When it comes to rivals in the NFL, the emotional relationship with fans is usually pretty straightforward. You love to hate them. Seeing the Buffalo Bills play a rival team draws out strong negative emotions that enhance the overall enjoyment. Once in a while, though, a player comes along who flips the emotional script. You hate to love them.
For current players and rivalries the player that best exemplifies this backward relationship for me is none other than Ryan Fitzpatrick. It wasn’t that long ago when Fitzpatrick was one of the faces of the Buffalo Bills.
During his four years with the Bills, fans got to know the man beyond “he went to Harvard,” and “he wears his wedding band when he plays.” A never-say-die attitude made for exciting games and a quarterback players and fans alike could rally behind. He made interviews entertaining. It was always fun to see what t-shirt he’d have on next. He beat the New England Patriots one time. And I won my fantasy league that year with him as my primary quarterback.
The “Amish Rifle” gave Bills fans a lot to cheer for over a four-year span when there wasn’t always a lot of wins. While the “Fitzmagic” and “Fitztragic” rollercoaster prevented him from being a star in the league, he was embraced by Bills fans like few others.
When he went to the Tennessee Titans he left with my usual farewell to favored players. “May you be the lone bright spot on your new team’s upcoming dismal season.” When he went to the Houston Texans I still wished him the very best. But then he signed with the New York Jets. And now the Miami Dolphins.
How do you cope with that? I can’t truly wish him well can I? I can’t want nice things for those rivals. Yet I still love him. And I hate it.
So lay it on me Bills fans. Which player(s) do you hate to love?