Over the past 12 years or so, the Buffalo Bills haven't exactly been the luckiest franchise in the world.
Since their last playoff appearance in 1999 ended with a Music City Mis-call, the Bills haven't been back to the post-season and, in fact, have only managed one winning season in that time (a 9-7 almost-was in 2004 behind Drew Bledsoe).
Looking back, you have to wonder if maybe Buffalo is just a mass of self-perpetuating bad karma. Though there was rampant success in the early 90s, four Super Bowl shots resulted in four losses, including the famous (infamous?) wide right kick by popular local punching bag Scott Norwood in 1990 (he definitely took too much of the blame for that first loss to the Giants).
Even their NHLers, the Sabres, lost their Stanley Cup run to Dallas on a bad goal (the players was in the crease)... which came in 1999... which was, for those paying attention, the same year as the aforementioned last playoff debacle for the Bills.
Blame bad luck, blame bad juju, blame bad attitudes and lowered expectations--heck, blame the Patriots or Dallas if you want, but Buffalo just hasn't seen any good luck in the last 10-15 (or more, if you want to talk weather). That's why it's nice to see someone taking matters into their own hands-- or at least trying to.
You see, there's a bit of a shift of expectations going on in the Queen City just now, initiated by a 5-2 start for the Bills last season that included a big home win against New England after an 0-15 drought the last eight years.
Though the season degenerated to just one win the last nine games, there was a subtle mind shift in what fans thought Buffalo was capable of, one that continued to evolve when the Bills were able to tempt in defensive end Mario Williams and then fellow lineman Mark Anderson in the off season.
Now the losers of the NFL, the forgotten team nominated "Most Likely to Relocate to Canada", that punchline known as the Buffalo Bills, seems to be a trendy Cinderella favorite in 2012, leading one local radio station to do their part in trying to cast off the demons of the past decade plus.
Enter the Karma Van.
"We often say we're not superstitious, but you look back at these past so many years in Western New York and you think, 'We've really really ticked someone off big'. So maybe this is just a chance to break from that." That was local 103.3 the Edge DJ Tom Ragan, one half of Shredd and Ragan, a duo that has been broadcasting in Buffalo since 1994.
Sick of the culture of losing, tired of hearing about the "bad luck" that hangs over Western New York like a year round snow squall, they decided that it was time to address this malaise and take steps to end the supposed curse.
With so many "bad memories" still stuffed into a city that seems to finally be on the rise again (both in sports and as a whole), the duo took it on themselves to introduce a beat up old storage van to the public. This Karma Van, as it's been termed, doesn't even run and the new coat of slapdash, psychedelic paint doesn't truly cover the dents and damage, but it's what is being put inside it that is important, not how it looks (another metaphor for Buffalo if ever there was one).
The van is being lugged from place to place around town so locals can bring out those things deemed symbolic of the bad luck Buffalo has suffered over the years. While this may include political signs from those who promised change, or ads for a Bass Pro Shop that never materialized (what a ruse that turned out to be after the money and promise sunk into it), or even old drawings of the proposed new Peace Bridge, what has really been filling up the van has been sports memorabilia.
Honestly, the reason I have a rule about only buying jerseys of retired players is due entirely to the McGahee jersey hanging in my closet.
For too many years, Bills (and Sabres) fans spent their hard earned cash on overpriced jerseys and items recognizing their favorite players on their favorite team, only to regret those purchases a year later. In addition to McGahee (who bad-mouthed the Queen City when he left), there are a bevy of jerseys from the losing years that have to burn and embarass fans when they put them on for a game.
From Buffalo busts like Aaron Maybin (who has had a pretty nice career upswing on the Jets), to players who were just too injury prone to hang on to (Marshawn Lynch), to a player that got away (see standout local fave Paul Posluszny, who would have flourished in the 4-3 in Buffalo this season), too many fans have unpleasant reminders hanging around their man caves and in their closets.
Well, the Karma Van wants those bad memories.
What will they do with them? The plan is, they're going to take your Lee Evans jersey, your Drew Bledsoe Topps card, your J.P. Losman bolo tie (?) and they're going to fill this storage van with all those things that remind of you of the bad times this city has had. Then, on August 17th, they're going to tow that van to M&M You Pull It, have it blessed by Pastor Jonathan Hunt, and then crush the living hell out of it.
That's right, they're going to take all those bad jersey purchases and misplaced hopes, using a compactor that will utilize 300,000 lbs of force, and just smash the bad vibes right out of the city. The plan is to then ship the resulting cube of bad juju to Boston, so they can have the bad luck the Queen City no longer wants (though anyone watching the Red Sox soap opera this season might think it's superfluous act).
It's as good an idea as any I've ever heard proposed and actually sounds more helpful and doable than most city projects Buffalo has tried to enact the last ten or so years. If anything, at least it's a sign that the city is willing to start looking ahead finally, rather than constantly dwelling on the mistakes and mis-steps of the past.
Yes, the wide right sucked.
Sure, the Music City Malaise took some time to shake off. How long, though, can you lament your cursed past before you start brushing yourself off and really trying to start moving forward again?
The fog of being a losing city seems to be lifting, the culture of ineptitude that has permeated the Bills looks to be changing, and there are signs of hope running rampant through the streets again, filtering into bars and living rooms all over Western New York. Too long, fans have been content to believe "there's always next season" and the time to start believing in THIS season seems finally upon them.
And while the regular season hasn't even started yet in Buffalo (heck, they've only had one, rather unimpressive preseason game so far), you have to be encouraged by signs of life in the old girl. Players and fans are no longer content with losing, no longer content with a good game here and there, but are hungry--nay, starving for success again. It's time to say good-bye to the mistakes and misfires of almost two decades and time to start moving forward again.
As a Buffalo native, I say ,"Thank you, Karma Van,", for helping Bills fans finally start casting off those demons of the past, as it is really the only way they'll ever move forward. Even if it doesn't get Buffalo another Super Bowl shot, at least it shows that they're ready to start believing they can once more.