War Memorial Stadium was still standing when I moved to Buffalo, New York in the summer of 1988. Although the Buffalo Bills had departed from Rich Stadium (now New ERA Field) in 1972, I could still see the stadium lights from my first apartment window. However, at the time, I did not know the significance of those lights off in the distance. O.J. Simpson won the Heisman Trophy in 1968. I had become an O.J. Simpson fan while he was the University of Southern California (USC). I followed his career from college to the professional ranks. When the Buffalo Bills drafted Simpson in 1969, I naturally gravitated toward the Buffalo Bills. I remember when he was drafted. All rookies with the Bills had to shave their heads. It was also reported that Simpson dropped his first pass in his first practice. O.J. Simpson played his rookie and sophomore years in War Memorial Stadium. Looking at those lights in the distance, I was looking at something I had worshiped on television, but did not even realize it. I had moved to O.J.’s city and was seeing with my own eyes the place where he initially played in the NFL.
By the time you read this article, rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman will have completed his first start for the Buffalo Bills. I am predicting that Peterman will lead the Bills to a 30 to 17 victory over the L.A. Chargers. Peterman, it should be noted, is replacing Tyrod Taylor. I realized Taylor’s days were numbered when he overthrew Kevin Benjamin who was open in the end zone during the game against the New Orleans Saints. Perhaps a touchdown at that juncture could have swung momentum back toward the Bills. Taylor also missed Benjamin for an open sideline pass. Overall, Buffalo has not had a consistent quarterback since Jim Kelly retired. When O.J. played for Buffalo, he set a single season rushing record. However, Buffalo did not win a Super Bowl. Nevertheless, Buffalo had a super star that was fun to watch.
Buffalo went to four straight Super Bowls. The team lost all four. Their best chance to win came in the first one against the Giants. “Wide right” is a phrase that will go down as one of the more famous utterances regarding a football game in Buffalo. Since the Kelly years Buffalo has been on a downward spiral regarding a go to name. We have a history of bringing in has been players for a significant one year contract. Terrell Owens was given the keys to the city when he signed his one-year deal worth about six million dollars. Fans cannot quite figure it out. Could it be the players? Some players seem to play better after they leave the Bills. Marshawn Lynch is perhaps one of the more notable examples. He became Beast Mode in Buffalo; however, if he had stayed in Buffalo he would not have a Super Bowl ring. The same can be said of Chris Hogan. He has a ring with New England. Some fans wonder if the problems rest with the front office. Sammie Watkins was traded away just before the 2017 season. Perhaps one cannot build a winning franchise around One Hundred million dollar linemen who underperform. The biggest has been debacle was the hiring of head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan had done very little with the Jets. Yet, he was given another opportunity with Buffalo. Ryan only led the team to new lows.
What Buffalo needs is a major surprise. We need a no name player to step up and lead the team with consistent greatness. Buffalo needs a Jeremy Lin moment. Whether or Peterman is that guy remains to be seen. Until such time as that happens, I will continue to ask myself, why do I continue to hold on to a team I became enamored with when I only about twelve years old? Perhaps it is because when I tune in to watch the games, I can still see O.J. down on the field running.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”