“We think, and many people think, that the town needs to win a major sports championship, to correct the inferiority complex in the psyche of the community.”
-Byron Brown, Mayor of Buffalo, NY
This quote from Byron Brown was part of the Sports illustrated article about Chris Drury a few years ago. When I first read it, I was taking my very first baby steps towards Buffalo sports fandom. Of everything I read in that article, this is the thing that stood out most to me, and it’s a quote that I have returned to many times since I first read it in 2007. At the time, I thought it was preposterous, even scandalous, that our mayor would say such a thing. The idea that we MUST have a championship to correct the inferiority complex in the psyche of the community seemed downright unsightly, and certainly inappropriate for a mayor to admit out loud.
In the two years since then, I’ve come to read this quote quite differently. It no longer seems embarrassing, or preposterous, or scandalous.
Now, it just seems honest.
I’m pretty shocked at the degree of passion I feel over the FIRE LINDY RUFF issue. It’s not that I passionately want Lindy to be fired, it’s more that I feel as if a lightbulb has flickered on above my head, and suddenly I’m all, “Duh. Lindy Ruff should be fired.” The trouble is, very few other people have had this revelation, and for the most part, I find myself ranting alone.
I assure you, it has not gone unnoticed that very few of you are rushing to agree with me in the comment threads. I know you hate this topic, I know the majority of you don’t agree with me, and I know I am risking alienating a lot of my readers by continuing to harp on this issue….but I can’t stop myself. I feel strongly about this, and the more I think about it, the more strongly I feel. Just bear with me for one more post.
I don’t want to argue that Lindy is a bad coach. I don’t think he’s a bad coach. All I’m arguing is that he’s getting bad results, and that I think the Sabres should consider firing Lindy. I’m not even sure I think they HAVE to fire him, but I am sure that it should be on the table as a perfectly reasonable option. Firing the coach should be on the menu of things we hear about when people discuss the Sabres on the radio and in the newspaper. That’s all.
But that’s NOT all, because Buffalo has an incredibly strong love for Lindy Ruff. This fanbase loves Lindy more than we love any one player. We love Lindy. He’s important to us, and he’s important to this community. I’m not discounting that love in the slightest. I love Lindy too.
On one hand, this attachment to Lindy is incredibly moving. It’s loyalty, it’s gratitude, it’s respect, and in an interesting way, I think it’s a tribute to how we as a community want to be viewed. We love Lindy, and we want him to represent us. I think that’s beautiful. I can think of very few people I’d rather have representing Buffalo than Lindy Ruff.
But on the other hand, I also think our attachment to Lindy Ruff is a symptom of a deeply rooted problem. It’s a city-wide inability to let go of some romantic notion of how we want Buffalo to be, and meanwhile, we’re neglecting a whole host of other serious problems. It’s as if the entire city is enchanted by some mirage, and because of that glimmering illusion, we won’t settle for anything less. It’s a symptom of whatever it is in our makeup that makes it so difficult to build a much needed new bridge, or a fishing mega-store, or to downsize the government to match the actual size of the population.
I think there is something going on here that runs much deeper than sports.
Whether or not you agree with me that it’s time for a new coach, I think it’s very hard to dispute that this is a conversation that could have started a year and a half ago. If we had been thinking critically, we would have started this conversation a year and a half ago. The fact that the entirety of the sports media has been virtually silent about this speaks volumes. In my opinion, we’re not just reluctant to have this conversation, we’re downright scared of it.
I think Buffalo needs to take a hard look in the mirror and we need to prioritize winning. And not just in hockey.
I’m not talking about prioritizing winning in some make-believe, warm and fuzzy, Lindy-holding-the-Cup-over-his-head-in-HSBC way. It’s time to prioritize winning in the forget-the-romantic-ideals, make-the-hard-choices, and get-the-job-done….WINNING way.
I know that this is just hockey. I know that we fans have no control over any of it, and I know that some of you will think I’m seriously stretching the parameters of a sports blog by writing this post, but I guess I just had to say it. From the beginning of my romance with the Sabres, above all else, I’ve been drawn to how this town is shaped and effected by its relationship to sports. I think there are direct sociological lines that can be drawn between how we approach sports, and how we approach the future of our city.
In no way am I suggesting that we should “demand more” from the Sabres- that’s foolishness- but until this week, it was nearly taboo to criticize Lindy Ruff in this town. Until this week, I had never heard Lindy criticized in the paper or on the radio, ever. That means something. We should notice that, and we should think about what that says about our willingness to change and evolve in Buffalo.
Whether or not you agree that Lindy Ruff should have a job for life, this conversation is worth having. It’s good for us. It’s good to discuss change and seriously examine our options, and it’s good to question the status quo. It’s healthy.
And in that way, this conversation is about much, much more than hockey.
Let’s Go Buff-a-lo!