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My Trip To Oz - Bills Style
The long strange trip to the playoffs
by Tony Bogyo
October 14, 2003

Sunday was a very long day. After getting up at 3am so I could cut the grass, build a shed, blacktop the driveway, tune-up both cars and give the cat a heart-lung transplant, I was finally free to sit down and watch the Bills game without any guilt.

What started out as a good game against the Jets went terribly wrong. The things I saw on the TV were things no Bills fan should have to see - scenes of unspeakable horror. Afterwards, I stared at the ceiling for four straight hours without uttering a word (I was praying for the football gods to smite those responsible for the carnage I had just witnessed - most were Bills). I decided to call it a day and go to bed. Surely some shuteye would ease the pain.

Maybe it was the chowdah I ate earlier, but I had a really weird dream (when will I ever learn to stop eating that stuff? - it always makes me feel weird).

I had a dream that my house was swept up by a huge tornado. It came off the foundation and sailed away. I awoke and the house had stopped spinning - the raging tempest had subsided. I scrambled out of my front door to assess the damage and suddenly everything became vibrantly colored - as if everything leading up to this point had been in black and white.

To my amazement, there, lying under the house, were a pair of legs - my house had landed on some poor soul! I rushed to see if there was anything I could do, but alas the legs showed no sign of life. Oddly enough, those legs wore striped athletic socks and on the feet there were a pair of ruby red football cleats.

Before I could summon the proper authorities, Chris Berman appeared wearing a big pink dress and a tiara and carrying a wand with a big star at the end of it (I’ve always like Boomer, and whatever he does in his private life is his own business - not that there’s anything wrong with that).

“Are you and AFC Team or an NFC Team?” asked Berman.

“Neither” I replied. “I’m a Buffalo Bills fan - where am I?”

“You’re in the Land of Football Oz, sponsored by Gatorade”. “Everyone is happy that you’ve killed the Wicked Witch of New England. You really crushed her - she never had a chance. By my guess the house landed on her 31 times”.

“Who’s everyone?” I asked.

The next thing I knew, a few dozen vertically challenged Americans (let’s just call them munchkins even if it isn’t P.C) came out and sang a Gatorade jingle. Coors Light twins they were not - very freaky looking and sweating all sorts of bizarre shades of neon green, orange and blue.

Suddenly the most hideous witch I had ever seen appeared. Call me crazy, but she looked like Dave Wannstedt with green skin in drag, complete with a black pointy hat.

“Who killed the Wicked Witch of New England?” the witch demanded to know.

“I did, but I didn’t mean to - I guess my house landed on her 31 times,” I said.

“Well, I can cause pain, too - I’ll get you for that” said the witch.

Turning to Berman I asked, “I thought you said the witch was dead - who is that?”

“That’s the Wicked Witch of Miami - the Wicked Witch of New England’s sister,” replied Boomer. He then turned to the witch and said, “Aren’t you forgetting her ruby cleats?”

“Her cleats! Where have they gone? Give them back to me” screamed the witch.

With a sly look in his eye, Berman looked at the witch and said, “There they are” and pointed his girly star wand towards me. I looked down and sure enough, the ruby football cleats were on my feet.

The witch started making all sorts of threats against Berman and me, but realized she had no power and she departed, muttering something about Ricky Williams. Her parting words were, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too”.

Funny, I don’t even own a dog, but I looked down and there in my arms was a small Scotty with the face of Ralph Wilson. I was really freaked out, but I couldn’t tell whether it was because I was holding a dog that that looked like Ralph Wilson or that a green Dave Wannstedt in drag had called me “pretty”. I had to get out of here - fast.

“How do I get out of here? I want to go to the playoffs,” I said.

“You have to go the League Offices- there you’ll find the Wizard and he can tell you how to get to they playoffs. Follow the yellow brick road,” replied Berman.

Great. Just great. I’ve got to go walk some crazy yellow road holding a freaky dog and wearing some really gaudy football cleats. These things were uglier than the Cleveland Browns uniforms - what kind of team would wear sparkly red football cleats, complete with bows?

The munchkins started singing another song about following the yellow brick road. These guys were starting to piss me off - I know I had to follow the stupid yellow brick road - did they really have to start singing about it? I wished they had kept their sweaty little bodies away from me - neon sweat freaks me out.

Following the road I became concerned that I was going the wrong way. I wondered aloud which way to go and a scarecrow in the field came to life and started directing me every which way - like he couldn’t make a decision. Startled, I cautiously approached the scarecrow to see if I could help him get down from his post. To my amazement, the scarecrow was the spitting image of Bills offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. I helped him to the ground.

“Well, which way is it - make up your mind” I said.

