After Buffalo shocked New England in a 34-31 win on Sept. 25 to improve to 3-0 and end a 15-game losing streak to the Patriots, an Albany Times Union columnist faced the wrath of Bills fans stemming from a column she wrote just a few days earlier.
The passion of Buffalo Bills fans may have pushed some overboard when responding to a recent column in the Albany Union Times which questioned if fans of a franchise that has left much to be desired over the past decade have the right to demand respect and coverage after a 2-0 start.
Despite being in somewhat of a euphoria thanks to the early-season success in 2011, a number of Bills backers have elicited negative attention by some insult-laced responses to columnist Jennifer Gish’s column, “Bills fans need help keeping it real.”
In it, she writes of Bills fans being delusional and making unwarranted demands of being front and center in the newspaper’s sports section. She admires fans for sticking by their team but then belittles them with the notion that the Bills are still far from relevant in today's NFL.
But what she fails to realize, it is that passion, as misguided as it may be at times, which should have been the ultimate subject of her column. The pride felt by fans, who have stood by their team even with 11 years without a playoff berth, should be celebrated and not disparaged.
How many team’s fans would go out of their way to call and write a newspaper in Albany to demand coverage for a team five-plus hours away? The Giants and Jets may be the teams only a little more than two hours out of the Albany region, but what’s wrong with readers aspiring to show off their Bills’ pride by asking to see more of them in your newspaper?
It may seem ludicrous to a columnist in Albany, but Bills Nation obviously has a following with some reach. Also, not everyone truly understands the dynamic of a coverage area. Readers might believe because it’s a New York paper covering sports and issues from throughout the state, including dipping into Jets and Giants territory, that the Bills could get some play, as well.
Instead, Gish wrote somewhat of a mean-spirited column about how Bills fans need to relax expectations because it’s been hopeless in this town for so long and a 2-0 start wasn’t enough to change that yet. There was even an attempt to mock the Bills’ Super Bowl shortcomings and the infamous “wide right” field goal.
Are we really surprised that Bills fans gloves came off at that point?
The final straw for fans came this past Sunday when Buffalo ended a 15-game losing streak to arch-rival New England, which Gish insinuated would never happen. Right after the game, Gish’s e-mail inbox was filled with the overwhelming reaction.
She felt the aftermath of what may have been the most emotional win for Bills’ fans since the last time Buffalo beat the Patriots in a 2003 opening day thumping of Tom Brady and company.
Gish may have deserved a ribbing but not what she received from some e-mailers. Sharing with Gish that she may have been off base is OK — it’s part of writing a column — but the way it was done by some of the more rabid and out-spoken fans borders on deplorable.
It was reported that she was called words that cannot be repeated in any column and negative references were made to her looks and gender. Come on, Bills fans, what do any of those things have to do with football?
Regardless of how Gish interpreted Buffalo's start to the season and the fans reaction to it, she did take the time to acknowledge the Bills relevance just by her writing the piece. That is becoming a trend throughout the nation.
In becoming an organization that is back on the radar and surprising so many, including Western New York, comes the positive and negative that will result from all types of media outlets. Fans can’t go after every columnist who does not believe in the Bills just yet.
If this keeps up, Buffalo fans will actually be expected to start acting like better winners. It’s been a while, so it may take some getting used to.