It’s only fitting that this week’s particular outcome coincided with the death of one of my personal favorites, Leslie Nielsen of Airplane and Naked Gun fame: in one short week, thanks in large part to Steve Johnson, the Bills’ transformed from “Why so serious?” to “Surely, you can’t be serious.” Alas, they were deadly serious. In a week when the network team covering our game chose to refer to him as “Stevie” Johnson, our ace receiver also transformed — from Steve Largent one week to Stevie Wonder the next.
OK, cheap joke. The fact is, I might like Steve Johnson even more than I did before. I mean, did you see his post-game press conference? I can’t remember the last time I felt so bad for an athlete.
I also can’t remember the last time I felt so bad for me. I was talking to a guy at McFadden’s who told me how hard he takes each loss; actually, his girlfriend told me. The guy was too busy taking the loss hard. I thought back to the 1990s, when I was the same way. Every game, I’d scream my head off, have no voice on Monday, be sick with a sore throat by Wednesday, and recover by Saturday — in time to do it all again (I still do that, but for whatever reason don’t lose my voice or get sick anymore). When the Bills lost, I couldn’t read the sports sections for days. To paraphrase Marv Levy when he retired from coaching, the devastation I felt from the losses dwarfed the joy I took from the victories.
Now, that might be because the Bills were so good back then; more was at stake, and losses were rare. Or, it could just be because I’m older now.
My point is…the Steeler game felt like the 1990s to me. I can’t remember the last time I took a loss this hard…except for, perhaps, the game-16 loss to the Steelers a few years back, when the Drew Bledsoe-led Bills failed to secure a playoff birth. But, this game was harder for me, because victory was ours, only to literally slip through the hands of our best receiver.
In the scheme of things, is 2-9 really so different from 3-8? Nah. But, does the game add to our team’s “mystique?” Absolutely. That’s Buffalo Bills football — the most exciting, frustrating 2-9 team I’ve ever seen. Surely, they can’t be serious.