For the most part, sports fans are connected by the feeling of family…the bonding experience of loving the same thing and pulling for the same outcome. That is, after all, one of the defining traits of the Buffalo Bills fan base. Buffalo, the perennial underdog, is bonded at the core because of the national perception. Watching Tiger Woods win an improbable 15th Major Title at the Masters last month got me thinking about the underdog topic, and it was capped off by the outpouring of love and support for Ezra Castro “Pancho Billa” over the past year.
As Tiger Woods gave us the best comeback in sports history at Augusta National I started to wonder how the man who is in discussion for the greatest golf player of all time somehow became an underdog. The affair, the back injuries, the Hail Mary surgery and the arrest all played a role as to why Tiger was counted out. But despite everything aforementioned, Tiger’s following both on and off the course seemed as strong as ever. As I wracked by brain for an answer to this I settled on this: fans love a redemption story. Tiger Woods, a man with numerous transgressions in his personal life, someone who was dumped by his sponsors and mocked for his DUI arrest somehow had the vast majority of golf fans in his corner during his run at Augusta. It is because we love redemption.
Isn’t that true of our beloved Bills, too? In fact, it goes wider than that. Isn’t that true of the city of Buffalo. When we cheer for our Buffalo sports teams we are cheering harder because of the hardships that we have had. We cheer harder because of the dubious record of 4 consecutive Super Bowl losses, we cheer harder because of the Music City Miracle, because of No Goal, because of the 2006 Stanley Cup that got away due to a decimated blue line. Buffalo is the perfect redemption story, Buffalo is the underdog.
Pancho was an underdog against the worst disease that humans have ever seen. I have no doubt that the spirit and fight of the city of Buffalo, and its’ teams, inspired him to fight for as long and has hard as he did. He even said as much when he gave the pre-game speech to the team last year against the Jets.
Anybody in life who has faced adversity can tell you that struggle, fight and doubt makes the redemption that much sweeter in the end. That is why this city’s first Super Bowl and Stanley Cup will be unlike any other that are won after that. That is why Tiger named his most recent major victory as his most memorable. It is the struggle that makes a redemption story what it is.
Buffalo has the struggle part covered, now it’s time for the redemption.