I know spectator sports are not meant to be taken too seriously. Certainly, there are more important things in life, like health, love, food and shelter, and dogs…all the dogs. In every game, one team has to lose. I understand that. I try to keep it in perspective. But, for the love of pete, I am a Buffalo Bills fan and have been my whole life. Tonight’s loss, like the loss last year to the same, stinky Kansas City Chiefs, sucks. It SUCKS. As a Bills fan, I know that each season I am subjecting myself to an endless run of hitting my head against a wall, but I keep hoping. Always and forever hoping that I won’t have to go to my grave without the Bills winning the Super Bowl.
Tonight I made a big old charcuterie platter for the game. We opened a bottle of Beaujolais. I was prepared to lose, but was really hoping we would be able to celebrate. Steve, the boys, and I all cheer for the Bills. As we were watching the game, my mother-in-law said she was rooting for the Chiefs. Wait, what? Excuse me? I should have ejected her from the living room right then and there, but I decided to let her stay and eat. I’ll never know for sure if her misguided support for Kansas City changed the trajectory of the game, but I am still looking for someone to blame. So, there’s that.
Now I will be all in on Team Cincinnati next week. Go Bengals. And at the end of the day, I don’t care who wins the Super Bowl, just as long as it’s not the Chiefs.
About the only good thing to come out of today’s NFL games is that even if the Bills aren’t moving on, neither are Tampa Bay and the insufferable GOAT, Tom Brady. In the absence of a Bills win, I’ll take a Brady loss. Being a sports fan means always trying to keep things in perspective.
I was born in a suburb of Buffalo, New York. In 1977, when I was 8 years old, my family relocated to Littleton, Colorado. Most of our family still lives in New York, primarily in the Buffalo area. Although I’ve spent 75% of my life in Colorado and feel as close to a native Coloradan as one can get, one part of Buffalo has always remained with me. I am a Buffalo Bills fan. I know. I know. The Bills can’t win. You think I don’t know that? I was a Bills fan back when they lost four Super Bowls. I am well aware of their history. So, what keeps me a Bills fan despite all the heartbreak? Two things: first, I like an underdog, and second, Bills fans are resilient and have huge hearts.
Don’t believe me? Last weekend, the Bills suffered a disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by Tom Brady. Many Bills fans believe the loss was due at least in part to missed calls by the NFL referees officiating the game. So, what did the Bills Mafia do? Did they sit around and whine about it? No. They found a constructive way to shed light on their loss by donating $17, reflecting the number Bills QB Josh Allen wears, to a local charity for visual impairment. Yep. Bills fans from across the nation and the world have been donating to Visually Impaired Advancement and trolling the NFL refs while doing it. It’s genius. And it reflects how passionate and big hearted Bills fans are. Thus far, Bills fans have raised over $40k for this charity through their generosity.
So, while the Bills may have lost their game last weekend, they haven’t lost their sense of humor or their kind, generous hearts. Bills fans, when encountering another Bills fan, no matter where or when, always shout out “Go Bills.” It’s exactly that camaraderie that makes being a member of the Bills Mafia an honor. Some people cheer only for a winning team, but Bills fans show up win or lose, season after season, always hopeful, always devoted, always involved.
Like many Americans, I watched the Super Bowl a couple of days ago with my family. For the most part, we were not invested in the outcome of the game, with the exception of our youngest who a year ago became a staunch New England Patriots fan (presumably just to vex the rest of us). We were tuned in for the spectacle and the ads and the cultural experience. No one wants to be left out of the conversation on Post Super Bowl Monday when the country is engaging in deep commercial analysis and heated game commentary. One thing our entire family agreed upon was that we were looking forward to seeing what Katy Perry would do at half-time. While none of us are huge Katy Perry fans, we all like her well enough and were decidedly more interested in her show than any of the half-time shows in the past five years. So we watched.
When Katy came out dressed in flames, channeling her inner Katniss Everdeen, and riding a jungle cat for Roar, we were duly impressed. But when Teenage Dream began and the sharks came out, we lost our minds. Seriously. We couldn’t stop giggling over those dang sharks. Joe, our resident Sharkboy, immediately requested a similar costume for Halloween in 9 months. The dancing beach balls and palm trees were fun too, but the sharks were stars. As good as Katy was, no one could mistake that she was being upstaged by sharks. Twitterverse blew up with all kinds of hashtags…#KatyPerrySharks, #dancingsharks, and #superbowlsharks. And pretty soon there were dancing shark memes to pass around. The country apparently felt the same way we did. We fell in love with them en masse.
