– Evan Sally
The Streak. It hovers over Bills fans like a dark cloud. You don’t have to explain what it is, everyone knows. It haunts this fan base and fundamentally affects what it means to be a Buffalo sports fan in 2016. 16 years without the playoffs has left us in a weird spot when it comes how we think about the Bills. The years of repeated failure have worn on us and we’re tired. Tired of being optimistic in the off season only to be let down by week 14. Tired of believing that this head coach or GM will be the one to figure it all out. Tired of putting our hopes on a rotating door of quarterbacks, ranging from mediocre to terrible, praying that this guy will finally be the one to lead this franchise back to relevance. As a result, it’s hard to get truly excited for an upcoming Bills season. There’s always that nagging thought in the back of your mind that it’s pointless to get your hopes up, you’re just going to get disappointed anyway.
If I had to choose one word to describe the experience of a Bills fan in 2016, it’s cynicism. No positive news for this franchise is taken at face value because of the belief that something terrible is probably around the corner. And when something bad happens there’s no recent successes to prevent a snowball of negative feeling from crushing the fan base. Of course in recent years, there’s been very few reasons to not feel this way. As someone much smarter than me once said, “You are what you repeatedly do.” And at this point the Bills certainly seem like experts in disappointment and heartbreak.
However, there has been a shift in the way this team operates recently and to not acknowledge that is to lie to yourself. Despite not yet seeing results, the Bills have finally become a team not afraid to make bold moves, which was the only way this franchise was ever going to dig itself out of the hole they’ve been in. This year, more than before, I believe Bills fans are letting the streak effect the way we think about the team. Because when you take a step back and really look at the organization with a renewed perspective, there’s a lot to be excited about. Finally having stable ownership willing to spend what it takes to win. A talented young GM with an eye for talent and no fear of making big moves. A quarterback in Tyrod Taylor who put together the best season for a Bill at the position in at least 10 years. Elite level playmakers on both sides of the ball. And a coach in Rex Ryan, who despite his penchant for making outlandish proclamations, has a proven track record of getting the most out his players previously in his career.
Now I don’t mean to sound like a cheerleader, while I’m sure it may seem that way. The Bills have been punishing fans’ optimism for a long time. Fans have every right to be pessimistic about the Bills, it’s a team with plenty of question marks in 2016 (A recent spate of injuries in training camp certainly doesn’t help.) And of course, recent history speaks for itself. There’s not a Bills fan on the planet who can honestly say they’re purely optimistic about the team. That little thought of doubt in the back of our heads still lingers. But let’s try to be as objective about it as we can and prepare for the 2016 Bills the way we should, with cautious optimism. It’s an objectively talented team that should be, at the very least, exciting to watch, and is probably one of our best chances to emerge from The Streak’s shadow. And trust me, if they find themselves outside the playoffs come January, being overly pessimistic now isn’t going to make the disappointment hurt any less. At the very least, entering the season with an open mind will make the experience more enjoyable. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
– Evan Sally (@Evan_Sally)
This is the first in a series of articles on the Bills’ 16 year playoff drought; the games, the people and the moments that have made the biggest impact on how the Bills got to this point. Stay tuned to HardFoulSports.com later this week for the next part of the series.