Bills fans can take heart. It could be worse. They could be fans of the Washington Nationals or Detroit Lions or Chicago Cubs. According to On Numbers, a group that measures fan loyalty and lunacy, those franchises rank as the three most difficult teams to root for in all of sports.
That’s not to say Bills followers have it easy. Buffalo’s football franchise ranks 10th on the list that includes the 122 professional sports teams in North America (MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL.) The Bills “earned” their spot based largely on the past 11 seasons, which have seen them post just one winning record and zero playoff appearances. The fact Buffalo has never won a Super Bowl also factors into the equation.
I guess if you pledge your allegiance to one of these underachieving clubs you could wear this like a badge of honor. You could argue that anyone can root for a perennial winner, but that it takes true character to pull for a team stuck eye-deep in mediocrity season after painful season. So a case can be made that fans of these clubs are vastly more loyal than say the fans of the Los Angeles Lakers, New England Patriots, San Antonio Spurs, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Yankees, who can be found at the bottom of the rankings.
Either that, or they are masochists or in a serious state of denial.
By the way, the Sabres can be found near the middle of the pack at 59th. Of course, Buffalo’s hockey fans have had many more reasons in the past decade to feel happier than their football brethren. And that chasm likely has widened in the past several months, thanks to the arrival of deep-pocketed new Sabres owner Terry Pegula.
Speaking of fans whose patience has been severely tested but now see signs of hope, how about those Pittsburgh Pirates? The Bucs haven’t experienced a winning season since 1992 – the longest drought in the history of North American sports. But today – and, no, folks, this is not a misprint – they find themselves in first place in the National League Central. Keep playing like that and they will be relinquishing their No. 7 spot when On Numbers produces its next list a year from now.
Fifteen years ago tonight I was in Atlanta’s Olympic stadium (now the Braves ballpark) watching Muhammad Ali stun the world by lighting the cauldron. There had been heavy speculation that famous Georgians Jimmy Carter or Hank Aaron would ignite the big flame. But the Olympic organizers did a masterful job keeping the identity of the cauldron lighter a secret. I remember the 80,000-seat stadium trembling with applause when Ali was shown on the big screen. It truly was an indelible moment.