Cross posted from the new …On Being a Sports Girl
My favorite Dolph-fan called me Monday evening. (You may remember him from that entry about the NFL Draft a while back.) He was distraught. Over twenty-four hours after the Miami Dolphins lost to the rookie quarterback led Baltimore Ravens in the wild-card playoffs, and he still wasn’t okay with how his season ended.
After a few minutes of him telling me about a play in the third quarter that had gone awry, one that could have definitely changed the tempo of the game, he paused, looking for an encouraging word. I didn’t know what to tell him. I’ve been there before – as a Steve Young fan in the late 1990s, there were many early playoff exits that I just wasn’t okay with, and nothing anyone tried to console me with in the days following would make me better. I usually didn’t recover until I would go on my self-imposed Steve Young hiatus for Lent in mid-February. (This did include me thumb-tacking a sheet over my bedroom wall shrine to Young. To adolescent me, this was more of a sacrifice than giving up anything else – giving up my lust of a Mormon quarterback to fulfill my Catholic religious obligations.)
So what was I going to tell the Dolph-fan? “Give up Chad Pennington for Lent?” The Dolphins shouldn’t be hanging their heads. They went from finishing the 2007 season 1-15 to winning the AFC East the next. Sure, having Bill Parcells on your side never hurts – I’m convinced that he could lead a Pop Warner team to beat an NFL team in the Super Bowl just merely by being involved. But Dolph-fans shouldn’t stay crushed and depressed. So much progress was made, and if they hadn’t suffered some very key injuries at wide-out the last half of the season, I am sure we would have seen a different result this past Sunday.
Thus, there was only one point of solace I could share that would somewhat console the Dolph-fan.
“Look, it could be worse. It’ll be okay. At least you’re not a Bills fan.”
And with that, I think the Dolph-fan finally put things in perspective.
See, it’s after receiving emails like this from your local Bills Backers group that you feel like you’ve reached the lowest depths. There is no place worse than this state of mind in fandom. Even Detroit fans may have more hope than the overall sentiment put forth in the following message.
From the Bills Backers of Boston season wrap-up email, received January 2:
A season that started with so much promise ended in yet another disappointing finish. And to top it off, Bills fans everywhere were insulted by the team that they love with the word that Mister Mediocrity, Dick Jauron, will be returning to coach the Bills in 2009. With one simple press release, the 2009 season has been ruined even before the 2008 season has ended.
We all sympathize with Tony Bogyo, a member of our chapter since the good-ol days, when he said, “I have truly never felt so low as a Bills fan. I know what next season holds, and it isn’t pretty – it’s the same as what we’ve seen the past 3 seasons.” (Read his entire article on Bills Daily, here: http://www.billsdaily.com/articles/bogyo/2008/jauron.shtml). No matter what happens in the offseason, the Bills will still be buried in the AFC East basement, their weak and spiritless coach defining their personality.
Theof Boston will certainly be back next season, but will the fans? Time will tell.
Well, don’t we all feel like jumping for joy after that missive.
Despite my initial reaction that this message was a tad on the melodramatic side, after more thought, I understood their point. How can you be a fan of a team that seems to be most interested in exploring depths of depression and incompetence unseen by any other professional sports teams in the history of professional sports teams? I think fans of the Washington Generals carry more hope in their hearts than those that the Bills’ collective fanbase now possesses. We have a quarterback of the future who shows a troubling propensity to injuries. We have a star wide receiver who admittedly only likes playing for the washed up backup quarterback. Our offensive and defensive line corps are dropping like files. Our owner is elderly, a miser, and might think the year is 1969, not 2009. His family has already stated that they want nothing to do with the team after he passes on. We tried to showcase the team to Toronto, who rightfully turned their nose at the inferior product.
At least Lions fans get to scrap it all and start over. While I’m not ready to lay all of the blame on Dick Jauron, I would have been okay with the Bills firing the man my mom affectionately refers to as “Sketlator.” I think getting rid of him, along with Turk Schonert (despite his funny name), would have begun an overall shakeup of the team that may be needed. As my father kept saying during my sojourn back to Western New York for the holidays, the players only like Jauron because Jauron doesn’t work them hard, doesn’t demand much of them, and was okay with their late season lack of hustle. I think the Bills needed to make an overall statement and send a message that, “The way that this season imploded was not okay.” And the best way this could have been done right away was by firing Jauron.
The Bills could still send this message. They could make a splash in free agency and move for a big name quarterback, wide receiver or running back. I love Edwards and Lynch, and don’t mind the wide receivers, but they aren’t the best in the NFL, so the Bills can justify bringing a big name in any of those positions on board. That might announce to the rest of the league that the Bills don’t want to be the next Detroit Lions. That they’re sick of losing to the likes of the New England Patriots 5000 to 6. But my sneaking suspicion is that such a big deal is just not going to happen.
Let’s be frank about the whole Bills situation. The Bills can’t sign big name players without revenue, and the revenue is no longer there. The Bills are a small-market team without any money who haven’t won in a long time. They don’t have many, if any, star players. They can’t win their division. Their owner is a laughing stock because of his age. The team lacks the keys to make money, and lack the leadership to make needed changes to the franchise. They are not taken seriously. Thus, merchandise isn’t going to sell, season tickets aren’t going to sell, training camp activities aren’t going to sell, jerseys aren’t going to sell, individual game tickets aren’t going to sell, parking at the Ralph isn’t going to sell – this team will continue to make no money. As a franchise, what do you do when you have this scenario on your hands?
The sports marketing tendency when you have a mess of a team like this on your hands is to gimmick the heck of of the games. Let’s give out Governor Rod Blagojevich bobble-heads. Let’s offer to pay a lucky fan’s mortgage. Everyone bring your disco records and let’s blow them up. Sometimes, these gimmicks work. You’re looking at the girl who attended a North Shore Spirit minor league baseball game to get a Doug Flutie bobblehead (it was for my father, I swear.)
But after a while, your intended audience wisens up, no matter what they may have initially fell for. To be blunt, if you are putting out garbage on the field, ice, or court, there’s only so many ways you can pretty it up and spray perfume on it before people notice that it’s garbage. The marketers around the Bills are going to start having to gimmick around the team to make them somewhat viable.
Thus, I fully expect to get all of these coupon deals and buy one-ticket-get-one-ticket free offers from the Buffalo Bills braintrust next season. I expect Rian Lindell to greet my unsuspecting mother at many a Tops. And you know what? We’re not going to fall for it.
We’re the Buffalo Bills. We’re led by Dick Jauron. We’re quarterbacked by Trent Edwards. Our owner is Ralph Wilson. And that’s the football equivalent of my mom telling my grandma while bouncing baby me on her knee back in 1982, “We bought a house. But it has no closets, no yard, no driveway, bad plumbing, and only one bedroom.”
So Dolph-fans, put your chin up. You’re a million times better off than us.