October 8 was my birthday. It also happened to mark the first time in 13 years that Monday Night Football kicked off in my hometown.
So much has changed ... it's now a cable game, Dierdorf and Giff already seem like a distant memory, and as I age, I find I have fascinating new hairs growing in all sorts of unwanted body regions. But enough about me and my ears ...
It's always special to see your favorite team play in the national spotlight -- all the more so after a decade-plus drought -- I thought I'd capture some pregame and postgame thoughts before the Buffalo Bills hosted the Dallas Cowboys.
Written before the game:
Mind you, that rookie, Trent Edwards, outplayed at least 10 long-established veterans in his first start. I mean, since Trent Dilfer came off the bench in San Francisco, it looks like the 49ers ran across the street from the stadium and pulled him out of a bar.
Edwards put veterans from Brian Griese to David Carr to shame. He showed a decisive, snappy release, nice arm strength, and poise, baby! Rookie running back Marshawn Lynch is running tough, toss in receiver Lee Evans, and Buffalo has young triplets in place -- now, how about burning a smudge stick in the training room to chase away the injury ghosts?
The future looks very bright, they will be up for this game big-time. The Bills can pull an upset here, and I want them to ...
I consider the ego-tripping adrenaline that pumps through Terell Owens on a Monday night, then I imagine Julius Jones and Marion Barber salivating over that still-porous Bills run defense.
Buffalo has lost nine starters for the entire season -- it's too much. Maybe it's the way the endless rebuilding knocks the stuffing out of you, because I know the stadium will be rocking as those great fans exhort their team in what could be -- let's face it -- their most meaningful game of the season. But I say: DALLAS, 31-10.
Written during the game:
The night is electric, and the crowd is bringing the energy -- no small feat when you've been tailgaiting since Friday. Tailgaiting hard, like prohibition is making a comeback Tuesday morning.
Love the throwback jerseys and helmets -- took me back to my first Bills game in the old rockpile. I swear I just saw Mike Stratton tackle someone.
Loved the fake punt -- on the first series! Onions?! Try pumpkins. Hated the series crapping out, but when Brian Moorman then came back in and pinned Dallas on its own 2-yard line, the nation now understands why the Bills' punter has been, for all intents and purposes, the face of the franchise for the past three years. Any other NFL team with a punter wearing the captain "C" on their jersey? I don't think so.
The Noise! Tell me any stadium is louder -- yeah, you heard me, Seattle!
Tony Romo -- two series, two picks, and two carefully planned T.O. on camera photo ops -- err, I mean, pep talks. Romo thought balloon: "Shut it, please shut it!"
Temperature close to 84 degrees during the day -- on my October birthday? In Buffalo? Global warming is real.
Maybe I'm just sipping too much hometown happiness, but the crew in the booth is doing a delightful job tonight. Special kudos to Ron Jaworski. Jaws is back home and breaking down the plays beautifully. A great teacher of the game finally has the big stage -- love it, I am learning.
Chris Kelsay slaps and picks Romo for INT No. 3 -- we hear a long blab about Parcells' 10 quarterback commandments, including, "Can you lead the huddle after three picks?" Romo then goes out and tosses pick No. 4 to Jabari Greer, and my wife turns to me and says, "So much for the 10 commandments ..."
Best birthday present ever? Robin. Are we kids or what? Love that girl. Love those Bills. So far it's a pretty sweet October 8.
It's been a while since we had something to crow about. Maybe the AFC really is still that much better than the NFC.
Interceptions for TDs? Kick returns for TDs? How many fantasy owners pick up the Bills defense/special teams this week?
This is the first game in a long time in which Marion Barber looked pedestrian. My fears about the Cowboys running all night were greatly exaggerated. The Buffalo "D" scheme was brilliant on all fronts, though the DBs were fearless, and maybe more importantly, technically superb.
T.O. is a ghost through three quarters. Nothing. Wow.
Roy Williams is a criminal -- all horse-collar tackles, all the time. He inspired the penalty, he does it every week, and it gets called, league-wide, about 30 percent of the time. It's a miracle he didn't ruin Lynch.
Edwards is 2-for-2 as a starter in my book, even with the Terence Newman INT. On the upside, Lee Evans chasing down that return had me thinking about Don Beebe chasing down Leon Lett. And I wrote that a full commercial break before the ESPN crew got there.
With the game in reach, Romo tosses pick number five! The cat's in the bag, the bag's in the river! That's what happens when you throw into triple-coverage ...
Written after the game:
Or is it? All that glory, and we blow it with three minutes left on the clock? Be a love and hand me my Luger. With way too much time left on the clock, now we all know what happened. The 'Boys pull off a miracle win, the Bills are crushed, and once again, the football Gods mock us.
Valiant effort? You bet. Beyond my wildest hopes -- I am on record with Dallas, 31-10. Sickening, heartbreaking, inane. I could remind the world that injuries have left the Bills defense with zero depth ... but would you care?
Such a crushing defeat. At the end of the day, all I can say is ... how about those fans? You think a crowd in Los Angeles will ever make that kind of noise at an NFL game? You think they deserve to hold onto this team?
I've been a die-hard for life, to the extent that there have been years when I noticed Bills season tickets sales had slumped so I bought two ... even when I didn't live there. I never sat in them, I gave them to a school, which was fine. I just wanted to make sure I did what I could to support the team during low points -- anything to help keep them in Western New York.
It's real, and it's wrong.
Long may Bills owner Ralph Wilson ride. Though hale and hearty at 89 years old, he is 20 years past the point in life when an owner makes sure his team lands right upon his demise. Yet he refuses to make a plan of succession that will allow local ownership to at least try to keep the team in Buffalo. I don't think that's right. For all the great things Wilson has done for Bills fans over the years, I believe the 80,000 people who still sell out the Bills home games -- ten years since the last whiff of a playoff birth -- are worthy of being protected.
If this team lands elsewhere, including L.A., then the magic is gone. The genie is out of the bottle. You toss out decades of blood, sweat, tailgates and local identity so you can make sure you get bigger companies to buy corporate boxes, and it's over.
I'll close with one more naïve thought, one that I admit is totally oblivious to a world of wealth management I admit I don't fathom: Ralph, your $25,000 initial AFL investment has grown into $850 million -- how can you lose?
It's also a league issue. Anyone who saw those fans tonight can't sleep well if they don't help make the right thing happen.
Ralph is a great owner. He has always done right in the past. It says here he does right in the future.
To quote the great Lou Saban: "If we die, we die together. You can get it done, and what's more ... ya' gotta get it done."
There, I said it ...
Speaking of commerce ...
Since I need another hit show to fund my grand scheme of buying the Bills and keeping them where they belong, I might as well plug myself to anyone out there looking for some fine TV.
Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. on FOX: 'TIL DEATH is back, and this year I'm writing and acting on the show. If you've read this far, I assume you don't find that notion too repellent -- check us out, we are hitting our stride, and this week I'm in it and I co-wrote the episode.