December 31, 2017

I knew I’d live to see the day, but the question was when would that day come? It came on the final day of 2017 and mercifully, thankfully, gloriously, the Bills' 17-year playoff drought is now over!

It took me about two hours before I could start writing my reaction column. I had so many different thoughts colliding in my head. I haven’t felt this way in so long and I just tried to put everything down on paper so I knew how to express what I was feeling. I think I’m still somewhat in a state of shock because of how things played out with the drama in Baltimore. I can honestly tell you the fact that the Bills have a playoff game in Jacksonville on Sunday hasn’t really sunk in yet. We will be talking about a Bills playoff game rather than the extension of the drought. This is truly amazing. It has been so long since the Bills have been in the post season, I’m finding it hard to remember what it was/is like.

I was confident the Bills would do their part of the job, but I didn’t think Baltimore would lose at home to Cincinnati in a win and you are in scenario. When Los Angeles began to pull away from Oakland, that meant the Tennessee Titans game would mean nothing to the Bills. It was all going to come down to the Cincinnati Bengals contest with the Baltimore Ravens.  

When the Bills pushed their lead to 22-3 a little over three minutes into the fourth quarter, I pretty much lost focus on their game and went all in on Cincinnati and Baltimore. I was cautiously optimistic when the Bengals took a 24-10 lead, and I was filled with rage towards that franchise when they blew the lead and fell behind by three points. I believe I tweeted out something to the effect that I would root for the Bengals to lose every game they play for the rest of my life if they lost to the Ravens.

For years, way too many years, Buffalo sports fans have had more than their fare share of heartbreak but on this day, the football gods would smile down upon us. When the Bengals, down to their final shot on 4th-and-12, scored the go ahead touchdown, I yelled so loud and for so long, I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t race to my door to make sure nothing was wrong.

What a feeling of absolute joy and ecstasy for all of us. No more having to be reminded the Bills have the longest drought in North American major pro sports. No more seeing clips of the Music City Miracle so it can be pointed out that was the last time the Bills made the playoffs. The huge black cloud that has been hanging over the Bills franchise and Western New York like a lake effect snow storm sitting over the southtowns, has been obliterated. 

I watched the game at home hunkered down in my man cave by myself. When it comes to really stressful sporting events, I’m not good being around people. I can be very anti-social depending on how the game is going. When it was all over and the Bills were in the playoffs (it really did happen right? this isn’t a dream), I wished I was able to be at every bar and household in Western New York and with every Bills Backers club across the country. I just wanted to see and feel the reactions from Bills fans as 17 years of frustration and suffering all came flying out.

I was listening to the post-game show with Bulldog on WGR and every time he said “the Bills are in the playoffs” I just stopped and smiled. I had to soak that all in and truly savor the moment and the feeling.  

While I obviously couldn’t be out with everyone everywhere, I had the next best thing with Twitter. Being on Twitter feels like you are with everyone that is following you and engaging with you during the game. When the Bills game ended and all of our thoughts turned to Baltimore, I felt like all of us on Twitter were huddled in a bar, watching the TV’s and praying together. When the Ravens lost, my timeline blew up. Tweets were coming in so fast I couldn’t read them as they sped past on the screen.

I’m so happy for all Bills fans. It's one of the greatest understatements ever made to say Bills fans have earned this moment. Whether it's “older" Bills fans who know what it was like in the late 80s and early 90s and want to see those days return or younger fans who have no idea what its like to see the Bills in the playoffs, it's a magnificent experience everyone can now share. My son is 21, and for the first time he will get to see the Bills in a playoff game. Even better, he is home from college for Christmas break and gets to be here in town for the end of the drought. Jonathan was three years old the last time the Bills played a postseason game. He didn’t watch the game against Nashville. He was probably busy with his Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends trains.

I feel great for Kyle Williams who finally gets to wear a Bills uniform in a playoff game. Not only was he able to celebrate the playoff berth with his kids in the Bills locker room after the game, he actually scored a touchdown on a one-yard run to boot. 

I’m thrilled for players, coaches, football staff, front office, the Pegulas, and all the Bills employees at One Bills Drive. They all deserve to revel in this. 

If I can take a little liberty with a legendary call from the late great Jack Buck, “go crazy Bills fans, go crazy.” Your team is in the playoffs. What a great way to start a new year!