“I wish I could makeup my mind, but I haven’t got a brain - there is no mind to make up. But all things being equal, I’d say pass!” said the scarecrow.

“Pass?” I asked - that doesn’t even make sense!

“I know,” Replied the scarecrow, “but it always seems to be the right answer anyway. Pass on first down, pass on second down, and whatever you do, make sure you pass on third down - that’s the way to convert, even in short yardage!”

I had no idea what this guy was talking about, but it was clear to me he wasn’t lying - he didn’t have a brain. Who passes on third-and-one, anyway? That’s crazy!

“Hey,” I said, “I’m going to see the Wizard to see if he can get me to the playoffs. Maybe he can help you get a brain “

“Wow! The playoffs! I want to get there too! I hear the best way is to pass!” said the scarecrow.

The scarecrow then burst out in some sort of song about “if I only had a brain”. In some verses the chorus changed to “if I only had a running game”. Damn - what is it about people breaking out into song in this place?

This dude and all his talk of passing was driving me nuts, but I’ve always like to take pity on the mentally challenged, so I decided to take him along with me.

The scarecrow and I traveled down the road until we happened upon the figure of a man chopping wood in the distance. I didn’t want to get close, fearing it was Jaguars punter Chris Hanson - that guy’s a maniac with an axe.

Summoning my courage I approached the man and discovered he was made entirely of metal. He squeaked out a plea for me to oil his joints - it seems he had been stuck in this same sorry position for the last four weeks. I oiled him as best I could and then set about to learn his identity.

“I’m the Buffalo Bills Players - I’m made out of tin. I’ve been stuck in a painful position since week 2. The worst thing is that I have no heart,” said the man.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Buffalo Bills Players - it must have been rough. Say, do you mind if I just call you Tin Man? Mr. Buffalo Bills Players is kind of long and really doesn’t have much of a ring to it.” I said.

“Whatever - I don’t care. Call me whatever you want. Boo me if you want - I really just don’t care. Without a heart I don’t have any passion or desire. I’m as emotionless as the platinum Rolex on my wrist.” Said the tin man.

“Scarecrow and I are going to see the Wizard. We both want to go to the playoffs and scarecrow here wants a brain. Why don’t you come along with us to see if you can get a heart?” I said.

“Whatever - I don’t really care. I really don’t have any desire to go to the playoffs. I feel like I should sing a song right about now, but I really don’t feel like it - it’s like I’m sleepwalking or something,” said the tin man.

This guy was a real stick in the mud, but he obviously needed help - big time. I was glad that he didn’t break out into song, so I decided he should come with us. Maybe that dumb scarecrow would take the hint that breaking out into song for no apparent reason wasn’t cool.

The three of us set out down the road for the league offices, the scarecrow spouting off about halfback passes in the red zone and the tin man talking about the need to execute better and make plays.

We came upon a dark and scary part of a forest. As we nervously wandered in, the tin man and scarecrow wondered aloud about the dangers that lurked within.

“Dolphins” said the tin man.

“Jets” said the scarecrow.

“Patriots” they both said in unison.

“Dolphins and Jets and Patriots, oh my!” my two companions nervously repeated, getting more and more afraid with every repetition. As a Bills fan I’ve never been afraid of a Dolphin or a Jet or a Patriot - why were these fools so intimidated?

Before I could ponder the question any longer, out jumped a Lion who looked strangely like Bills coach Gregg Williams.

“Put ‘em up, I tell ya, put ‘em up. I’ll hurt you with my power running game. I’ll tear you apart with my new defense. I’ll show you the pain of a top notch kickoff return man,” grumbled the lion.

Startled and somewhat annoyed that my trip was being weighed down by an ever-expanding cast of lunatics I reacted on instinct and punched the lion in the shoulder.

To my surprise, the lion started to cry, “What’d ya go do that for? Am I bleeding? I think you broke my arm”. Sobbing uncontrollably I scolded the lion for scaring us and causing me to hit him.

“You’re not a fierce lion - you’re just a coward. Stop crying - there’s no crying in football,” I said.

“Actually,” said the tin man, “there’s no crying in baseball. In football there’s crying. I cry about my salary all the time”.

“Pass, pass, pass!” exclaimed the scarecrow completely without reason.

The lion was hardly consoled. “You’re right - I am a coward. I fear being a leader. I fear being blamed for the poor performance of my team. I even fear talking to the media about questionable play calling”.

“Look,” I said. “We’re all off to see the Wizard and see if we can get to the playoffs. Why don’t you join us and see if you can get some courage?”

“O.K., I’ll go, just so long as I don’t have to lead - I’m not a good leader and it scares me. I also don’t want to take any responsibility for the success or failure of our journey. If we don’t get to our destination it’s because you guys didn’t execute, not because I’m a bad leader,” said the lion.

