Plenty of folks of an older generation will remember the Bills' drought against the Dolphins - famously 0-for-the-'70s. But for me, and I think most of our readers, the defining drought for the Bills comes against Tom Brady's Patriots.
Once upon a time, the Bills scooped up a recently-released Lawyer Milloy and used a Sam Adams (!) pick-six to roll to a 31-0 Week One victory over the Pats. That time was 2003, and it would be a while until we got another. To this day, if you type "Bills 31" into Google, it assumes you're asking about this game.
Before the 2009 season the Bills signed a future Hall of Famer in Terrell Owens. I remember being almost surprised in myself that I didn't expect him to make too much of a difference. But he got a key to the city from Mayor (uhh) Byron (uhh) Brown, and most people disagreed with me.
Furthermore, 2009 happened to be the first time since that 31-0 game that the Bills would open with the Pats, and on Monday Night Football, no less. After the 2008 debacle, where a 5-1 start turned into a Trent Edwards injury and a 7-9 final mark, I was grasping at straws for optimism, and any parallels to the day Sam Adams rumbled 37 yards down the right sideline.
A buddy and I decided a couple months before returning to school that we should get tickets to see this game in Foxboro. Despite growing up in Akron, NY, Steve isn't really a Bills fan and was just interested in seeing TO in person. I doubt you're reading this, Steve, but keep kicking ass in law school.
The two hours before the game and first 57 minutes of football were a swirl of sights and sounds unlike anything you'd find at a Bills game, and my memories of the night are mostly a series of vivid moments. A survey:
Gillette Stadium is a CASTLE. A shiny, expensive castle that made you feel out of place for wanting to watch a football game there.
The lowest flyover I have ever experienced at the end of an anthem.
The fellow in front of our standing-room spot was an older guy who had traveled to Buffalo for a few games up there and had nice things to say about the people and the team, if not the city.
Side note: I always preferred to seek out the older fans in Boston, because those guys knew a lifetime of heartache. People my age were scumbags who turned winning sports into a moral referendum on their city and it was horrible. At the same time, everything this guy said came with the slightest twinge of "I like Buffalo, but only because I don't live there.
TO coming out for warmups to a cacophony of crybaby, overdose, and suicide jokes. That was unpleasant.
People ordering and agreeing to be seen at a football game with martinis in their hands. I have never disliked The Boston Fan more.
Somewhere in the game there was both a Shawn Nelson TD and a weak intentional grounding call on Tom Brady that resulted in a safety.
Unfortunately he was indeed in the endzone, so yes, Ohio fans, you can still claim the injustice of those two points in a 20+ point loss.
With three minutes to go, the Bills were somehow up 13 in the Pats' house.
Sometimes I get really amped for an impending win. A few Sundays ago I actually pulled my phone out to record the end of the US win over Portugal in the World Cup at the viewing party I was at. I inadvertently captured something very different. I deleted it as fast as possible.
This day, in Gillette, I never got excited. It might have been out of self-preservation surrounded by opposing fans, but I was waiting. Somewhere in the fourth quarter the woman standing next to friendly old guy noticed I had a Bills sweater on and swore in my face for a few minutes. I watched friendly guy realize maybe he doesn't want to sit next to this woman for 7 more games + playoffs. That was amusing.
Anyway, Brady got a touchdown with, oh, a little over two minutes left. It didn't help matters, but I believe New England was out of timeouts, and all we really needed was a first down. Friendly guy turned around and actually said the words: "Well, it looks like you got this one. Season starts on Week Two this year for us."
Screw you, friendly guy.
But we never got a first down. I can't relive this too much without becoming physically ill* but the two main errors:
*The post on Home Run Throwback is going to kill me
McKelvin was unsure whether or not he could kneel down as he received the ball half a yard into the end zone.
McKelvin fought for extra yards, because he is a fool. The Pats did exactly what they were supposed to do and stood him up, eventually ripping the ball out.
The play went to review, and Pats fans were strangely nervous. At that point I knew the whole game was over. Pats fans continued to be nervous even though they had the ball on, like, the EIGHTEEN with, let's say, 95 SECONDS LEFT. This wasn't a "Oh, cruel Fates" moment so much as a "Fleck this SHAQ" moment.
Anyway, Pats score, and I have never been so hurt by a sound in my life. Not even "there are no flags on the field!"
I remember blithely trying to say there was enough time for Trent Edwards to get into field goal position.
To this day I don't know what was wrong with my brain in that moment.
I volunteered to write this post because the final whistle was only the beginning of the bad for me with this one.
As we walked out of the stadium, some scrawny drunk got in my face, walking backwards and stuck his finger in my chest with some choice words. To this day I wish I had grabbed his hand and tried to break his wrist.
Once we made it back to Boston we had to ride the T home. I passed about a half dozen Bills jerseys on that trip and we all just kind of greeted each other with a face that I can best describe as 'deflated souffle". When I got back to the dorm I found out that the only person who did not cheer wildly for the - again, entirely predictable - go ahead touchdown was the kid from Philly.
I hate Philly.
My most hated sports teams list starts with the Philadelphia Flyers. Then the Soviets. The camaraderie of an Eagles fan was worthless.
This sucks and I don't want to write about it anymore, so I'm going to stop. At least we got a win against New England in 2011.
The fumble was heartbreaking, I (Conrad) was unemployed, and a win over the Patriots was a small sliver of hope in an otherwise bleak life. They say sports is the escape, but this game pretty much mimicked my life at the time, giving me a glimpse of hope before obliterating that hope in the cruelest dumbest way possible.
But was it worse than the Clint Malarchuk injury? You decide, vote in the poll below.
Up Next: Thousands of UB voices cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.