Starkey: Rooting for Super Bowl misery
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If the measure of a man's life is how his team performs in Super Bowls, I died 19 years ago.
People often ask if sportswriters can still be fans. I suppose. But like I said, I'm dead. My last fan day on Earth was Jan. 30, 1994, in a darkened efficiency apartment in Shadyside.
That's not to say I have no rooting interest in this Super Bowl. I do. I want the losing fan base to suffer immensely.
I want them to feel some Buffalo pain.
See, the 49ers and Ravens are a combined 6-0 in Super Bowls.
I'm from Buffalo.
Let's rewind the story to Dec. 16, 1973, the day an 8-year-old boy (me) watched breathlessly from his couch as O.J. Simpson performed the football equivalent to walking on the moon.
O.J. not only broke Jim Brown's single-season rushing record of 1,863 yards that afternoon at Shea Stadium, he cracked 2,000. He finished with 2,003, a figure that shall forever reside in the far recesses of my cranium.
It only got better nine days later when I walked down the backstairs to find a pristine, red-white-and-blue No. 32 jersey under the Christmas tree. I think I wore it for 2,003 consecutive days (obviously, I had no idea that O.J. would become one of the noted scoundrels of the 20th Century, but such is the life of a Buffalo Bills fan — or, in my case, an ex-fan).
The next 15 years were mostly horrible. Chuck Knox had some success, but the Bills never sniffed a Super Bowl.
As a season-ticket holder, I sat through entire exhibition games in the rain. I watched Vince Ferragamo try to play quarterback. I saw a man urinate in a Rich Stadium aisle. Nobody cared.
Then along came Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and the rest. Little did we know that their crowning achievement would be a 51-3 whipping of the Raiders in the 1990 AFC Championship.
Hemingway could not adequately describe the agony of the next four years. Tell me, which fan base in sports history could possibly relate to the abject humiliation, the unfiltered degradation, of seeing their team lose FOUR CONSECUTIVE SUPER BOWLS?
Bear witness to the increasingly humble surroundings in which I viewed each one …
• SUPER BOWL XXV: A huge party. I'd just moved to Pittsburgh but returned to Buffalo for what promised to be the celebration of a lifetime with my old tailgating buddies.
We tapped kegs, ate chicken wings and did a safety dance (hands above the head) when Bruce Smith tackled poor little Jeff Hostetler in the end zone.
Three tortuous hours later, we were reduced to holding hands in a circle as Scott Norwood lined up for a 47-yard field goal.
I hate Scott Norwood.
• SUPER BOWL XXVI: A small party. We tuned in with great confidence only to see Thomas immediately misplace his helmet. Maybe the worst Super Bowl ever.
I hate Mark Rypien.
• SUPER BOWL XXVII: No party. Just me and my girlfriend. But this had to be the year.
The Bills, after all, had executed the greatest comeback in NFL history four weeks earlier. And I was their lucky charm. I'd begun furiously eating cantaloupe and drinking purified water as the comeback from 35-3 unfolded against the Oilers. I kept doing it through victories over the Steelers and Dolphins.
It didn't work against the Cowboys. The game was over by halftime.
I hate cantaloupe.
• SUPER BOWL XXVIII: I sat alone in my efficiency apartment, lights off and shades pulled, watching on a tiny black-and-white TV — sort of like Nicholas Cage in the final scene of “Leaving Las Vegas.”
The Bills actually led at the half, but I knew they would lose. Everybody knew. The whole world knew.
They might as well have held my fan funeral that evening. Epitaph: “He couldn't take it anymore.”
So, yes, you better believe I want somebody to feel my pain at around 10 o'clock tonight — with two notable exceptions. My sister, Brigid, and her son, Danny, live in Baltimore. My nephew is a die-hard Ravens fan. A nice boy. My sister is a life-long Bills fan.
Surely, she has suffered enough.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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