January 9, 2018
Dear CBBB members!
Excuse me if I get a little mushy here, but I’ve been trying to process the events of Sunday. No… not the results of our beloved Bills losing to Jacksonville in their first playoff game in 17 years. Sure that was disappointing, but as fans we have a lot to root for moving forward. No longer can the drought be held over our heads. There is a clear and present progressive shift occurring up at One Bills Drive, which leads me to have faith that this year was not a fluke. It was progress ahead of schedule.
What I have been trying to process is what transpired at Trinity Irish Pub on Sunday. The scene! The noise! The comradery! New friends meeting. Generations of families experiencing playoff football together for the first time. Unabashed and unleashed pride for the Bills, and for Buffalo! You see, what has been hard to process for me is that it all actually happened! And it all actually happened in the VERY place where the idea of the CBBB was first conceived. Many of you have heard this but for those who haven’t, please indulge me in a trip down memory lane.
It all began way back at the beginning of the 2006 season. As a new transplant to Charlottesville I conducted some research and discovered that there was supposed to have been a Bills Backers club at a local Holiday Inn bar. So I got decked out in Bills gear and drove excitedly to the hotel. I arrived to see that there wasn’t a single Bills fan there, and that the game wasn’t on. The bartender scoffed “We only play Redskin games here”. Well “Screw you!” I thought and I left, not knowing where to go. I was dismayed to say the least, and started driving. I found my way down by the University where I discovered O’Neil’s (now Trinity Irish Pub). It was empty, so I asked if they could put the Bills game on for me. I was then told to go all the way upstairs to the top bar, where a worker begrudgingly bumbled through the controls and found me the Bills game. Gee…Sorry to put you out, bud! Did I interrupt your nap? He then promptly disappeared before I could ask him to turn up the volume.
There I sat. Alone in an empty bar. Watching the game on a crappy overhead TV without any sound, and sans a server or bartender to at least bring me a beer. This may sound like hyperbole but at the time, but I felt like I was taking on the brunt of a downtrodden fan-base. I was angry, and indignant about the treatment I had received all day. THAT was when I decided that I was going to do something about it. I decided to spend the rest of that season seeking out any Bills fan that I could find, and we would build a legitimate Bills Backers club. I continued to watch the game in that lonely space, but I also began daydreaming. What would this place look like if, by some crazy happenstance, I could find a few other Bills fans? I looked around the 2 upstairs bars, and envisioned what it would look like if the place were packed with Bills fans.
I have kept that vision with me all these years.
I finally found a handful of Bills fans. We were off and running. Well.. crawling at first! We started small, and across town at the only place that would have us. I’ll always be grateful to The Lazy Parrot Grill for being our home for a good 7 1/2 years. Over that time, our numbers grew and grew. We even had to start recruiting our first co-captains (Joe, Jerry and Trevor – I’ll remain ever-grateful to you guys). We were becoming known around town as “that group of Bills fans”. Not only that, but other bars in town were directing wayward Bills fans to our location on game day. We would pack the Parrot for games, The Bills would post losing records year after year, and the CBBB would keep coming back. I love the story that Sully tells of going to a bar to watch the Bills and being told (para-phrasing) “You don’t belong here! You belong at the Lazy Parrot with all the other Bills fans.” Our group had gone viral!
Still… I kept that original vision in my mind.
As fate would have it, after 7 ½ years at the Parrot, our club would need to relocate (mid-season), as we were starting to lose members for a variety of reasons. Leaving the Parrot was a hard decision, but it was necessary if there were to be any hope of keeping the group together. But where would we go? Thankfully, I had an in with Kevin at Trinity Irish Pub (formerly O’Neil’s – the site of my indignation!). So I thought I’d give it a try. I walked in, told him our situation and asked if he’d be willing to host us. “Let’s go upstairs and talk” he said. Up we went… to the upper bar… to the very spot where the dream was born. He pointed at the empty room and said “It’s ALL yours!” Seriously! I am not making this up! I was dumb-struck, and told Kevin about my experience in that very spot back in 2006. Then I said “Hey man! My goal is to have this place packed in a couple of years.” We laughed (like seriously… could that even happen?). Kevin let me know that he’d just be happy if we brought in a handful of folks each Sunday.
Fast forward just a short two and a half seasons later.
January 7th, 2018. Bills at Jags! Wildcard Playoff game. Fans begin streaming into Trinity around 11:00 am. New faces. Familiar faces. A steady stream of blue and red. Mothers, daughters, dads, sons! Finding seats and settling in for the ride. The energy was electrifying! Lots of hugs, laughter and the best group of fans just loving and appreciating our team. Breathing easy after a long 17 years, and replacing that former burden with the preferred palpable nervous anxiety for the game at hand. I spoke with so many of you during the day, but the image of Matt (of half-time Trivia fame) stands out. He just kept looking at me with wide eyes and stunned face, like he was just surprised with a puppy on Christmas Eve. “Can you believe this?” I really couldn’t. I was too distracted with everything else. It wasn’t until I looked up during the first quarter, when I realized just how many friggin’ people had poured into Trinity. It was as if I hadn’t really been looking all morning, and then…. it ALL came into focus.
I looked at Matt as he feverishly tore raffle tickets and said “I think I need to take a walk around and try to take this all in!” “Go!” he said. So I did. I slowly walked around trying to soak in the experience. Unconsciously I found my way to the approximate spot where I sat, back in 2006 and that’s when it hit me! Holy Crap! It all came true! And it all started right here! I’m not going to say I was emotional, but I was incredibly moved, and I continue to be so. Moved by all of you who have been with us from the beginning. Moved by those of you who have only recently found the CBBB. Moved by all the help and teamwork. From the original Co-Captains to Matt, Brian and the Riley Family, and all of you who have stepped up to volunteer through the years, in order to keep this little train running. I was moved by the community/family-like nature of our group. Overall, I was moved by the gratifying and much better than imagined results of sticking with a dream, and trusting that it could work. Because, you know what?… Realizing a dream is a matter of going through a process. So, I think it only fitting to end where I began this little story by admitting that I am still processing the events of Sunday, but as Coach McDermott has preached: I will continue to TRUST THE PROCESS!
Thank you! Every single one of you for making this dream come true. I am profoundly grateful! We will be back next season, with so much more to look forward to.