Buffalo has a history of heartbreak, and there seems to be a title from each of them, Wide Right, No Goal, and The Music City Forward Lateral. Not to mention the shady dealings that lead to the departure of the Buffalo Braves. Yet, heartbreak in Buffalo has an even greater history that goes all the way back to the 1920's. This is Part II of a post that will help you to see just how far back this despair goes.
In Lesser Known Buffalo Team of the Day the 13th edition (The Buffalo All Americans) Part I (say that five times fast) , we recapped the Buffalo All Americans first season in the American Professional Football Association (APFA) which later became the NFL. It ended in heartbreak, much the same as many Buffalo Bills seasons have. Season two of the APFA, would end in even greater heartbreak.
The 1921 American Professional Football Association (APFA) season started with new rules in place. For the first time there were official standings were keep in order to declare a clear champion. Games played only against teams in the APFA were counted in the standings. Under these new rules the Buffalo All Americans started the season in a dominating fashion.
The first five games of the season were complete blowouts. Buffalo didn't allow a single point . Buffalo on the other hand put up 17,38,55,28, and 21 points against the Hammond Pro, Columbus Panhandles, New York Brickley Giants, Rochester Jeffersons, and Detroit Tigers. The Cleveland Indians were the first to score on Buffalo in a 10-6 All American win that brought their record to 6-0.
After two ties Buffalo gained a victory against the Chicago Staleys (now the Chicago Bears) 7-6. Staley coach, wide receiver and owner George Halas, challenged Buffalo to a rematch. Buffalo's owner Frank McNeil had already scheduled the team's last game for Dec 3 against the Akron Pros. McNeil, however, agreed to the game on the condition that it would be considered a post season exhibition game. McNeil even informed the Buffalo media before the game that this was an exhibition.
The game was scheduled one day after Buffalo played the Akron Pros. Having defeated the Pros bring their record to 9-0-2, the team boarded an overnight train for Chicago to play the Staleys the next day. The players were no doubt exhausted after playing the Pros; they were a very tough team. The next day Buffalo suffered a 7-10 defeat at the hand of Halas and the Staleys. This loss unofficially made Buffalo's record 9-1-2 and Chicago's record 8-1.
All Americans owner Frank McNeil, bought his team tiny golden football to commemorate the season, no doubt thinking his team was the 1921 champions APFA. Halas on the other hand seeing an opportunity to gain the title, quickly scheduled two more games, thinking that if they won both games they would be APFA champs. The Staley's won the first game and tied the last game and end up with a 9-1-1 record.
Halas declared that Chicago had won the title, claiming that the 2nd game against Buffalo mattered more than the first game. He also argued that the combined score of both games favored Chicago (16-14). McNeil claimed that Buffalo had won the title and the 2nd game was an exhibition.
Halas had convinced the other owners and a new rule tie breaker rule was instituted. It stated that a rematch counts more than the first game and the APFA champions where the Chicago Staleys. If Buffalo had refused to play the rematch Buffalo would have been crowned the champs.
Frank McNeil fought the rest of his life to get the leagues decision overturned and to award Buffalo the 1921 championship. Not only has there been no change, no record of this event is even mentioned on NFL websites.
The Staley Swindle is your LKBTOTD brought to you by: Heartbreak, a Buffalo sports fans companion for almost 100 years.
I like to add that even in the face of such heartbreak and adversity, Buffalo sports fans stick by their teams. Sure we get down, but we never get out. There is no such thing a a fair weather Bills fan (please do not insert jokes here), we are fan through and through, we are fans come what may, we are fans till our dying day, and we won't have it any other way GO BILLS!!!!