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Bob Lonsberry

We Are The Buffalo Bills

 
We Are The Buffalo Bills

We are family.

It’s not just a team, and it’s not just a town, it’s a family. A clan bound together by frigid Sunday afternoons and long years of thick and thin.

 

We are Buffalo. We are the Buffalo Bills.

 

And this week we are hurting.

 

We stand watch beside a brother’s bed, and stand vigil at a father’s coffin. Jim is in a New York City hospital, and Mr. Wilson is in a Detroit mortuary.

 

And we’re going to go on like we go on, one foot in front of the other, uncowed by a winter that won’t seem to end, undeterred by breaks that don’t seem to go our way, unfazed by a world that can’t seem to feel our pain.

 

We’re beaten down, but we’re not beat.

 

And we’re not down for long.

 

We’ve been on the short end of too many scores to let a kick in the head mean much to us. Because the one thing we are is tough. We’ve been wide right and laughed at and talked down, but we’re still here and our colors are still red, white and blue and we’re still family.

 

We’re the Buffalo Bills and we’ve been down by 32 before.

 

The week dawned with an Instagram of Jim Kelly in his hospital bed, the IV in his arm, his daughter snuggled by his side. She posted it and she called him “Daddy” and she held tight to that strong right arm, the one that took us to glory, the one that is well muscled but gravely ill.

 

The cancer is back, and it’s bad, and tomorrow the surgeons go in to fight it in its lair.

 

While his wife posts about her prayers and their faith and we marvel, those of us who’ve lived some years, at a local girl who took this hurricane of a man and turned him into a Christian gentleman, from Gambler to God-fearing, from rough Pennsylvania boy to stalwart neighbor admired by all.

 

We watched Jim grow.

 

And we grew ourselves.

 

From shouting fans in the glory days, to concerned friends and praying brothers and sisters. We watched and worried for eight years as the son showed he was the same mettle as the father.

 

And this week our eyes were opened and we saw that, really, the father was the same mettle as the son.

 

And tomorrow, as the doctors do their work, Hunter will stand beside the bed and see his father through.

 

Many of today’s fans never saw Jim Kelly play, but they saw Jim Kelly live. And they were better for it, and our sick friend is immeasurably more than an old jock from the glory days, he is a friend through life.

 

For most of us, Ralph Wilson was always old. He was 70 a quarter century ago, and the handsome businessman pictured on last night’s news is someone we never knew. But we all understood his role, and who he was, and that we all stood on the shoulders of the frail old man on the sidelines.

 

Mr. Wilson made the Buffalo Bills, and he, as much as anyone, made modern professional football. He gave us the game, the team and the glory, and each day he lived was a day we got to keep our team, our identity, our family.

 

We are Buffalo. We are the Buffalo Bills.

 

And we are hurting this week.

 

But we are not quitting.

 

We lost Mr. Wilson yesterday, and we are going to save Jim Kelly tomorrow.

 

We are going to pray, and we are going to endure, and we are going to stand with the Wilson and Kelly families, and though we pass through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil.

 

Because we are on God’s side.

 

Because we are tough.

 

Because we live in a place where the sun doesn’t shine and the books don’t balance, and if you think we hate the Dolphins and the Patriots, you ought to see what we think about the taxman and the politicians. We’ve been kicked in the head and come up swinging. It’s just who we are.

 

And the lessons of the playing field, the lessons of the hard seasons and the playoff drought, the lessons of lake effect and wind chill, from Rich Stadium to The Ralph, there’s nothing we can’t handle.

 

Even in a week like this.

 

Our father has died and our big brother is hurting.

 

But we are family, and we will get through.

 

We are Buffalo. We are the Buffalo Bills.

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