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Sports Then and Now

The Buffalo Bills and Me in the Wonderful Land of OZ

Posted on May 16, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell

It’s true: I’m shameless. Last year, around this time, I pimped an article by heading it “Bills Win Super Bowl.”

This year, some word play with the names of people we would rather not be the ones upon whose shoulders our team and city’s fate now rests, is my best shot at grabbing readers. No one would fall for the Super Bowl tag again, and not because it would be the second year in a row that I used it, but because the capacity of the typical Buffalo fan to even imagine such a reality is exhausted.

Now after having dreams of Holmgren nixed, dreams of Cowher Chan-neled to the crapper, dreams of McNabb, or Clausen, or McCoy, or even Tebow have been spr(ung) for CJ and the rest of the 2010 Draft Class—they aren’t necessarily bad in a vacuum but they are certainly not the best apparent players to fill the Bills’ biggest voids—the best I can do is have fun with the names of those we wish we didn’t have to associate with the speeding bison logo, and a very wild night-flare (opposite of nightmare) that it all works out perfectly in the end.

Forget imagination, optimism, even wishful thinking; now the best I can offer is a wild, crazy dream. Sort of the Buffalo football version of The Wizard of Oz , and this is certainly not the time to pay any attention to the man behind the curtain.

Work with me.

So here’s the dream I had last night.

Act I: The Tornado

I was sitting in the Ralph reading my game day program. It was opening day, 2010. All of a sudden, the wind picked up, it started blowing harder and faster until Ralph Wilson Stadium went airborne and started whirling like an oval frisbee through space and time.

Donovan McNabb is just one of several players and coaches the author hoped would be wearing a Buffalo Bills uniform by now.

As the 76,000 of us sat there stunned, dumbfounded, afraid to look and afraid not to, we saw John Madden’s motor home flying past with Bill Cowher, Mike Shanahan, Brian Billick, and Tony Dungy partying hearty inside. Greenbacks were blowing in random patterns like leaves in a storm. A giant green Eagle flew up even with the bus, Donovan McNabb in its clutches, releasing the quarterback as Shanahan stuck his maroon and gold arm out the Madden Cruiser window, scooping him up and pulling him in.

As we continued to dip and swirl with football shaped hailstones pelting us intermittently, we saw Jim Kelly holding hands with Tim Tebow, trying to hold onto him, when suddenly Tebow turned red and yellow and let go of Kelly’s grasp, flying off in the general direction of Kansas City. (Yes, I know Tebow was drafted by Denver, but in my dream it was KC).

As the Jim and Tim show blew out of sight, along came a cigarette boat with Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy, and Bryan Bulaga leaning out of the boat with fishing rods, snagging as many of those dollar bills as they could catch—bills that suddenly looked more like fish in water than leaves in the wind.

Act Two: Not in Kansas– or the Real World

And suddenly, just as abruptly, a thud. The wind stopped. The sky was skittle colored and some kind of welcome party came out to greet us singing “Shout” in nasal, kiddy voices, each member about three feet tall, wearing the Bills versions of the Cat in the Hat hats.

Mind you, we were still in the Ralph, but it wasn’t the home opener any more. It was the AFC Championship Game, January 2011, versus the Jets.

C.J. Spiller could provide happy dreams for Bills fans this season.

The game started. The Bills, wearing their AFL throwbacks, won the toss and Brian Brohm stepped up to call signals. The first play was a hand off to C.J. Spiller, who ran off tackle, accelerated through a hole the size of Carl Paladino’s ego, and picked up thirty yards.

Next Brohm dropped back to pass, a month of time to find his target as former Raven Jared Gaither covered the blind side, and suddenly rookie Marcus Easley got free, way down field, as Brohm launched the pigskin, landing it in Easley’s outstretched hands as if it were a drone missile striking the Taliban in Wajeristan. Easley took three long steps into the end zone and just like that the Bills led the Jets by a touchdown.

Another swirl of wind, an earthquake-like tremor, and we were transported to wherever the heck the Super Bowl is being played next time around. There were six seconds on the clock. The Bills were in field goal formation on third down, four to go, on the Vikings’ 17-yard line. The score was tied at 10.

As we sat in the stadium transfixed, we realized we were aware of a bevvy of facts about the season about to end. Chan Gailey was Coach of the Year; his new nickname was Marv Junior. Brian Brohm was being called the next Brett Favre. The original Brett Favre had just been intercepted by Jarius Byrd who, along with Aaron Maybin and Gaither, was an All-Pro. He made the pick on the Bills’ 28, and had run it all the way back to the Vikes’ 23.

As the tension mounted we continued to become aware of more and more facts about the season. C.J. Spiller had run for 2,000 yards and was the Rookie of the Year. Evans, Hardy, and Easley were the league’s second best receiver corps. The Bills new 3-4 defense, with all of the major draft picks in starting roles, was the league’s leading defense. But there we were, just as it had been in our first trip to the Big Game eons ago. It had all come down to a field goal kick with time about to expire.

Despite having the rookie of the year in the backfield, the second best receiver corps, and Brett Favre II, it was coming down to the foot of Scott—I mean Ryan Lindell. Third string quarterback Levi Brown would be holding.

The snap. The fake. The throw by Brown to Evans in the end zone. Bills win. Bills win.

What? Uncle Ralphie? Where am I?

“It was all just a dream, child. You’re here at home with Uncle Ralphie and Cousin Buddy, and good buddy Chan.”

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