Thursday, November 20, 2008

Waking Up

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
~Langston Hughes

That Langston Hughes poem has always been one of my favorites, and I think it perfectly encapsulates the mind of a Buffalo sports fan. Ever season we begin with a dream, and every season that dream dies a painful death. We put those hopes away, saying that we'll never get sucked into believing like that again, but we do. We're dreamers, plain and simple. When all you're left with at the end of the day is the idea of "next year," what else can you really be?

This fall began as the ultimate season of dreams. The Bills dominated Seattle, Tom Brady got to spend an entire season nursing his knee and playing with his son (or not...), Trent Edwards was hailed to be the second coming of the Messiah, let alone Jim Kelly, and the Bills rocketed off to a 4-0 and eventually a 5-1 start.

The same thing was happening in downtown Buffalo. The Sabres were like the phoenix, rising from the ashes of last season, with a hard-nosed captain and new, defensive mentality. They lived and breathed "the system," earning points in the first eight straight games of the season. Ryan Miller and Patrick Lalime were lights out, the penalty kill was unstoppable, the forwards were backchecking their legs off, and the whole team was playing with a new sense of toughness and grit.

How quickly everything changes.

After Monday night, it's hard to see the Bills dominating anybody; it's even hard to see them winning another game with the sacred game they're playing now. They can't beat Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn, Trent Edwards is playing like a kid with arachnophobia in a spider exhibit, and they're suddenly a .500 football team once more.

The same can be said of the Blue and Gold. Suddenly "the system" is merely something nice to mention to reporters but is too lame and boring to follow on the ice. The ghosts of last season have emerged from he coffins we thought we buried in April, and our captain has done nothing to exorcise these demons. The goaltending has become erratic at best, powerplay goals against are being scored at the worst possible times, forwards seem to think they're too "special" for defense (I'm looking at you, Derek), and the toughness that Captain Craig was supposed to bring has disappeared along with his play.

My father and I had a very philosophical discussion about being a Bills and Sabres fan sometime last week. He told me that there is a moment every season when, as a Buffalo fan, you realize that this isn't it; this isn't going to be the year we win it all. That moment is the moment when, as Langston Hughes so perfectly says, our dream is deferred once more.

Sometimes, it's the first game of the season. Sometimes it's the last play of the Super Bowl. Sometimes it's a warm May evening in Carolina. Sometimes it's a cold Monday night in Buffalo.

This year, the dream wasn't just what we as fans built up over another long offseason. Both teams shot out to phenomenal starts; they helped to raise our relatively tempered expectations. It wasn't just that they were winning; it was how. Trent Edwards was proving himself to be a young star in the NFL; the Sabres were playing the kind of grinding, tight hockey that wins games in May and June.

Now, it's not just that they're losing; it's how. Trent looks like a better-looking JP Losman, and the Sabres look like the same team that ruined last year with giveaways and last-period collapses.

I guess the main point of this ranting post is to say that I feel we've come upon "the moment" of this season. Monday and Tuesday proved to be games that just make it look like there's no way that there will be a parade in Buffalo this year.

Though I've pretty much decided that the Bills are done; am I right to say this about the Sabres so early? Thomas Vanek is playing every game like Marshawn Lynch played on Monday, and I think I may be getting a 26 jersey instead of a 52. Pommer's getting hot. They've proved they can play a defensive style; they need to prove that they want to. Will they prove me wrong?

Another year, another "raisin in the sun."

I'm ready to explode.


Porky said...

Great post. Sums up life as a Buffalo sports fan.

Katie said...

Thanks so much! I wasn't sure if I was being too depressing, but lately depressed is all we seem to be feeling...

Shelby Rose said...

I agree, this is exactly the way I feel, too. It's crazy how both teams were awesome together...and now they're falling apart together.

Thomas Vanek is playing every game like Marshawn Lynch played on Monday, and I think I may be getting a 26 jersey instead of a 52.

A part of me says you should get one, but it's because I am extremely biased. (;

Jael said...

I committed this poem to memory the first time I ever read it just because... It IS being a Buffalo sports fan:

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed;
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag today
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory,

As he defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph break,
Agonized and clear.
--Emily Dickinson

Sometimes it really sucks. After that game Wednesday, following the worst two weeks I've ever experienced as a Buffalo sports fan... I'm calling it quits for at least two weeks. I can't take this.

Katie said...

A part of me says you should get one, but it's because I am extremely biased. (;

It's fine to be biased...I totally am towards Goose, and Thomas is making it very hard for me not to consider his jersey right now.

Katie said...

Jael, I freaking LOVE this poem. It is perfect. Someday we'll win, and it will feel amazing because it will be the biggest sigh of relief any city has ever felt. It's just the waiting that is so awful.