It’s... Brian. It’s you. I’m you. If this sent correctly, you’re reading this on January 8, 2000. I’m... well, I’m a few years down the line, standing on top of a hill, with a giant, dark, dingy tunnel behind me. It’s bright as hell out here.
Yes, I mean that I’m from the future.
Just bear with me, okay? I know it’s a lot to wrap your mind around, and I realize it can’t help that you’re super pissed off right now.
Colloquially, what you just witnessed is referred to as the Music City Miracle. Clever and correct people swap “Mirage” in at the end, if that helps you cope in any way. It did, in fact, suck. I’m certainly not here to change your mind on that.
I’m mostly here to beg you to appreciate it. Seriously. You’re doing us a favor if you remember that game as fondly as possible for as long as possible.
I can’t give you specific reasons for doing so, because I don’t want to risk screwing anything up on this end. In fact, you know what? If you’ve read this far, forget that clever nickname I mentioned above for the play you just witnessed - or, at least, don’t mention it to anyone until the media coins it.
Just sear this day into your memory.
Remember Dad storming back down into the basement, wild-eyed with disbelief, after he’d opted out of a live look at Steve Christie’s go-ahead field goal with 16 seconds left on the clock. (I haven’t asked him lately, but given the circumstances, I’m betting he regrets that call at least a little - especially because I know he was standing right next to you for what came next.)
Remember the rush of watching that field goal soar through the uprights, and how you felt for those scant few minutes before the shit hit the fan.
Remember that your very good, favorite football team was even on the field, totally deservedly, for that historic moment - and that that’s worth something, regardless of the outcome.
You’re going to need those fond memories, even though they’re fresh for you now, and don’t seem like they’re worthy of being cherished. Someday soon, they’ll be just about all you can think about for a full week.
Please trust me on this. You’re going to have to reflect on those moments, along with the more plentiful and pleasant recollections from the Bills’ 10 playoff appearances in your first 14 years of existence, for a long-ass time.
I want that warning to sound dire, because it sort of is. You’re 14 now, but soon you’ll be a married, home-owning adult, writing a warning letter to your past self about how long you’re going to have to cope with the Bills being bad. Again, I can’t go into great detail, but here’s some specifically-vague context: I’ve (you’ve?) only very recently come into possession of a new set of Bills-related memories that will, for sure, be universally adored by the Bills fans that were there for the rest of time.
That said, I don’t want you to dread the wait. You’re going to learn a ton, and figure out a way to extract a crazy amount of meaning out of being a Bills fan, despite what you’re about to experience. You might find this hard to believe, given the subtext, but it will be impossible for you to regret or lament much of the wait - even as it happens, but especially when it’s over.
I just want you to go into that long, dark tunnel with some essential intel by which you can navigate. I’ve carefully curated 18 such items for you; 18 is, uh, just a random number I came up with. Use them sparingly. In no particular order:
* Things don’t always work out for the best when a division rival trades a star quarterback
* Ten head coaches is a lot of head coaches
* It’s perfectly okay to fall in love with undrafted free agents
* It’s perfectly okay to admire players that won’t ultimately be legends
* First-round picks can find themselves out of football, or in a different uniform, in a surprisingly short amount of time
* Fifth-round picks can play at a high level for over a decade and become the heart and soul of a franchise
* So can sixth-round picks, unfortunately
* Musicians and reality TV stars don’t always buy NFL franchises when they’re for sale
* Here’s a funny-sounding word for you to keep an eye out for: “blog”
* Your best friend, and the love of your life, will know who the Bills’ backup right guard is when you first meet
* Park at ECC for tailgating purposes
* When standing near a table at a tailgate party, keep an eye out for falling bodies
* A season-saving Hail Mary in the waning moments of overtime, in the middle of an epic blizzard, between a third-string half-quarterback-half-receiver and a street free agent wideout, is a bona fide possibility
* Middling, opposing quarterbacks with zero playoff wins can save your team’s season just in the nick of time
* It can be awe-inspiring watching Bills fans thank said quarterback with six figures’ worth of donations to charity
* Watch as many games with family and friends as possible
* You’ll only rarely regret maintaining your hold on your season tickets
* Learn what a reaction video is, then watch them all on repeat when the time comes
* Never, ever, ever stop being a Bills fan
... Okay. I’m comfortable signing off here. Thanks for reading, kid. It’s not all uphill from where you are now, but there is an uphill to traverse, and what you’ll find at the top of that hill - the light at the end of the tunnel - is pretty rad. Try to enjoy your journey as much as you can. Buckle up, and best of luck.
I’ll see you soon. We’ll have a big game to watch when you arrive.