Saturday, April 14, 2007

We Believe!

Thanks to Buffalo Hodgepodge for pointing out this wonderful Sports Illustrated article about Buffalo and the Sabres.

Weather was the last thing on our minds on Jan. 27, 1991. Not with paradise a mere 47 yards away in Tampa. I looked at the clock to preserve the moment: 9:37 p.m. Around town, similar scenes played out. Byron Brown, then the director of Equal Employment Opportunity for Erie County and now the mayor of Buffalo, was at a Super Bowl party at his mother-in-law's house on Blaine Avenue in Hamlin Park. Mark Hutchinson, the chef and owner of Hutch's, one of the city's most popular eateries, watched with his pals above Casa Di Pizza on the Elmwood Strip. Finally, it was Buffalo's time. Adam Lingner's snap was pure, and when the ball arrived in the hands of backup quarterback Frank Reich, I felt a tug on my hand. Our group stood up as one and screamed. Scott Norwood gave it a ride.

You know the rest. SUPER HEARTBREAK The Buffalo News declared on its front page the next day. They wept at Byron Brown's party. Hutch recalled how one of his friends kicked a table across the floor, stormed out of the restaurant, and locked himself inside his home for seven days. On Montrose Avenue, we were all numb. Barely anyone spoke a word after the kick as we headed out into the darkness, a journey that became all too familiar for Buffalonians in the 1990s.

Tell me about it. I do not doubt for one second that every year on January 27, late in the evening, if you venture out into the still of an wintry Iowa cornfield, and if you listen as hard as it's possible to listen, you'll still hear my scream of NOOOOOO!!! echoing across the icy prairie.

What began as a magic ride for an underdog last season has morphed into a collective confidence that hasn't been felt among Buffalonians since the kickoff of Super Bowl XXV against the Giants. This season the Sabres clinched their first Presidents' Trophy title and set a franchise record with 53 victories. They hold home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

But the euphoria surrounding this Sabres team comes from more than just the winning. It's the manner in which they have won. In a league that now rewards skating over brawn, the Sabres are the fastest team on the ice. They play with flair and panache, traits normally not associated with rust-belt Buffalo. They win games by coming from behind -- 10 times they have overcome a two-goal deficit -- which plays to a city predisposed to the underdog role.

By unanimous accounts the locker room consists of character guys. ("They are the most accountable team I have ever been around," says Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason. "And they don't have much to be accountable for.")

For seven consecutive months Buffalo has been the top-selling team on Sales of Sabres merchandise in March increased 657 percent compared with last year. In mid-December there was a 12-week waiting list for a Sabres jersey; the wait has now receded to eight weeks. All 41 home games this season were sold out (as is every playoff game), and 90 percent of the team's season-ticket holders have already renewed for next year.

Let's go Buffalo!

1 comment:

All Things Jennifer said...

I actually teared up with emotion when reading this article today, and I'm not even a hockey fan...