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The View From the Bottom: Twelve Steps for Buffalo Bills Fans

Posted on October 12, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell

Whether natural or of their own making, over the last few years the Buffalo Bills seem to always be in some kind of fog.

Being from Buffalo is an addiction in itself. I’ve written on that before.  And there’s a sense in which being from Buffalo is completely intertwined with and inexorably woven into the fate of Buffalo’s major league sports teams.  Buffalonians are more likely to be Bills and Sabres fans than the per capita rate of devotees to the local teams of a typical major league market.

This is especially true of women. I have lived in several sports markets between growing up in and returning to Buffalo and have never seen as many fanatical female sports fans (with the exception of Oklahoma and Texas, for college football) than in Buffalo.

I have a hunch that it is as much about seeking vindication for living in America’s most misunderstood and unfairly maligned city as being a true football or soccer afficianado. But whatever the etiology of this affliction, one thing is clear. It is an addiction, and now that the Bills have hit bottom, it’s time to consider an intervention.

They say one has to hit bottom before one is willing to face one’s addiction and make the life changes necessary to overcome it. Of course we all know there’s no cure, there’s only recovery. Where the Bills are concerned, recovery may be only as good or as long as the losing streak, but since even the most optimistic pundits are now predicting a 0-16 season, it seems that conditions are ideal to stare the addict in the the mirror and admit we’ve confronted the addict, and it is us.

It’s ironic, since as Jerry Sullivan pointed out in his column in this morning’s Buffalo News, most of the post-game comments of players included the line about looking in the mirror. But it’s the fans, not the players, who need that mirror most of all.

I think it must not be coincidental that the founder of the Twelve Step movement (otherwise known as Alcoholics or—fill in the blank with your addiction–Anonymous) is known as Bill W. Bill? Really?

So, let’s see what Bill W has to say about addiction to the Bills.

• Step One: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.  Yes, we are powerless over our obsession with the Bills. As much as we complain and bemoan their abysmal play, as soon as they make a first down, score a touchdown, or—the higher power forbid—take the lead, we are suddenly singing their praises once again. We are powerless to give up on this team and it’s pulling us down to a pit of personal defeat, right along with them.

• Step Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  And this does not refer to the God of Parity who on any given Sunday may aid and abed even the most pathetic NFL team in defeating even the best. No, we’re talking about a real higher power, like the hockey gods who may smile on the tenants of HSBC Arena once again.

• Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.  As I said, the hockey gods. Nuff said.

• Step Four:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Now this is really hard. My inventory turned up five Bills caps, six t-shirts, two hoodies, two car magnets, two flags, and three Jim Kelly jerseys. Oh, and my Bills beer bottle jacket also. And I don’t even drink beer.

• Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. This may kick me out of recovery. For the life of me, I can’t think of a single wrong I’ve done. Now, what the Bills management did to Flutie– now that’s a real crime. Should’ve been prosecuted.  But all I’ve done has been to be a loyal fan, and wear my allegiance in the vortex of such competing addictions as the Cowboys, Broncos, Bears and Packers, where I was in exile for forty years before returning home. So, tell me. What am I supposed to admit to here?

• Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.  Sure, your Iceness. Rid me of all my Bills affection. There is but one God, and She/He/It is Sabre!

• Step Seven: Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. You mean like first and long, second and long, third and long—those kind of shortcomings?

• Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.  Well, there’s all those things I said about Bill Belicek to Patriots fans, or the way I rubbed Bills victories in my Cuban cousins-in-law’s faces when the Bills used to win in Miami as routinely as a hurricane strike—you mean things like that?

• Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. You mean like congratulating my acquaintances in every city in the fricking N-F-L, when their team, however lowly, scores more than thirty points on Buffalo?

• Step Ten: (Are we done yet?) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. That would be yesterday, when I had the despicable notion that because the Bills were up 10-0 over the Jags they might actually win, and if they did, it might actually mean they were improving, while feeling robbed by the TV blackout.

• Step Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.  Here goes: Holy Sabres, please, oh, please don’t make me have to do twelve more steps with you.

• Step Twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. And so I offer you this column. To your recovery!

BTW, any ideas how to survive BYE week?


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