Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I am never comfortable, I am afraid of heights
Why do people fear heights? Whenever I'm at the top of any tall thing, whether it be a mountain, skyscraper, or even a balcony, it's looking down and seeing that you could fall. On the edge of destruction.
The Bills 3-0 start has me in a state of confused bliss. I wear my Bills shirt every Sunday and Mondays after wins, a classic throwback with the standing buffalo, long sleeve. I've worn it enough this year where it now fits as a shawl; the arms are too loose, and it drapes over my shoulders and fans out over the rest of my body. It fits as well as the Bills fit as NFL contenders. This isn't something I'm used to; the Bills last made the playoffs when I was six, and, in true Buffalo fashion, they lost a heartbreaker in what came to be known as "the Music City Miracle." (Or, total horsecrap,if you ask the city of Buffalo.) That's my first clear Bills memory- the Bills being beaten in the last seconds on a call that was ostensibly wrong. So wrong. And in my naive understanding of the play as it happened, I just couldn't understand how the Bills could lose like this, how things weren't fair.
After twelve more years of grizzled sports experience, I get it now; in fact, for a while, I've been almost resigned to losing, to heartbreak, to things not being fair. Not to say that the pain is any less painful, but it's not unexpected. The 3-0 start by the Bills, to me, is new and terrifying. These things don't happen to the Bills (at least in my lifetime)- 2nd half comebacks, favorable penalty calls, high scoring offense, timely turnovers, beating the Patriots (well, I saw it once, but it seems like a mirage sometimes), and last second drives to win the game. They're playing at a level few could foresee, and they look poised for success. They have an attitude, a presence; they're the castoffs of the league, and they want their revenge. Unfortunately, I have seen the depths that sports can take me to, and the Bills, with their current play, are approaching a pinnacle. They have a long way to fall. And that's the worst part of being a fan for me right now. I am not comfortable with this. I cannot simply just enjoy; I must worry, as much as other fans try to exhort me to live in the moment. Because I've seen this before. I've seen this before.
2008, we start 5-1, the hot new contenders of the league, poised for success. We finish the season at 7-9. Now, this team seems different- better QB, already a 'better' win in the Patriots victory (although the Bills did beat the Chargers in 2008, but the Chargers suck in the beginning of most seasons and finished 8-8. They still made the playoffs though!), a better offensive line, better defensive front. That's what I'm telling myself, at least, that the 2008 team is different than this year's team. But it's still nagging at the back of my mind- the Bills could slip right back into mediocrity.
This is why I find this upcoming game against the Bengals highly important. Last week, I didn't expect the Bills to win, just to play a good game. Now comes the burden of expectation. They should beat the Bengals. In fact, they should roll the Bengals if they're a true NFL contender. It's a classic letdown game. The Bills, high off their win against the Patriots and looking ahead to the Eagles next week, blow it to the Bengals. And envisioning a loss for them this week begets visions of more losses, of a slippery slope right back to a depressing season. It is a bleak horizon, the one I don't want to see, but presses on the back of my mind. We've been here before. They have to start strong in this game (no more comebacks, please), they have to take this one easily, to calm my fears even a little bit.
This season already has given me exuberant highs. The last two weeks, what with their dramatic, my-heart-is-going-to-explode-with-anxiety comebacks, their ability to move the ball in the clutch, and their amazing halftime adjustments, I have bought into this team. I'm along for the ride. I just wish I could sit in the backseat without constantly fearing a ten car pileup. When will there ever be security? Probably only when the Bills have clinched a playoff spot. Until then the abyss of uncertainty will hang over me. Because there's always one more game they can lose, one more 'sure thing' that can go wrong. The classic expectation is that they'll stumble after such a start as this, and while I don't believe it (I think the players are staying remarkably grounded and remember 2008), I have to consider it, out of past experiences. I wish it could be different, that I could just enjoy. Climbing so high, though, I have to look down.