In honor of NaBloPoMO, I'll be attempting to post something every day in November. If you're not checking in every day, make sure you're catching all the posts!
Have you ever had an idea in your head that seemed really good but when you wrote it down you somehow managed to not say anything you were really trying to say? Yeah, that's this post. I'm tired of staring at the screen though so here it is anyway...
A couple of the comments on yesterday's post about Jay McKee (one of us! one of us! one of us!) made me start thinking about Buffalo and its relationship with athletes who used to play here. As I've mentioned before, I wasn't raised in Buffalo or in a city with any pro sports and this is one thing about the city that has always kind of fascinated me. After a lot of thought, I think Buffalo really only asks two things of its athletes.
The first thing is one that I'm not going to focus on too much: We want them to work hard. We're a blue-collar city and we bust our butts to make a living. When we sit down in front of the TV or fork over hard-earned money to attend games, we don't want to see any coasting. We'll complain about a lack of effort like we'll complain about nothing else.
The second thing is the biggie though. When it comes down to it, we really, really want our athletes to fall in love with us. Listen, I'll admit it, Buffalo has a little bit of an inferiority complex. We're not flashy and we're not glamorous. If people outside of Buffalo hear anything about us it generally involves the words "snow" and "cold." When I told people in Birmingham that I was moving to Buffalo they thought I was crazy and Birmingham is no great shakes, people. Those of us in Buffalo love our city desperately - faults and all - and we want everyone else to love it too. I think we know it's not always easy because the best of Buffalo isn't obvious. We know that you really have to spend some time here, get to know people, do some digging to find the stuff that makes the city great. But we know it's there and that's why when visiting athletes who spend 36 hours in the area around HSBC Arena make comments about how boring Buffalo is, it gets our backs up. They don't know what they're talking about.
I don't really know how to nail down what it is that makes us feel like an athlete has really fallen in love with Buffalo - it's not always the words they say when talking about us and it's not always playing their entire careers here - but we know it when we see it. Rob Ray fell in love with Buffalo. So did Matthew Barnaby and Lindy Ruff. Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas fell in love with Buffalo. Even though they're currently playing elsewhere, Marty Biron and Jay McKee fell in love with Buffalo too.
It might sound dumb but for a lot of us, I think it really is that simple. It's why a semi-talented guy like Rob Ray is so beloved even now while a future Hall-of-Famer like Dominik Hasek is, for the most part, really disliked. The Dominator was amazing during his time in Buffalo, but he never really got us. It's why a lot of fans put up with J.P. Losman as long as they did. He spoken very sincerely about loving Buffalo and he's repeatedly backed up those words with actions. It's why we practically ran Willis McGahee out of town and it's why we've been so quick to embrace Marshawn Lynch. He's embraced us with open arms and a full heart and gone out of his way to make Buffalo home.
We're shameless really and sometimes it can be annoying. The period between the end of the NHL season and the beginning of free agency was rife with emotions and the whole city seemed to take on the attitude that if Drury and Briere went somewhere else it was because there was something wrong with us. Our whole self-worth was wrapped up in whether or not two hockey players stayed or left. But I think it's very charming too. In the end we're not very demanding people. For all our tough talk about championships, we've made it this long without one. What we do want is very simple and very human. We want to know our athletes left it all on the playing field and we want them to love us as much as we love them.
Is that really asking too much?