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What Pride?

The term fair-weather fan is typically reserved for those moments when Buffalo sports fans need something to rebut fans of opposing franchises that have more storied championship resumes and over inflated egos that need checking.

We have seen it all, every form of record setting failure the sports gods can conjure up, yet we have always endured, until now.

Don’t get me wrong, it is much easier to get fired up for a team with a winning record, on a hot streak, playing its best games in front of the faithful folks who spend their hard earned dollars to see a winning product.

However, I have heard far too often that Buffalo fans are ‘the best fans in the league.’ While that may have been true at one time or another, over the past year I have noticed a disheartening change in the atmosphere at First Niagara Center.

Where there used to be raucous chants of ‘Charge,’ and
‘Let’s Go Buffalo!” There is an unsettling silence. The guy with the bongo drum
trying to stir up the chants would get a better response in a mortuary and the
organ player might find a more spirited reception at a funeral procession.

Where has all the energy gone? The quality of our beloved
teams has never hindered our passion for sipping a few brews and making some
noise, win or lose.

Fair-weather is something I would have never thought to use
to address fans from Buffalo, but at this point, there is no other way to
describe it.

We should be comparing the atmosphere in our building to the
likes of Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton; not corporate Toronto, neophyte
Columbus or morbid New Jersey.

I get it, we’re a blue collar town and we invest an illogically
disproportionate amount of our capital and emotions into our sports teams.

In return we want to see passion and emotion from the guys
who wear our jerseys. Lately, these
millionaires we’ve made have done little to inspire or reward us, but have we let
this enduring disappointment turn us into mind-numbed zombies?

We’ve become Nurse Ratched’s inmates, dutifully taking our
medicine and detaching ourselves from the gloom. Have we really given up? Have
we become a bunch of quitters?

It’s time for Buffalo’s sports fans to get back into the
game. If our team screws up, let them know. When they get it right, let them
know, only louder. Let’s get on the other team’s goalie and boo the villain
when he hops over the boards.

Lately it’s been pathetic. I am not saying people should be
Bills game drunk, ripping their shirts off and fighting the nearest person in a
jersey of a different color, but what happened to clapping for a solid penalty
kill? Getting out of your seat for a fight? Or stirring up the fan beside you
for a prolonged ‘Let’s Go Buffalo’ chant that lasts longer than nine seconds?

Not only does it go a long way in proving to the players how
badly we want them to succeed, it sets an example for future generations. In this
town we celebrate having the best players in the world represent our city.

When a fan base gives in to the years of losing, they then become
quitters. I refuse to believe that those of us left in this town are quitters.
We’ve stayed and shouldered a collapsing economy, high taxes, inept politicians
and brutal winters. If nothing else, Buffalonians are survivors.

Surely forty or fifty years of sports mediocrity is not
going to crush our spirit or lessen the belief that someday, somehow, we will
have a championship parade down Delaware. One that takes place after St. Paddy’s
Day, but celebrates all the same.

Last night was a revelation.  With 5-minutes left to play, down by one goal against
divisional foe Montreal, I watched as droves of fans headed for the exits.

My mind was blown. I thought; where could they possibly be
going?  There’s no traffic, this is
Buffalo.  Five minutes to go in a one
goal game, we’re just getting to the good stuff. But off they trudged, by the
thousands.

When Thomas Vanek spiked home an ugly, grind it out, goalie-pulled,
Sabres-2007 style of goal which sent the game into overtime, much of the
building was absent.

Even Vanek noticed the sullen atmosphere in the building
after scoring, “Again, I know the fans are frustrated and so are we,” he said
“But the louder our building is, the more fired up we are going to be and we
need the people throughout the building, be as loud as you can be and it fires
the team up.”

Of course the team needs to be better, but so do the fans.
We have endured enough losing and heartbreak through the years, that there
should be nothing we cannot overcome.

There shouldn’t be a losing streak we can’t withstand nor a deficit
we can’t cheer our way out of. We’re Buffalonians and we’re survivors. Let us
not lose our optimistic spirit or our undying pride in the passion of our very
own fandom.

When that day comes and our dream is finally realized.  When our pent-up emotion finally releases in
collective tears of joy and our Buffalo pride is finally free to stand in plain
sight, let’s say we never gave up on the dream. 
Let’s say that we stood and took the worst the sports world could offer.
Let it be that the owners and the managers and the players may have quit on us,
but as fans, we never quit on our hopes for a better outcome.

Until that day comes Sabres fan, this is my plea to you from
one biased, fed up fan to another. Get up out of your seat, get behind this
team and renew the energy in a building that used to give me chills as a kid all
game long, not once a game when a little girl belts out an inspired version of
the national anthem.

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