Wide Right

27 Jan

Twenty years ago, I was a 15 year old Buffalo kid watching his hometown heroes play on the biggest stage in the world at Super Bowl XXV in Tampa Bay, FL.  Going into the game, it seemed like a fait accompli.  After all, I thought the Buffalo Bills were the best team in football.  Brash, cocky, and arrogant with a team of superstars like Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, Cornelius Bennett and leaders like Jim Ritcher, Darryl Talley, Jamie Mueller, James Lofton, Ray Bentley and Shane Conlan.  After a 13-3 regular season and a smackdown of Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins, the Bills hosted the AFC Championship Game, in which the team pummeled Bo Jackson and the Los Angeles Raiders by a score of 51-3.  Buffalo had never had a team so strong and it felt good.

The Giants also finished the regular season at 13-3 and boasted the overall best defense in the league led by Lawrence Taylor and Pepper Johnson.  Nonetheless, they entered the game as the underdog with a backup quarterback under center.

With the patriotic backdrop of the first Gulf War, the game was one of the most eagerly anticipated in years.  I thought that January 27, 1991 would be one of the greatest days in my young life.  I was so excited about the impending victory parade at which we would celebrate the team, the city and the special bond we seemed to have.  But, It just wasn’t meant to be and I got my first real lesson in the special victimhood that comes from being a Buffalo Sports Fan.

The way it ended?  Well, I think we all remember what happened.  I still remember the feeling as that kick sailed wide right, it was a punch to the stomach.

I prefer to watch this clip of the game because it reminds me that it never should have come down to Scott Norwood’s kick.  There were missed opportunities throughout that game, but the Giants were just the better team that day.

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Crushed after the end of the game, I barely slept.  I couldn’t believe the team could get that close but not come home with the trophy, the whole world seemed unfair to this teenage kid.  I didn’t think I’d ever get over it.  But, I did.  The very next day.

Why?  Because our city city created a moment that is so incredibly part of who we are, that explains why we stay and/or come back to this town and why we love our hometown.  During an event in Niagara Square, we unwittingly echoed the sentiment that Marv Levy had shared with his team in the locker room after the game.  He read them a famous passage that should also serve as Buffalo’s official motto…

“Fight on, my men,”Sir Andrew Said

”A little I’m hurt but not yet slain.

”I’ll just lie down and bleed a while,

”And then I’ll rise and Fight again.”

You could see the load lift off Scott Norwood’s shoulders as the city embraced him.  The day after this Super Bowl was one of Buffalo’s best and is the most important memory of Super Bowl XXV.

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8 Responses to “Wide Right”

  1. Leo Wilson January 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    You went to the game? I’m so jealous.

    That was an amazing season. I bought Playoff tickets for my bride and her girlfriend (I’m not enough of a fan to brave the cold) and even followed along on TV myself.

    The MVP in that game was Bill Parcells, even if someone else was named. The Giants played excellent football, with nowhere near as many big-name stars as we had. We’d beaten them during the regular season, using some of the lucky breaks that Bills team was so expert at exploiting, but they played better ball then, too.

    If there’s a lesson to be learned, it should be about leadership. Coaching won that season for the Giants… Marv was excellent at bringing the best out of our starts, but Parcells definitely formed a solid team with a conventional (almost said conservative, inappropriate for this site) work ethic that delivered.

    There are too many parallels I could draw to many of our problems to even try… solid leadership, solid team, solid ethic, solid execution. It’s a valuable lesson that applies to just about everything.

  2. Eric Saldanha January 27, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    @ Leo – yeah, all that master strategy by Parcells (and his DC, Bill Belichick) led to the Bills coming within a foot on Norwood’s kick of winning the game.

  3. Leo Wilson January 28, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    @Eric – All too true. It was an amazing season, and the Bills were an amazing team. I don’t back down from any of what I posted, though. I don’t think it was master strategy that the Giants brought, just great team play vs. the allstars on the our side. We brought that, too, but relied more on the stars than the basics. I wish Marv would come online and comment, see what he says about it.

  4. Eric Saldanha January 28, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    @ Leo – point taken…the Bills going away from Thurman and being content to leave the defense on the field to get fatigued throughout the game proved fatal.

    I think Marv is in a balcony with Ralph somewhere, hooting about Gonzo’s last song.

  5. Ethan January 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    By age 15, I had already determined that the StuperBore was more about flogging products than athleticism.  I watched it for the BudBowl, which was a very exciting game.  Slept soundly that night, knowing my boys, Bud Light (backed by newcomer Bud Dry) got the job done, 23-21.

  6. Pico January 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    And Ralph coasted on his 50.000.00 investment and providing How many losing seasons?unsigned free agents and players who are now starting for other teams.All this franchise has left are memories.On to TO with a real owner.

  7. Kate January 31, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    Wide Right was well before my time as a Buffalo sports fan, but even so I have to admit in the ten years I’ve been living here I had never heard the story of the post-Super Bowl rally until this anniversary. This was a nice post, Chris. Thanks.

    Good old Buffalo.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Lonesome Kick of Scott Norwood « WNYMedia.net - January 27, 2011

    […] really be looking at articles all day commemorating the 20th anniversary of…Wide Right? Well, yes. As much as I would prefer to be in denial, I must acknowledge this solemn occasion and a […]

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