New Yorkers have entirely too many teams to choose from. There are multiple teams in every major sport, but only one plays football in the Empire state.
That’s right, it’s those wagon-circling, hot-wing eating Buffalo Bills.
There’s a sense of upstate pride associated with the Bills. In my travels around the country, when you tell people you’re from New York they automatically assume you mean the city.
There’s always a sense of shock when you tell them, “No. I’m from upstate.” It’s like they can’t fathom the idea that there’s an entire state outside of the five boroughs.
When you meet someone from the city itself, there’s often a reaction of, “Oh, you’re from upstate.”
For a long time, I was embarrassed of where I was from simply because people made me feel like that was how I should feel. I hail from the land of fine wine, dairy farms, and not a whole lot else.
Over time I’ve grown to embrace these things and the number of strange subtleties that make upstate New York and Buffalo such a unique place.
Whether it’s loganberry juice, Mighty Taco, or even non-food landmarks like the numerous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes sprinkled throughout the area, there are plenty of things that make Buffalo a world unto itself.
Nothing, however, makes the area more unique than the people.
Upstate New Yorkers seem to have a giant chip on their collective shoulder, and no group has a larger chip than the Buffalo Bills and their fans.
The Bills have always been lovable losers to me. Even when they won four consecutive AFC championships in the 90s, they just never could win the big one, and they’ve been mired in mediocrity ever since.
When the team starts off well, the hopes of all of western New York rise with the team’s place in the standings. When the record heads south, so too do the moods of the faithful as they plunge head first into the frigid teeth of the New York winter sans a playoff berth.
Every year, however, hope springs eternal with the promise of a new football season.
Some might call it foolish or masochistic, but there’s an admirable optimist hiding beneath those blue-and-red-painted chests.
Far away from the glitz and glamour of the big city lights the other New York teams play under, there is a fan base stretching across a state holding onto the belief that this is the year our team will finally slay that Super Bowl demon.
In college I had an English professor with a thick southern drawl who, fittingly enough, taught Southern Literature.
Her family was a collection of mountain people, and she was extremely proud of that fact. She often made a point to tell us to be proud of our heritage no matter what it was or where we came from.
That sums up Bills fans. They don’t try to be anyone else. They know who they, are and they embrace it, the way only upstate people can.