There’s a photo of myself and my mother that I love dearly, except for the hurt it causes when I think of how far from that snapshot I am today. In the picture, we’re at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, on a chilly Sunday sometime in the mid-1990s. The photo is undated, but we’re at a Buffalo Bills game. Decent seats, too. Lower bowl a few rows from the field.
It was an experience I never took lightly, even though the good times of that Bills era were officially over. The photo is an extremely accurate snapshot of Bills games in the 1990s. We’re both wearing Bills sweatshirts, mine is white while my mom is wearing one from Super Bowl XXVIII, the Bills second consecutive loss to the Cowboys in their fourth straight Super Bowl appearance.
But there is no sign of sadness in the photo at all, save for the woman in Bills sweatpants and a sweater who appears to be booing in the background. There couldn’t have been anything happening on the field, though, because my father is behind the camera and I am smiling for it along with my mother. Were it happening, all three of us would be watching the game.
Instead, my mom appears to be squishing the life out of me. She’s grabbing my shoulder with such affection that I can’t keep my eyes open while the shutter clicks open and closes. There’s a warmth that washes over me when I think of that photo. I can feel her love and remember family tailgates at the stadium when the Bills were in the playoffs every winter. I loved Jim Kelly growing up, and in my childhood I learned to love football through my family.
Those experiences shaped me in so many ways, which is why the lingering sadness comes when I see that picture in the present. The way I once watched the Bills is gone now and it’s not coming back. In fact, the further I get away from those snapshots, the more I realize how much has changed.
So much of my history with that team is filled with heartbreak, and recently I’ve been reliving it as sort of a pet project over the last nine months. On my old blog, a friend and I are recording a podcast episode for every game the Bills have played since they last made the playoffs. It’s an exercise in masochism that’s turned into a surprisingly fun experience.
Part of that is just because I like talking to Corey. We’ve done it long enough that we know how to make it entertaining and create meaningful narratives out of all the losing. But now that we’re (hopefully) more than halfway through the DroughtCast I’ve realized that it’s also taught me a lot about the Bills I had forgotten over the last 17 years and counting.