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The Quarterback We Deserve: A Meditation on Josh Allen, a Crazy Wild Card Game and My Cycle of Addiction

Josh Allen is the quarterback I deserve.

Now let me explain.

I’m an alcoholic and while watching the wild card game between the Bills and Texans, I realized something: this wasn’t just a playoff game; this was a gridiron manifestation of my addiction, my devil, whatever you want to call it. Josh Allen’s game was like a night out drinking for me. And maybe for you, too.

It all starts out so promising. A 42-yard run. All that talent on display! You walk into a bar and everybody knows your name. And they all want to talk to you. The first drink is on them. You feel loved. And it feels nice. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? But you never talk about that. Because that’s not fun. And you want to inspire and uplift those around you, not drag them into the abyss of your limitations. Just keep going. Everybody is having a good time. You don’t think about the bruises.

You’ve learned over time to stick to what you know. And that means always outdoing yourself. Even if you’re falling apart. You catch a 16-yard touchdown pass! No one saw that coming. You’re the talk of the town. All the applause. Another drink. This time with a shot. But things are looking good. You might make it out alive. Every song that’s playing is keeping the party going. You’re on fire. Nobody can stop those legs, those words. The way you move, the way you talk. You’re the perfect partier, always somersaulting into the end zone.

At halftime, Josh Allen seems unstoppable. The first quarterback to have a 40-plus-yard run and a touchdown catch in the same game. “We might actually win,” a whole city says to itself.

Midway through a night out and nothing bad has happened yet. You’re feeling good about yourself, unstoppable even. “I might actually get through this,” you tell yourself.

Then something goes wrong. Something always goes wrong. It could be small. It could be big. Either way, you start slipping. Another drink. This time with two shots. You scramble forward, but drop the ball. The clock is ticking. All that goodwill you’ve been building? The people around you, they’re starting to forget. You’re getting sloppy. Slurring your words. The people around you, they’re starting to walk away from you. You’ve been lucky so far. Now you’re just doing shot after shot because why not. Because now you feel like you have nothing to lose.

Suddenly you don’t like the song that’s playing on the jukebox. You feel incapable of dancing and then the desperation begins to set in. You throw a ball 40 yards downfield to your fullback who is in double coverage. What the fuck are you thinking? Your fullback? Recklessness is fun… but only to a certain point. You start drunk dialing random numbers, sending texts to everyone in your contacts. Will anyone please pick up? Where’s my fullback at? It feels like there’s a gun to your head. Maybe that’s the true meaning of gunslinger. No one picks up. No one catches the ball.

Can’t believe you made it this far. But you’re still in it. Maybe your third or fourth bar. A new set of people around you. You don’t remember how you got here. Just that you’re grateful. It’s time to be careful. But you’re not. You never are. Down by three and with the clock ticking, you scramble to your right for 20 yards and for whatever reason decide to flip the ball to a teammate. Nothing bad happens. But still… what are you thinking? It could’ve been a game-changing mistake. Stop doing stuff that you know will hurt you in the end. Why didn’t you just fall when you had the chance?

Just play it smart. You don’t need to be the hero. Well, maybe you do. After all, you’re a hit on social media. People comparing you to a daredevil riding a motorcycle off a cliff. Ridiculous! Hilarious! The mashing of buttons like in a video game. You’re a star… but you’ll burn out quickly if you let your momentum get the best of you. Be a different kind of hero. Unsling that gun. Don’t be so damn self-destructive, rushing headfirst into that bone-crunching apocalypse. The helmeted horsemen will swallow you whole. And we want you here for a long time.

It’s tough though, isn’t it? In Buffalo, self-destructive tendencies are viewed as superpowers. No sleep! Multiple jobs! The ability to go all night! Drink like a fish! Don’t bruise easily! Never any tears! Those heroes don’t survive.

“Just give me the whole bottle of whiskey,” you eventually mumble to the bartender. You end up getting kicked out of wherever you are. Or maybe you float out like a ghost after your momentum betrays you. When you come to, you’re someplace uncomfortable. It might be morning. Or it might not be. It might be your place. It might be somebody else’s. When you look at your phone, if it’s not dead, there are texts from strange numbers that say things like “You were ridiculous last night” or “You’re so hilarious… let’s do it again.”

Feels like you’re a motorcycle always zooming off a cliff. But never crashing. Always midair. And all you can focus on is how sore you are. Inside more than out. But the bruises don’t care where they land. You overextend yourself time and time again… just like the city you call home and all the people in it.

Josh Allen is the quarterback that Buffalo deserves.

He plays like how we live: under the influence, out of control, with a complete disregard for self-care. But maybe there’s more to it than that. Maybe he’s our reflection breaking out of the mirror. What self-realization looks like. The gut-wrenching impulsiveness that makes us shake our heads at our stupidity but also shake our hearts at our bravery. He’s our worst nights rolled into one but also our brightest mornings. A reminder that although it’s tough as hell, survival is still possible.

And that’s beautiful.

Written by Justin Karcher

Justin Karcher is currently working from home. Since he is no longer spending time getting to and from work, he is finding some extra time to work on his poetry.

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