The Buffalo Bills Are 3-2: And Nothing Was The Same

The Pegula's takeover and save us from Bills-inspired Drake lyrics. Also, fantasy football and detachment
By    October 10, 2014


Brad Beatson ghostwrote all of OJ Simpson’s Hertz commercials.

Last night the Buffalo Bills were sold for $1.4 billion simoleons. Ralph Wilson’s estate will use most of the money from the sale to improve metropolitan Buffalo and Detroit, making today one of the better ‘news days’ the cities have had in a long time.

While we don’t know how much they’ll get yet, the Buffalo News has done an excellent job reporting the most likely benefactors. Perfectly enough, Buffalo played at Detroit last weekend and won on a 58-yard field goal as time expired, with Mary Wilson in attendance for the last time as the owner of the Bills.

This weekend, the Bills take on the Patriots at home after Terry and Kim Pegula are introduced as the new owners of the franchise. The game is for first place in the very winnable AFC East and is yet another entry in their not-so-recently storied rivalry (over the past decade New England has beat Buffalo 19 of the last 20 times). But “The Ralph” will be rocking thanks to the newfound optimism powering Western New York, now that the Bills are staying in Buffalo.

All of that adds up to one of the best stories of this NFL season. Aside from Devon Still’s daughter Leah, most of this year’s storylines have made fans question if they should give up on the NFL altogether. But you’d never guess that at the bar where I watch games every Sunday.


For the past five weeks, I’ve watched the Buffalo Bills at Croxley’s Abbey in Williamsburg. It’s an every-team sports bar with a billion TVs and 20-cent wings, where the loudest patrons play fantasy football.

During the opening slate of Week 2 games you could’ve easily forgotten that Adrian Peterson was still in the league. My roommate, a diehard Vikings fan from Minnesota, was crestfallen. The table to our right was full of bearded bros and to our left was a pair of jersey-clad couples. Shortly after kickoff the bar was a jumbled chorus of momentary WOOOs punctuated with the name of Any Given Player. One bearded bro was particularly enthusiastic about the perennially mediocre Jonathan Stewart, since his fantasy team was now AP-less due to an indefinite suspension.

AP, otherwise known as a man in the NFL whom people were afraid to shake hands with—because it would hurt too much—was suspended for beating the shit out of his car-seat-aged child with a tree branch. Some wife-beaters were also suspended: Ray Rice, Jonathan Dwyer, and Greg Hardy so far, but the 49ers didn’t bench Ray McDonald (for a more detailed history of the league’s abuse problem check out this piece by Louisa Thomas).

We’ve reached a point where it seems like there are new headlines everyday about NFL athletes doing deplorable things, but there we were at a bar that was packed to the brim despite the horrors.

A few of our friends came to join us during the first quarter—one a Jets fan and the other high as Josh Gordon—to watch the games as we checked our phones for fantasy updates. Moments later, the Redskins’ fans groaned as Robert Griffin III went down untouched and was carted off the field with a leg injury. Despondency was quickly replaced by quips about Kirk Cousins “being the better QB, anyway.” The aforementioned bearded bro slammed his beer and shouted “GODDAMMIT! First AP and now RGIII… I’m ruined” and went outside to smoke a cigarette. Fantasy football is truly sensational for the detached.

As the games progressed and the place got drunker, I realized that me hanging out with my friends had been reduced to checking Twitter, commenting on how my fantasy team was doing, and cheering loudly for the Bills as they squished the Fish.


My goodness that image is horrible, but it speaks to what Twitter was talking about during the Week 2 games: Football breeds a culture of Type-A aggro-personalities that encourages violence and bullying. That culture is fostered by the media to consistently desensitize the brutality, long-term damage and the noted side effects suffered by playing the sport. Take this image from ESPN’s homepage that was posted a few minutes after the Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots Week 4 match-up finished:


Bury; stunning; domination; blew out; rapid reaction; not good anymore; ugly night; run over. All of those words or phrases signify or enforce an aggressive, bullying culture. One of the most popular segments on ESPN during football season used to be JACKED UP!, which lauded bone-crushing hits before it was cancelled as a reaction to the heated concussion debate. Don’t worry though, the Not Top 10 Plays segment on SportsCenter remains fertile ground for potential ridicule.

Another thing that ESPN is aggressively pushing this year is sports betting. The currently-suspended Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal from Jimmy Kimmel Live! host a weekly podcast during the NFL season where they guess the betting lines, and also provide their weekly picks in columns for Grantland. Cousin Sal also has a weekend SportsCenter segment where he announces his best bets of the week. And of course, the ESPN homepage is all about betting too:


The local networks haven’t been any better. A recurring commercial during NFL broadcasts on CBS has been for Fan Duel, a daily fantasy betting site that has offered promotional code: CBS for $200 in real money to play with. It costs as little as $1 to play and you can win up to $10 million dollars in weekly prizes. According to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, fantasy sports are deemed a game of skill and therefore you can legally bet on them. Which of course can lead to crippling debt, in addition to physical, emotional and mental abuse to you and yours.

