Belief in a dream
Buffalo has never won a major sports championship. But its tortured fans have never lost faith
Posted: Friday April 13, 2007 2:08PM; Updated: Sunday April 15, 2007 1:45PM
BUFFALO -- There were 12 of us watching the game that January evening, a dozen converted Bills fans huddled around a television in the den of a rented house in the city's University Heights section. I had lived in Buffalo for just under 42 months, but my education as a Buffalonian was nearly complete. I knew the difference between Albright-Knox, the city's famed modern art gallery, and Chuck Knox, the Bills' best coach before Marv Levy. Pronunciations such as Cheektowaga and Tonawanda, the tongue-twisting towns that tripped up the new television anchors, rolled from my lips as if I were a Niagara Frontier native. And while I hated winter in Western New York, a season that lasted longer than many marriages, I had come to admire the heartiness of my fellow Buffalonians as they combated snow drifts as tall as Manute Bol and wind-chill readings that often dipped below zero.
Weather was the last thing on our minds on Jan. 27, 1991. Not with paradise a mere 47 yards away in Tampa. I looked at the clock to preserve the moment: 9:37 p.m. Around town, similar scenes played out. Byron Brown, then the director of Equal Employment Opportunity for Erie County and now the mayor of Buffalo, was at a Super Bowl party at his mother-in-law's house on Blaine Avenue in Hamlin Park. Mark Hutchinson, the chef and owner of Hutch's, one of the city's most popular eateries, watched with his pals above Casa Di Pizza on the Elmwood Strip. Finally, it was Buffalo's time. Adam Lingner's snap was pure, and when the ball arrived in the hands of backup quarterback Frank Reich, I felt a tug on my hand. Our group stood up as one and screamed. Scott Norwood gave it a ride.
You know the rest. SUPER HEARTBREAK The Buffalo News declared on its front page the next day. They wept at Byron Brown's party. Hutch recalled how one of his friends kicked a table across the floor, stormed out of the restaurant, and locked himself inside his home for seven days. On Montrose Avenue, we were all numb. Barely anyone spoke a word after the kick as we headed out into the darkness, a journey that became all too familiar for Buffalonians in the 1990s.
1 of 6