Just recently, Forbes Magazine released their selections for the “Most Miserable Sports Cities” and, wouldn’t you know it, Buffalo made the list. Ranking number four in 2012 (they’ve been higher, but never number one and always in the top 5), Buffalo has been an annual fixture on Forbes’ list of futility, sitting alongside perennial number ones Atlanta or Seattle, as well as lovable losers Phoenix and San Diego. Picking from a group of cities with pro-level teams (across all sports) throughout their history, Forbes’ misery point are given for playoff/championship losses as well as the ratio of total seasons to actual championships, and adds more weight to “heartbreak” rather than “long-term futility”, so teams like Buffalo, who were “good enough to win alot of games and advance…only to disappoint fans”, are ranked higher than, say, Baltimore (the Orioles).
However, an article like this reminds us, the fans of Buffalo sports, how truly blessed we’ve been to get so close to greatness so often in our town. Sure, the glory of tasting the sweet spoils of total victory has eluded Western New York fans at every turn, but to think that there’s some cloud of misery floating over the city is ridiculous (that’s just snow). Buffalo has a rich and storied sports history, going beyond football and including some very proud moments for its fans, though it is rarely spotlighted nationally for anything positive. The thing people don’t know about the Buffalo Bills alone is enough to fill up Lake Erie and that’s not even accounting for the other sports teams, so for Forbes to just tell people how miserable Buffalo sports is, regardless of your “formula”, can come off as a little… well, rude. It’s like hearing about how Buffalo is nothing but snow from people who have never been there to see for themselves. As a result of all this misinformation, allow me to here educate that there is more to Buffalo sports than Wide Right, the Music City Miracle, The Greatest Comeback in NFL History, and… well, snow:
Fact #1: The Buffalo Bill Have Won Two Championships – Okay, it was in the old AFL, but to discount that because they weren’t won in the modern NFL era of football is just looking for a reason to slight Buffalo. Even fans in the Queen City itself may not know this, as many are too young to even tell you who Jack Kemp is, or what in the name of Father Baker a Cookie Gilchirst is (for those in Western New York, all these names in the preceding sentence should make sense… if you’re at least over 30). There is no other NFL team PLAYING in the state of New York with as many championships as the Buffalo Bills (those Giants and Jets are still New Jersey teams if you ask me) and though there are 10 teams who have been to more Super Bowls, no other team has been so potent that they’ve gone to four straight. That’s four AFC Championships between 1990/91 and 1994/95 (a much better way of looking at that four-year span than saying, “four consecutive losses”).
Fact #2: Buffalo Just Missed Out On Super Bowl I – The year was 1966 and Buffalo, fresh off of their two AFL Championship seasons, was facing Kansas City to try and get their third straight. Now, if you’re going to pinpoint where the Bills may have started their “curse” (a word that is unwelcome in Buffalo), you shouldn’t be looking at a field goal gone wide right, but instead at this loss to the Chiefs. Though they were the favorites to repeat their ’64 and ’65 wins (and the game was at home for Buffalo, played at War Memorial Stadium), the game was only close in the first, which ended 7-7. From that point on, Buffalo’s momentum from the past three seasons vanished and the Chiefs rattled off 24 more points, winning 31-7 and advancing to the first Super Bowl. Oh yeah, the winner of this game got to play for the first AFL-NFL trophy. It was the beginning of decades of futility, the first time when Buffalo sports could have gotten truly known nationally, but, instead, they drafted a Hall of Fame running back/future murderer in 1969 (If you lived in Buffalo for the OJ trial, you know how torn you felt), made a run in the 90s, and never won it all again. (The Chiefs didn’t fare too well, though, as they kept it close against Green Bay to start, but blew it for a final score of 35-10.)
Fact #3: The Bills Have The Second Largest Playoff Victory in NFL History – Two years before the Greatest Comeback in NFL History against the Houston Oilers, the Buffalo Bills had stampeded the AFC to a 13-3 record, grabbed first place in the AFC East (and the AFC), and had already taken divisional foe Miami out in their second round playoff game 44-34 (after a first-round bye). Next up, the LA Raiders, ranked number 2 in the AFC behind QB Jay Schroeder and RB Marcus Allen (Bo Jackson suffered a career-ending injury the previous round), as well as a top 5 defense that had dominated to the tune of a 12-4 regular season. Buffalo, however, had a date with destiny and weren’t to be halted by the Silver and Black, as they dropped a beating of Lake Effect proportions, burying the Raiders before they even got a chance. At the end of the first, Buffalo’s top rated offense was up 21-3. At the half, it was 41-3. Seriously, the Raiders were supposed to be championship-level that year and the Bills manhandled them like they were the JV squad. At the end of the game, Buffalo had a 51-3 victory (meaning they had scored 95 points in their two post-season games that year) and the Raiders’ top-flight D had been shredded for 500 yards of offense. Buffalo went to the Super Bowl for the first time, looking to unseat the dominance of the NFC by defeating the New York Giants, but…
In addition to football:
Fact #4: Buffalo Had An NBA Team – Just thought you should know, the LA Clippers began as the Buffalo Braves in 1970, with All-Star forward/center Bob McAdoo. They moved to San Diego just eight years.
Fact #5: The Buffalo Sabres Have Been To Two Stanley Cups – Initially the Bisons, Buffalo’s NHL squad was created the same year as their NBA team, but has lasted much, much longer. Included are two Stanley Cup appearances (1975, with the French Connection, and 1999, the year of the No Goal), six division championships, and three conference championships. They are the only other pro-level team in Buffalo, resulting in fans that live in a “football town with a hockey problem”.
Fact #6: Buffalo Has Won Championships (outside of the major 4 pro sports) – The AAA baseball Buffalo Bisons have won it all six times (first in 1933, but as recently as 2004). Buffalo’s lacrosse team, the Bandits, got to and won the championship the first two years they played in the MILL (Major Indoor Lacrosse League, though now the NLL), ending up with four total trophies between 1992-2008 (as well as 7 divisional titles).
Buffalo has seen some true misery in its sports, with all of its major teams earning the motto “there’s always next year” on an almost seasonal basis, but, in light of the preceding facts, can you really say they are one of the most miserable sports cities in the world. Even if you’re looking at just football and from a strictly wins-losses, stat type of way, Buffalo had a decade in which
they won 112 regular season games (1989-1999; the record is 126 by the Patriots), won 4 AFC titles, and had 10+ wins eight times in that span. In the postseason of those ten years,
Buffalo had 10 wins (9 losses, but a great 10-5 if you take away the Super Bowls… please, take them…) and outscored their opponents 516-456 in that decade of plentiful postseasons (516-317 if you can forget about the Bowls… I never can). Overall, Buffalo has seen 100 seasons of professional sports (MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL) and though they have only two Championships (in the pros) to show for it, the snowbirds and dedicated sports fans of that blue collar paradise have never faltered in their annual belief that the Bills (and the Sabres…) are always just one season away from winning it all.
Miserable, Forbes? Bah, we fans in Buffalo laugh at that word. Buffalo isn’t drowning in sports misery, but are, instead, always looking forward to the day we all know is coming. The Bills, the Sabres; Buffalo has been so close so many times, that when it finally happens for one of their major sports teams, the resulting celebration will be one that few cities in the world will ever duplicate. The release of all those years of woulda-couldas, the redemption of all those great players who came before to fight for the Queen City and its fans, it will be the most gratifying moment you can find in sports. The parade, the cheers, the shouts of “FINALLY” will ring out across the nation, as the one true underdog of the sports world finally achieves at the level we all knew it could.
I just hope I get to see it in my lifetime.