My Love Grows Where The Buffalo Bills Roam, Thanks To My Dad

Danyel GeistCorrespondent IMay 13, 2009

CANTON, OHIO - AUGUST 3:  Jim Kelly (left) stands next to his bust with Ralph Wilson (center), owner of the Buffalo Bills and his presenter and former head coach Marv Levy (right) after his induction into the National Football League Hall of Fame on August 3, 2002 at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.  Kelly played quarterback for the Buffalo Bills from 1986 to 1996 and led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearences during his NFL career.   (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Growing up, my dad never instilled many feminine qualities in me.  That was my mom's job.  Instead of bringing home pink boxes stuffed with miniature women all named "Barbie", he preferred taking me to look for fishing bait in the backyard after rain storms. 

On Sundays, right after helping Mom with chores around the house, I'd slip into my over-sized Buffalo Bills sweatshirt, pull on my hat, and take a seat next to the only other die-hard Bills fan I knew:  my dad.

The football relationship that my father and I have falls nothing short of special.  He started liking the Bills the year I was born and I started chanting "touchdown" as soon as I learned to speak.  I certainly knew more about my team and football in general than any of my peers. 

Often, during commercial breaks and halftime, he would quiz me on referee signals.  My favorite was always the tee-pee he would make with both hands above his head.  Of course I knew it meant "safety" and would shout out the answer in giggles, knowing that I was making him proud.

If, during a game, the Bills were playing poorly, my dad and I would run up to the television and rub our hats furiously all over the screen.  We would then break out into screams of "Let's go Buffalo" and slap each other a "hi-five".  For some curious reason, this seemed to work most of the time.

The early 90s were some of the best times of my life.  Although I was young, I knew that my Bills were the team to beat. 

Every year for four years straight, my parents would throw these amazing Super Bowl parties that consisted of my dad and I arguing that this year would be different.  No matter the outcomes, however, we always stuck by our team.  It was something we bonded over and no one could ever break that.

Through the years, I have received autographed cards from Andre Reed and Bruce Smith.  Jim Kelly even sent me a hand-written letter in the mail, thanking me for my support and stating that he would have had the whole team sign my cards if I would have given them to him. 

I have gone through periods of desiring to marry Thurman Thomas and planning to move to Buffalo just so that I could see every game from the best stadium in the world.  All of these emotions I owe to my dad.

In 2005, I had to work for the very first Bills game and so, living in Philadelphia and much to my chagrin, I had to miss it.  Luckily, I was able to keep my phone on hand so that my dad could be my play-by-play commentator. 

After every productive drive, I would run around work telling everyone what a great season the Bills were going to have.  It was a bit premature, I know, but I couldn't keep my anxiousness at bay.  During halftime, someone said something to me that I will always remember.  

My co-worker had just got done listening to me rave about then quarterback J.P. Losman and relaying the game to him as my dad was telling me.  When I finished, he looked at me and said "You know, you have a really great dad."  With that, a smile came across my face and, a bit choked up, I simply replied "I know."

Just a few weeks later my dad was in a life-altering motorcycle accident.  Although he survived, he was in a coma for 2 weeks and suffered the kind of brain damage that changes personalities.

Since then, he's able to walk and talk and to outsiders, seems normal enough.  Nonetheless, his family knows that he is not the same person he was before this tragedy.

There are small things I notice about my dad now like how forgetful he always seems to be and the fact that he gets his words mixed up a lot.  One of the biggest changes for me personally though, is the fact that he no longer enjoys football like he used to. 

Games are hard for him to sit down and watch straight through and he probably couldn't name 5 players on the whole team.  Something that we used to bond over so heavily was taken away in just a few seconds.

My love for the Bills grew out of the love I have for my dad.  Even though a lot has changed in the past couple of years, I still can be found doing the "hat rub" during games and calling my dad when they win. 

I know the days of the early 90s will never be anything more than a distant memory but I am thankful that my father turned me into a fan of the best organization out there.  I am proud to call myself a Bills fan and whenever someone asks why I love them so much, I turn to them and reply "Because I have a really great dad."