We finally arrived at the League Offices - what a sight to see. A huge walled city, shimmering with the wealth of the nation’s most popular spectator sport. I knocked on the door and a small man who looked like Paul Taglibue answered. I told him we wanted to see the Wizard - we had important business.

It seems that the Wizard was out scoping locations for next year’s Super Bowl. He instructed his minions to guarantee us our requests as long as we brought him the Wicked Witch of Miami’s playbook. He also fined the scarecrow $10,000 for not having his socks pulled up and the tin man another $10,000 for failing to wear league-approved footwear.

As we left the League Offices we were snatched up by evil flying monkeys who looked like Jimmy Johnson. No matter how fast they flew, their hair never fell out of place - spooky. We were being taken to see the Wicked Witch of Miami.

Fortunately I wasn’t afraid of the witch. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous, but then again who isn’t worried to see a man in drag who keeps calling you his “pretty”?

The witch made several threats against my dog and proceeded to set the scarecrow on fire. As he burned he kept screaming, “Pass! Pass! Pass!” - that poor fool really doesn’t have a brain.

I realized that I had to do something, so I opened the window and took a bucket full of snow to throw on the scarecrow’s fire. I’ve never been the world’s best athlete, and in my excitement I didn’t completely hit the scarecrow - some of the snow fell on the Wicked Witch of Miami.

“Ahhh - I’m freezing! Freezing! I can’t take the snow! I can’t function when it gets below 50 degrees! That’s why I always tank so bad late in the season! I can’t take the snow! Ahhh!” the witch screamed as she dissolved into nothing more than a puddle.

I grabbed her playbook - now it was time to go see the Wizard and collect our rewards.

With great fanfare we were ushered in to see the great Wizard. A huge head with lasers coming out of his eyes, breathing smoke and fire - this was one bad dude.

A booming voice came from the head - “So, you have brought me the playbook and now you want to go to the playoffs? You want a brain and a heart and some courage? I am all-powerful - I do not grant these things easily”.

I started to protest, saying part of the league’s collective bargaining agreement specifically states that rewards would be granted for collecting witch’s playbooks.

“Silence!” shouted the head. “Do not question my authority!”

In the excitement I hadn’t realized that my dog had run off and was now busy barking at something behind a curtain in the corner. Before I knew what was going on, the dog had grabbed a man by the leg and was pulling him from behind the curtain.

“Yes, Mr. Wilson. Yes sir. You’re the boss. OK, I’ll stop pretending to be all-powerful,” said the man.

I recognized the man immediately - it was Bills President and General Manager Tom Donahoe.

“You!” I shouted, “You’re not an all powerful wizard, you’re just a good personnel man who knows how to manage the salary cap”.

“It’s true,” replied Donahoe. “Sometimes I let my reputation get the better of me. Working with the Bills you have to learn how to manage smoke and mirrors - I guess I just got carried away. I’m sorry”.

I pressed him for our just rewards - we had earned them and I know Donahoe didn’t want me to have to call my NFLPA union rep.

Before I knew it, the scarecrow had his brain. “Patience with the run the running game is the answer - Drew can’t do it all and Travis is a great back.” Exclaimed the scarecrow. He also disavowed himself from any more trick plays and passing on third and short - I knew he’s received his brain.

The tin man suddenly had a look of fire in his eyes. “I’m mad as hell in our performance and I’m not going to take it anymore! I take pride in playing for the Bills and wearing the uniform of the team with the best fans in the game! We don’t lose another game this year and it all starts with me!” screamed the tin man. With that he crushed numerous beer cans flat against his head and ran off in to the distance screaming about killing the Redskins - he had received his heart.

The Lion also got his reward. He stepped forward and proclaimed, “From this day forward the buck stops with me. I am the undisputed leader of this team. Nothing happens without me. It’s my way or the highway. I am responsible for quality control on this team - it’s my team and my ass on the line. I WILL get the best out of everyone or they will not be here anymore”.

For my part, I asked Donahoe how I would ever get to the playoffs. He looked down at my cleats and said, “You’ve had the power all along. You’re a Bills fan. You’re the 12th man. You ARE the heart and soul of this team. Don’t ever stop rooting for the team. Tap your heels together three times and say ‘There’s no place like the Super Bowl’ and you shall be in the playoffs”.

I tapped my cleats together three times and off I went.

I woke up in my bed - could this have happened? Is it possible? It all seemed so real. Can Kevin Gilbride grow a brain? Can the team find a heart? Can Gregg Williams gather the courage to lead this team? Anything is possible - there are still ten games left in the season.

Man, I HAVE to lay off the chowdah…

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