I've always been a loser.
One of my earliest memories is Scott Norwood's Super Bowl XXV "wide right." I was only six years old at the time, but the memory of the event branded itself onto my psyche. I remember my father, in the late hours of the night, laughing the defeat off as he said goodbye to our guests. But once they left, he went back into the family room and sat silently in the dark.
I was too young to be able to follow -- and appreciate -- the rest of the Levy/Kelly glory years, and I didn't really come of age until Doug Flutie's magical 1999 season. Flutie's miracle run, of course, quickly turned into the "Music City Miracle," and while my friends raucously cursed and wildly gesticulated their astonishment, I collapsed on the floor, and lay there silently for several minutes, kind of like my father did nearly a decade earlier.
I then went off to college and the Bills became an afterthought. Fortuitously, I missed out on the Williams, Mularkey, and even the early part of the Jauron eras. It wasn't until October 2007 -- when I came back home -- that I watched my next Bills game. Backup Trent Edwards and the Bills injury-plagued defense were about to upset an impressive Cowboys team on the national stage. A win might mark the beginning of a new era with a new quarterback. I was a grown man at this point, yet I came close to tears when they lost the game in the dying seconds. My father remained stoic. He knew better.
The Bills are like the girlfriend that keeps on cheating on you. You know she has the potential to be a good girlfriend -- thus giving you cause to keep her around -- but she keeps disappointing you by screwing around behind your back.
Yet, I'm still proud to be a Bills fan--a loser. Saying you're a Bills fan is like showing someone a hideous scar. You get pity from people--and that's worth something. But it's more than just pity; it's pity laced with respect. You get the same sort of respect an ex-con or a war veteran get: we've suffered, we've gone through hell, we've had to constantly deal with blowout losses, baffling draft picks, sure-fire victories unbelievably turned into crippling defeats. Respect.
I like to think that the Bills have helped me become a better person. They've hardened me; they've made me tougher. I've been rejected by countless jobs, internships, girls. One year, I applied to ten grad schools and got rejected by all ten. But I was able to weather all these storms; I was able to get up after I was thrown down. I suppose what I'm saying is: the Bills help you deal with real-world defeats. How would I have dealt with these rejections if I was a Pats, Steelers, or Packers fan? Accustomed to so much success, it's likely I would have simply melted into a worthless pile of goo. Bills fans, for what it's worth, are good at losing.
The great thing about "hope" is that you can enjoy the act of hoping, no matter how things actually turn out. It's quite possible that the Bills never get out of their slump, never get to the playoffs again, and never win the big one. But that doesn't stop us from hoping and relishing in fantasies of glorious victory. And when you have something to hope for, you have something to live for. So, as this pitiful season comes to a close, I feel a sense of ease and comfort wash over me. I do not sit silently in the dark, or lay prostrate on the floor, but I am full of hope -- blindly perhaps -- of better days to come.
At the very least, all these heartrending losses, all these disappointments, all these humiliations will make winning that big one all the sweeter.