2016 is without a doubt the year of heartbreaking losses. Prince. Lemmy. Leonard Cohen. Janet Reno. CSI: Cyber.
This autumn has been no less awful, particularly for Buffalo sports fans. After a seemingly endless string of key injuries for the Bills, the Sabres have made a strong bid to win the battle of attrition (if winning means the team with the highest attrition.)
This weekend, 43.39% of the Buffalo Bills original 53-manroster is named on the injured, PUP, or injured reserve list. Nearly half of the players to don a Bills uniform this season have pulled quads, shredded tendons, or seen their leg fold completely over itself in a place without a joint. Damn, did that look painful.
Few can forget that fateful moment with eight minutes left in practice before the start of the regular season which saw sophomore superstar Jack Eichel’s ankle give way under the immense pressure placed on his young shoulders.
Each team is floating a few games under .500 – an astounding feat to some, considering the insurmountable mountain of injuries that continues to pile up for both teams. While it is as true as any other sports cliché that all teams deal with injuries, it also seems to be true that something in the Lake Erie waters seems to be sucking the living essence out of our athletes. Time after time, we watch them fall to the ground, muscles atrophied. Bones brittle. Breath short and with a slight hitch.
These setbacks could not have come at a worse time for Buffalo sports fans. It was Tyrod’s second season as a starter, and expectations were deservedly high. Even the national media was giving Buffalo some propers, predicting playoffs for the first time since Slick Willy and his Sexy Saxamophone blared the Benny Hill theme on the White House lawn.
It’s even worse for the Sabres, who took a giant leap forward last season. They were all but guaranteed to deeply entrenched in a battle for the eighth spot in the East. Their growing list of injuries is a veritable roster of ‘who’s gonna save us.’ Every single player brought in over the last two seasons to help this team is missing time, or has missed time.
Except Sam Reinhart. Buffalo owes him a beer, for sure.
This season, for both teams, was supposed to be a measuring stick. It was supposed to show us what we’ve invested in, financially and emotionally, over the last…well…lifetime, I guess, if we’re really keeping score. It was the payoff for all of the pain and suffering of the tank. The rebate on the Saint Doug era. The redemption that every citizen of the Queen City craves so damned much.
In a somewhat comical fashion, all if it is melting away slowly, like the plot to a bad movie, where the hero suffers Jobian tragedies over and over, and picks themselves up time and time again, until that one time our protagonist can’t. Flat on the canvas, arena swimming, referee counting to 10, the darkeness overtakes everything. When we fade back in, our hero has lost it all. Desolate on a ratty chair in an empty apartment, one last glass is filled with cheap bourbon before the camera fades once again. End credits. “Punch Drunk, A Buffalo Story.”
All of this tragically Buffalo luck might lead one to ask, “What witchery has befallen us? Is it possible that Bill Belichick is a warlock, and his coven of Brady and the Koch brothers chant incantations long into the night, poising the precious tides of the world’s largest fresh –water source? DAMN YOU BELICHICK’S COVEN!
“Is it Canada? It’s Canada isn’t it? They hate us because we have Tim Hortons and no GST. DAMN YOU CANADA!
“I bet it was Deadspin. When our teams are bad, we do stupid things. When we do stupid things, Deadspin gets content. When they get content, it goes viral. When it goes viral, they get paid. DAMN YOU DEADSPIN!”
Perhaps it’s the balance in the universe. All of our condemning: Boston, Miami, most of Canada, the Jets, Philly, Crosby – we hate a lot. I mean A LOT. Is the universe offering us the opportunity to resolve our hate in some unwritten ransom note?
Whatever payback it is, I speak on behalf of all Buffalo fans when I say, “We’re sorry. We didn’t mean anyone any harm. Whatever it was we’ve done to become the object of your spite, we’re sorry.”
Before signing off, please join me. “Hockey Gods, hear our prayer. Please, for the love of…you…protect Samson and keep him safe from harm. In the name of the Gretzky and the Howe and the Flying Orr. Amen.”