So why the fuck are we still watching this shit?

For me, it goes back to the detached connection it provides. I know that sounds like an oxymoron; stay with me.

The American Psychological Association has found that men consistently value power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, and self-direction. In my case, that explains why I’m addicted to fantasy football.

Fantasy sports tap into all five. They allow you to assemble a fake team, full of real athletes, to play in games against friends, family, coworkers, strangers or whomever is in your league. You make lineup decisions and draft the players you believe give you the best chance to win. They allow you to show others that you know more than them and that you can beat them in competition. Fantasy sports make watching the games more exciting, as fantasy stats are updated in realtime on the scrolling ticker during broadcasts throughout the NFL season. All of which adds up to a lot of chilling, eating bar food, drinking, and basking in any other form of couchside/barside pleasure.


Alongside fantasy sports are equally addictive video games like Madden. Over the years my favorite aspect of the game has been “Franchise Mode” because it allows you to assume the role of an NFL GM, then compete against the computer, your friends, or players online. The mode includes everything from being able to re-draft the entire league, to conducting trades, to setting beer prices in your stadium. When it comes to actual game play things can get pretty boring, so if one person is winning by a ton of points or if you have to leave for whatever reason, you can easily quit or re-start the game and forget about it. Much like signing off from Facebook or Twitter or not responding to a text, you can come and goes as you please while still fostering some sort of connection.

This has become the norm for the way I communicate for better or for worse—I think for the better. I grew up on AOL Instant Messenger and transitioned to gchat; went from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter and Instagram; from calling to texting to DM’s and Snapchats. I’ve never been one to go up and approach a girl at the bar, but with Tinder you can talk to someone a bit before deciding to ever meet them in person. I’ve always been an editor, and these detached forms of communication allow me to get my message across the way I intend it to be received, while registering the same feelings of connection I’d get in person—to some extent.

Things tend to go wrong on Facebook or Twitter, which are essentially giant cocktail parties where people can butt into conversations at will, unannounced, often nameless, and disappear without a trace. During the Week 2 slate of games I muted and hid a lot of different people on my timelines. The impulse was because the Bills were having their best two weeks in nearly 20 years while the NFL was having its worst, so many were mad and I was psyched and I didn’t want to hear the same negativity regurgitated from person after person. But the real reason was because I was sick and tired of people weighing in on the Trending Topic Du Jour with their myriad of tweets tossed on top of the pile.

On one hand, I’m really happy that people join in on the trending topics because it’s led to real change in our society, and that’s amazing. On the other hand, when you’re weighing in on every single thing it begins to seem like you’re looking for that reassuring connection, someone to reinforce your beliefs or to let everyone know you don’t think “the wrong way,” rather than actually caring about the issue. In the case of the NFL, yes, the aforementioned players should be punished. No player should ever be as lucky as Brandon Marshall is to still be playing this game ever again. I don’t think any of them should play another professional down and Roger Goodell should be fired. But am I going to give up on the NFL and tell everybody they shouldn’t watch it? Fuck no.


Millions of good people rely on the NFL, or football in some capacity, to sustain their quality of life in our current society. When everybody is screaming at why something is the worst it becomes very easy to forget about any of the good it may also bring. Take Eddie Lacy for example, a second year player in the NFL. For the past two offseasons he has lived in a trailer with his family in Louisiana, the same trailer they’ve lived in ever since they were able to return to the Gulf post-Katrina. During that time, he’s overseen the construction of a new home he had built for his family. His mother is a nurse and his father is a nurse’s assistant, who fear for his safety and wish he’d chosen a different career path, but they still support his decision and let him lead his life.

If I was going to quit on the NFL because a few despicable human beings “messed it up for me,” I’d be heading down a slippery slope. The next thing that would have to go would be my iPhone, due to the suicides in the factories where they’re made. After that, I’d have to try my hardest not to indulge in some drunken McNuggets made from animal cruelty. Every time a commercial for American Idol comes on, mute the TV and avert your eyes or you endorse the outright bullying and shaming of the contestants they don’t find worthy. Maybe you’d reconsider that eighth you picked up if you found out that your dealer was using the profits to pay his goons to collect at any cost, for the bookie business he also operates. There’s always a dark side.

The good news is the NFL is now testing for HGH, which hopefully means that the most violent and supercharged days the sport has ever seen may already be behind us. In the meantime, football is something that provides an outlet to hang out with friends and family more often. It might not always be in person, but over text messaging or fantasy football message boards. Anything that can bring those you’re closest to even closer is something worth holding on to. Go Bills.

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