When I first saw that Buffalobills.com was profiling the 90’s Bills, I cringed. Immediately I thought of our four championship misses and the ensuing B-I-L-L-S acronym jokes (you would think people would be tired of saying it by now, I KNOW I am tired of hearing it). However, once you get past the pain – you start to feel the warmth and beauty that only nostalgia can bring. I loved the 90s.
I was only seven when I first met Thurman-burnin (as I called him), Jim Kelly and Bruuuuce! I loved the colors, but even more I loved the grit and in-your-face brand of offense and defense we played with. At our best, we were a bunch of bad hombres that could ring up 51 on you in an AFC championship game (hello Oakland) or spot you 32 points and still win (hello Houston) – we were that good. At any time. And all the time. But we were also much more.
As different videos have been playing, I have been splicing in memories of my childhood with the highs and lows of Bills football. Some of my most sacred times with my father and brother were around a soaring high (Monday Night Football wins or snowy games in B-Lo) or a soul-crushing low (hello Tennessee). To this day, we still exchange texts on game-day if the Bills win or lose. So, the bond with the Bills for me is about so much more than what we lost or won – but about the bond that the men in my family shared. The bond that all Buffalo fans shared - underdogs who never could quite get over the hump but would bust theirs trying.
In those 90s, there was almost never a time when I thought we didn’t try hard enough or play with passion and reckless abandon. There was no such thing as playing for pride then, because the pride was because we had the privilege of being a Bill.
As the week is concluding now, I have come to understand that the 90s Bills were about so much more than our Hall-of-Fame four. It was also about Flutie Flakes and E Moulds. It was about Antowain Smith and Antoine Winfield. It was about the fact that we could circle W’s whenever we played the Colts or Patriots (or Jets or Dolphins for that matter). It was also about Rob Johnson and Wade Phillips (‘The Decision’ that preceded LeBron’s. At least in my eyes).
It was about a team that had muddled through three decades since our back-to-back AFL championships in ’64 and ’65 and was finally realizing Ralph Wilson’s dream of a rough-and-tumble highly skilled offensive and defensive juggernaut that ‘no-one wanted to play in December.’ It is my hope that these 2010’s Bills remember and understand that we have seen a lost decade since those 90s Bills, but we still remember. And we still hope – our memories now cushioned by visions of the day when the scene we’ll see will be EJ Manuel handing the Lombadi trophy to a tear-soaked cancer-survivor, legendary tail-back and defensive stalwart. No more cringing will be necessary then.