At times, it has been really difficult for me to fully gage what makes a Buffalo fan come back for more when it comes to cheering their teams. "More" being the black hole known as disappointment. I can't remember a more disappointing era for both teams than what we are going through right now. Just nothing seems to be made easy and it is boiling down to which franchise can torture their fans more.
Sometimes you just get to the point of wondering if any of these teams will break through? I used to be left wondering whether Buffalo will ever win a championship? Now It has gone to contemplating whether a Buffalo team will even be thrown into the mix for making the playoffs, let alone competing for a title. It is that bad now.
So, why do we continue to venture to our version of the Roman Coliseum to see our boys in blue get their asses handed to them by the more ferocious lions?
Well, we love sports and there's not much to do in Buffalo during the winter. Going to games in WNY is no different than going out to eat or seeing a movie. The teams represent a channel to the big time. It is the endorsement we crave from people from outside of the (716). We also love to booze.
We also get suckered into believing.
There's your main reason why we continue to come back.
Whether it is Steve Ott, Christian Ehrhoff, Mario Williams, Terrell Owens, Drew Bledsoe, Terry Pegula and the countless others, we'll always find a way to get into a our special place of being able to believe in our teams. However, what happens when there isn't any sort of carrot to make the horse's ass come towards the water in order to take a sip from the pond that seems to be nothing more than a mirage?
Rebuilding sounds great when you hate your team, but it is another thing when you have to live through it.
I've seen it happen with the Bills over the last 13 years or so. In 2001, the Bills were in salary cap hell and were selling the public Rob Johnson, Gregg Williams and Larry Centers. Yeah…I'm not exactly jumping on that bandwagon either and neither did the fans.The Bills only sold out four home games that season.
In 2006, the Bills were selling us on Dick Jauron, JP Losman and Larry Triplet. Result: 3 non-sellouts. In 2010, the Bills marketing gurus trotted out Chan Gailey, Fitzbrohmwards and a whole lot of nothing. Result: 3 non-sellouts and Russ Salvatore buying up tickets for the season finale.
In other words, there have been a number of seasons for which the Bills have come out and said "We are rebuilding" and there's been a significant drop in interest.
As for the Sabres? Well, there really hasn't been much of a sense of rebuilding since the lockout. I'm talking about selling off their players and trotting out young, unproven guys.
Now, it is one thing listening/reading takes about the team and going to open practices, it is another thing to drop whatever it costs for season tickets to see a team that could be without 30-29-26. If you want the whole thing to burn down and start all over again, you'll be watching a bunch of kids who are probably going to have growing pains in adapting to the NHL to go along with not having the marquee names you'd want to embrace.
It is a lot easier to wish for the team to sell off their assets and rebuild because of being pissed off at the team for losing and not meeting expectations. But sometimes, we don't exactly think things out when it comes to getting younger guys or draft picks.
The idea of rebuilding sounds sexy because the assumption is that you are building for something better, but what people don't put into account is that it takes going through hell to get to heaven.
Selling everyone under the sun doesn't mean you are going to be better right away or even in the near future.
You can tell me all you want about the Blackhawks or Pens rise because of scoring on high draft picks, but I can then show you teams like the Islanders, Bluejackets and Oilers, who have sucked forever and their picks haven't done much in getting those teams over the hump.
See, we can talk all we want about Buffalo being hockey heaven and all that stuff, but the hockey boom wasn't discovered until we started winning after the lockout. Winning matters in Buffalo. In the two years prior to the lockout, the Sabres were 20th and 27th in NHL attendance. Why? Because the team sucked and there wasn't much to get excited about. They weren't living off the lockout run like the last few teams have been able to do.
Ive always believed the biggest difference between Bills/Sabres fans happens to be the consumption of beer at sporting events. Getting wasted and sitting around a barrel filled with flames is a selling point to Bills fans. I don't think you can say the same about the reserved family setting of Sabres games. I feel Buffalo hockey fans want the Sabres to do more for them in terms of selling the product than the Bills fans do.
Now, I don't want to come off as Mr. Holier than though when it comes to supporting a winner and spending $1000s on season tickets and merchandise. I've been a Sabres fan since 1989 and there were three seasons in which I didn't exactly care about the team besides a casual box score and watching the games when there was nothing to do. It was 1995, 2002 and 2003.
The 95' season was when the Sabres were cutting payroll left and right (Mogilny/Hawerchuk left) and it was apparent they weren't going to be as good, which they weren't during the first year under Ted Nolan.
And then during the 2002/2003 seasons, the whole ownership debacle and the team going from a Stanley Cup contender from the late 90s to a team lead by some guy named Daniel Briere and Miro Satan just didn't do much for me.
By selling the big three off for prospects, realize we will be getting players that 9/10 Buffalo fans have never heard of. Does that sound like something you'd want to spend thousands on season tickets for? There is a difference between reading blogs, listening to the radio and having faceoff debates on Twitter than paying to see the product.
Of course, we will all talk and watch the Sabres play for free…but will the consumer race down to buy tickets and cheer for a team that is rebuilding?
If we are a bandwagon city ….then no.