And nearly as quickly as the shark love affair began, people began singling out the Left Shark (the one on the viewer’s left) as their favorite. There’s always a favorite, right? While the Right Shark was flawlessly performing a highly choreographed dance routine, the Left Shark looked a little off cue, a little goofy, a little devil-may-care. He was the class clown, there for the laugh. Soon everyone was tweeting about #LeftShark. There was an immediate assumption that the Left Shark forgot his choreography and that’s why his movements weren’t in sync with the Right Shark. But the show’s choreographer went on record saying that the Left Shark performed exactly as he was supposed to. And everyone loved him, including me. Right Shark? What Right Shark? Who cares? So conventional. Boooooring!
This morning, though, I was thinking a bit about Right Shark and how he’s been relatively ignored while Left Shark has gone onto Internet infamy. People are saying that he should have been the Super Bowl MVP. I can almost hear Right Shark using his most Jan Brady voice and exclaiming loudly, “Left Shark! Left Shark! Left Shark!” It seems so unfair. I can relate to Right Shark…out there, doing his job, behaving as expected, and feeling unnoticed and under-appreciated. We tend to overlook the thing that is a constant. We tend to notice the novel, the amusing, the different.
Still…there’s something valuable to be learned from the Left Shark phenomenon. We admire someone who can cut loose and have a good time. We laugh at the class clown. We appreciate the one who is brave enough to stand out. We all have that friend who, while perhaps unreliable, always gets invited because they’re just that much fun that the occasional hassle they present is 100% worth it. They say that, in the end, it’s the way you make someone feel that matters most. So we love the Left Sharks of this world because they spread joy, reminding us that life is too short to take seriously.
Go a little Left Shark this week. See what happens.
“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.” ~Vince Lombardi
So, we’re Broncos fans in this house. As you can imagine, the Super Bowl tonight was not exactly the game we were hoping for. We started off hopeful, quickly became disillusioned, slid right into disappointment, and from there rapidly devolved into depressed. And that was all before the end of the first half. Our sons, especially, were not handling the game well. At one point they vowed to stand out in the freezing cold yard until the Broncos scored. After 15 minutes, they gave up and came inside after hearing me drop a particularly fervent expletive. I guess we were all having a rough time. The game continued from bad to worse to appalling. The Broncos were handily outplayed. Seattle and their incredible defense had their best game, while Peyton Manning and the Broncos had their worst. Anything that could have gone wrong for the Broncos did. I started hoping the zombie apocalypse would interrupt the game and save us further disappointment but, alas, it did not.
As it became increasingly apparent how the game would end and as our entire family began spiraling into the pit of despair, I made a choice. I decided that if I wasn’t going to watch my team win the big game perhaps I could turn it into a win all the same. Instead of getting more upset, I reined my emotions in and modeled the attitude of gracious loser. I reminded the boys that every game has a 50% chance of ending in a loss, and today was not our day for a win. I reminded them to Look for the Good and Keep a Grateful Heart, just like our family mission statement urges. We talked about ways to do just that. So instead of ending the game with sour grapes, when the clock finally ran down and the blue and green confetti rained on MetLife Stadium, we ended it happy for Seattle’s first-ever Super Bowl win and grateful for a record-breaking season with Peyton Manning at the helm of our Broncos. Are we sad that the Peyton didn’t get to end his unbelievable season with a Super Bowl win? Absolutely. Are we bummed that we won’t get to enjoy a victory parade in Denver for the team that worked so hard for its fans all season long? Of course. But it isn’t the end of the world, and acting like it is would be an unfair example for our sons. Life is full of defeats, some of them crushing losses like the one the Broncos suffered tonight. Teaching our kids to accept disappointment is every bit as valuable as celebrating victories with them…maybe more so.
Our guys didn’t win the Super Bowl, but tonight I feel like we had a little victory all the same. Peyton Manning is not a failure because he didn’t get this Super Bowl win. He still had an unprecedented season that is worth celebrating. We have a tendency to focus only on the outcome and not the journey, and that’s not right. We don’t all get a Lombardi Trophy to hoist and we can’t all be Super Bowl MVP. After tonight, though, I hope our boys are on their way to becoming gracious losers because in this day and age it’s harder and harder to find those. Next year though, just for the record, I’ll be perfectly okay with it if we have to teach them to be gracious winners instead. The world could use some more of those too.