Forgive me for the late submission of my weekly column – it’s been a heck of a week here in suburban Boston.
While I was gearing up for this past weekend’s rematch between the Bills and the Jets, Boston was preparing for the snowstorm of the year. Or decade. Or century. It all depends on which television weather guy you saw and how much stock you put into his forecast.
As the weekend approached the storm went from 8-12 inches of snow falling in most areas to 12-36 inches depending on your exact location. That’s snow – real snow. Buffalo snow. It made me a bit nostalgic for the great Blizzard of ’77 – I prepared to hunker down with my six-pack of beer on the advice of the late great Mayor Jimmy Griffin.
Being from Buffalo, snowstorms don’t scare me much – it takes quite a bit of the white stuff to make me fear anything worse than a difficult afternoon clearing the driveway. I was however a bit wary of the locals and their potential reaction. These are the same people who, earlier in the week, fell into chaos and anarchy on all major roadways when they were hit with a 15-minute snow squall at rush hour (it took several members of my staff more than 4 hours to get to work that morning). You’d have though we lived in Florida and had never seen or driven on snow before.
I set my strategy. The snow was not due to start until very late on Friday night and not stop until Sunday afternoon. I would put my Christmas lights on the house and buy a Christmas tree on Friday night and then go shopping on Saturday while the masses stayed home consuming the bread and milk they had hoarded at the grocery store. While they sat on the mountain of bottled water and D-cell batteries they bought I’d have my pick of parking spaces at the mall. The centerpiece of the weekend would obviously be the Bills game. I had to time my snow removal/driveway clearing for just the right time. Too early and the snow would still be falling, too late and I’d be in the driveway instead of in Boston watching the game.
In the end we only got about a foot and a half of snow where I live – barely a dusting by southtowns standards. Because this was Boston, I was a bit worried that they would close down the bar and I’d have nowhere to watch the game. I called and was told it would still be televised, so I took the train into the city (a snow emergency had been declared in Boston meaning street parking was banned).
I made my way into The Harp and found that with less than 30 minutes before kickoff I was only the 4th Bills fan there.
How could a little snow scare off a whole club full of people who lived in Buffalo? Surely we were of heartier stock than that. I was beginning to get embarrassed that the snow would keep the fans away. Granted the streets were barely plowed, there was nowhere to park, driveways had to be cleared and many people were desperate to go out and buy more bread and milk (48 hours is a long time to make do with 18 loaves of bread and only 8 gallons of milk), but come one – where were people’s priorities? This was the Bills – the Bills.
I shouldn’t have feared. As the game got underway the crowds grew. Midway through the first quarter there about 75 rooting for the Bills, cheering for a team that has no real shot of surviving past week 17. We Bills fans are of a hearty stock; neither rain nor snow nor idiots who can’t drive in the snow will keep us from our game.
Did I say 75 people cheering for the Bills? I should have said 74 – one guy was actually cheering for the Jets. This poor soul had called the bar looking for the Jets game and was told that it would be televised at The Harp, so he came down to see his team. Little did he know that he would become that guy from the NFL commercial – the lone Dolphins fan in a bar full of Jets fans. I’ll give credit where credit is due – he turned out to be a good guy and we all had a good time talking with him. Even our opposing fans were good hearty people on Sunday.
Webster’s Dictionary gives a definition of hearty as one who is vigorous or robust. Alternatively it can mean enjoying or requiring much food. Judging from the exuberant and hungry crowd on Sunday, I’d say hearty was certainly the right word to describe us.
Hearty gets derives from the word heart. If you didn’t know better you might think that hearty could be defined as someone who is great of heart – someone who shows great emotion and spirit. Travis Henry certainly fits that description.
The hearty fans at The harp were treated to an awesome performance by a “heart-y” Travis Henry on Sunday.
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t admire the drive and determination Travis Henry has? On Sunday he ran 32 times for 169 yards and a touchdown, all on a cracked fibula (leg bone). Every time he touched the ball he seemed to go for 5 yards or more – slicing through a Jets defense like a hot knife through butter. Henry ran the ball so much that even when everyone knew he was going to run the ball he dared the defense to stop him.
Many thought that rookie Willis McGahee would see his first action of the season against the Jets, but he remained inactive. Perhaps this was a tactic to motivate the incumbent running back, a guy who doesn’t seem to need much motivation to play his heart out. By halftime you could already hear the fans saying, Willis who? McGahee might ultimately be a great back, but Henry showed we have a great back already – how can you not appreciate what we has done and how he has played?
The Bills ran and ran and ran some more on Sunday. They shoved the ball down the Jets throats on 3 scoring drives – each drive going longer than 10 plays. This was smashmouth football – the football we were promised this year but never got. The football that best suited our personnel and would lead us to the playoffs.
I guess the old saying is true – better late than never. It took us 14 weeks to see what we could do if we committed to the run and let our defense hold the opponent’s scoring down to a minimum. If you can keep the other team from more than 6 points you only need 7 points to win – we put 17 points on the board and would have had more but for a fumble (one of Henry’s few this year – he’s really made great stride in addressing his tendency to put the ball on the ground).
Granted the Jets are statistically the league’s worst defense on the road, but Sunday’s game did make you wonder whether we could have enjoyed the same success on the ground against other teams had we not been so quick to play in the air. We wouldn’t have had to win every game to be in the thick of the playoff race – winning winnable games against Dallas, Houston and Indianapolis would have virtually guaranteed life after December 27th. There’s a huge difference between being 6-7 and 9-4 at this point in the season.
Oh well, it may have been a bit painful to think once again about what might have been, but it was fun to watch what the Bills might become next season (please don’t write me and tell me it’s not over and we still have a shot at the playoffs – denial is step 1 of a lengthy 12 step road to reality). With adequate coaching next year we can get back to the playoffs and be proud Bills fans once again (just let us please beat the Patriots twice this year and twice next year). That thought alone should but some holiday spirit into your heart. And if you need more heart you might want to contact Travis Henry – he’s got plenty to spare.
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