Grief is a complex emotion. It is a unique experience for each one of us. We all go through it in our own way. If you’re a Bills fan, you’ve certainly had your share of grief.
By now everyone has seen the football debacle in Oakland and the pain of Sunday undoubtedly lingers on. You’ve heard all the gory stats, thought about the implications of the loss on the team and the remainder of the season and drowned your sorrows in more than a few beers. Indeed, you are experiencing grief.
You’ve read all the media coverage ad nausea. Before the game there were articles about winning in Oakland and taking sole possession of first place in the AFC East. You undoubtedly read about the Bills new secret weapon – cheeseburgers (the most hyped-up cheeseburger meal since Harold and Kumar go to White Castle). You read all of the post game comments from curmudgeons like me, none with anything positive to say.
It is just past week 6 of the season, but even the most optimistic Bills fans have come to realize that this is a team with serious issues, a team with glaring needs, a team going nowhere in a hurry.
There are 5 main stages of grief, and today finds Bills fans at various stages in the process. Where you fall in the process depends upon you outlook for the season prior to week 1. Those who didn’t expect much from the team are likely further along down the grieving path than those who honestly felt this was a team ready for its first post season appearance in the new millennium.
As a service to grieving Bills fans, I have decided to outline the 5 stages of grief so you can understand where you are in the process and survey the road ahead. I know it’s painful, but eventually it is a process we will all get through.
Stage 1 – Denial
In this stage of grief you refuse to accept things as they really are. You try to tell yourself that things are as they used to be. You live in the past, flashing back to past experiences as if they were happening now. In Bills fans this stage is marked by a refusal to see that this is not a playoff team. You have a continual belief that we have a top NFL defense that has simply had a few weak games. You talk about how we have a young stud quarterback who can still lead us to the division title. You frequently talk about Jim, Thurman, Bruce and Andre. In serious cases, you have a mullet and break out the lucky zuba pants to watch the game on Sunday and may have lead poisoning from the paint on the Whammy Weenie you always carry. In critical cases you talk to people about how Sunday’s victory over New England, at Foxboro, in front of a national TV audience, will be the turning point of the season. If this is you, seek professional help in moving on to step 2.
Stage 2 – Anger
In stage 2, you have anger that eats at you. You may be subject to emotional outbursts. The anger may manifest itself as anger towards others and blaming them for the loss, or even anger at yourself. It’s only natural that you rant about what a terrible job Tom Donahoe has done in his tenure as Bills General Manager. You may choose to focus on a single player and his lack of performance this season (Jeff Posey, Sam Adams, anyone on the offensive line). You may also hate someone like Willis “I’m the best back in the NFL” McGahee for his pre-game comments to the Bay Area press. You may hate yourself for being a Bills fan and seemingly bringing emotional distress upon you and your family. In serious cases you’ve removed the Bills bumper sticker from your car or put away all of your Bills items in a box in the attic. In severe cases you’ve set fire to your house or yourself when burning your $235 authentic Bills jersey or cut your wrists with the Bills straight razor you found on Ebay (it matches your Bills bathroom and toiletries set).
Stage 3 – Bargaining
Stage 3 sees people starting to bargain with God or the world in the hope that what has been lost can be regained in a trade. If you’re religious you may try and tell God you’ll live a better life if only the Bills would make the playoffs (much like the bargaining you do with him when lying on the bathroom floor after a night of heavy drinking). In serious cases you offer to work nights at a soup kitchen if the Bills win a wild card birth, and in extreme cases you may actually offer to sacrifice your own pets or small children in some sort of bizarre ritual if the Bills could win the Super Bowl just once.
Stage 4 – Depression
Depression is the most difficult stage of grief. It manifests itself in many ways. You may feel sad, listless, confused or numb. You may burst out into tears over a little trigger such as seeing Drew Bledsoe’s performance numbers in Dallas. You may feel that you are being punished for something you did or did not do (you never really did work those nights at the soup kitchen after that bender on Labor Day). You may feel that it’s your fault – perhaps you slipped up and put your Bills socks on before painting your chest blue before the game, a clear violation of the pre-game ritual. You may have trouble experiencing pleasure – you pass up that date to the Anchor Bar for unlimited wings with Heidi Klum you won when Maxim magazine was in town doing a story on why supermodels are attracted to blue-collar football fans. In severe cases you lose interest in everything, including rooting for the demise of all current and former Dolphin and Patriot players and campaigning for a law that would allow you to shoot Jimmy Johnson on sight with a large handgun after messing up his helmet of hair.
Stage 5 – Acceptance
In stage 5 you come to accept the loss for which you are grieving. You have worked through all of your issues and can now look at the loss in a clear and rational manner. You realize that life must go on and you can no longer carry the baggage that weighs you down. You start to think about the positive things the Bills can do for next season. You begin to understand that come September all teams will be undefeated and perhaps the Bills will finally have that year we’ve all been waiting for. The year the Bills win the Super Bowl, Tom Brady is drummed out of the league after being exposed as a Satanist, the entire Miami Dolphin team is suspended for substance abuse violations and/or jailed for criminal activity and the Bills send all 22 starters to the Pro Bowl. Hope springs eternal. And there’s always step 1 again next year if it doesn’t happen.