I got O.J. Simpson’s autograph when Hengerer’s opened their store at the then brand new Eastern Hills Mall — The Galleria of its day. Jim Dunaway, in the picture, lived just up the block and my dad thought it would be good to see him play.
My dad and his friend and their son (who was 18) caught a bus outside what is and probably was Brunner’s at Clarence Mall for the ride in. I don’t remember much about the approach, but I do remember walking around the field to our seats that were by a goal line, but in the front row. Given that 1971 East Side Buffalo wasn’t exactly progressive given some then turbulent yet recent history, my mom was a little worried about my participation in this enterprise. It was fine, turns out they misplaced the 18 year old.
I should mention that the Bills had one of those seasons in 1970 and 71 was looking no better. Jack Kemp was gone, Daryl Lamonica was gone, nobody really knew what O.J. could do, and Harvey Johnson was coaching. If you don’t remember the name, that tells you something about his success level as an NFL Coach.
The other side of this equation was the opponent, not just a ragtag bunch, but the coming off their Super Bowl win Baltimore Colts with Johnny Unitas and company. It wasn’t pretty. I know they took Unitas out of the game in the third quarter. I don’t remember if it was for protection since the game was such a blow out or if he tired himself out. Not only were the Bills bad, they were collapsing like fallen lawn furniture. There was a steady stream of Bills being carted away as the Colts defense sent Jim Braxton, Marlin Briscoe and Dennis Shaw to early exits with injuries. I think the final score was something like 41-3, with the Colts spending the bulk of the fourth quarter trying not to score, but they couldn’t help it. We were just that bad.
It was a grand adventure, our seats were roughly where the Bisons would have their Rib Lady Shack when they took over some years later. 45,000 people got together and collectively couldn’t believe their eyes. There have been bad years, but I think these guys built the worst team. They didn’t disgust me like some laugher did later in life. For my short time as a fan, they were supposed to do that. Got to know the truth soon enough. Winning was fun, we just don’t seem to have fun with any consistency lately.
The team finished 1-13 that year. Johnson was mercifully replaced by Lou Saban ll, the wrath of khan, to start the next season. The team drafted well enough that Reggie McKenzie was one of the integral pieces to join in 72, kicking off an open window of hope that lasted till Saban had his fill of Ralph Wilson. Ralph gets praised a lot, but I always go back to that fun season vs chore season ratio. Lord knows its been a chore since Doug Flutie was disgarded. I wish he’d sell to Golisano already. If his death is going to be a prelude to an auction that sends the Bills to LA or Vegas (hell, Toronto won’t be bother), let’s have more fun than chores. C’mon, Ralph. You know the ventriloquist running Jauron’s arms is going to get tired. Pry open the wallet next season for a Cowher or Holmgren or Shanahan and give them the Football department and let’s go all in. Send the marketing guys back to marketing (And this from a marketing guy). Quit taking the full house for granted and let’s have more fun than chores.
We have the best throwback outfits, let’s get a decent team to wear em.