Wide Right, No Goal

At last—your online source for wobbly reminiscence and spirited conjecture about Buffalo sports teams past and present

Monday, January 10, 2005

Cum On Feel The Noise

The Smiths? M.I.A.? Lightning Bolt?

Perhaps we can establish a more nuanced Bills mix?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Heart of darkness

“It was the day before the team left for Philadelphia, and then Boston, and then Buffalo, and on into the schizy, dark heart of America.” — Cleo Birdwell, AMAZONS: An Intimate Memoir by the First Woman Ever to Play in the National Hockey League (1980)

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Introit.

Games are stories. In team sports, every match is a chapter, every season an epic novel (or mock epic, depending on the team). Mostly we spectators remember actions, our memories enhanced by televised playback: an heroic pass, a crucial tackle, an exceptionally gruesome bench-clearing brawl. At times, color commentary of particular vigor (“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”) will sear itself into the collective consciousness. But generally speaking, words are secondary if they even matter all.

How curious, then, that the city of Buffalo, New York, is home to two longstanding sports franchises—the footballing Bills and the hockeying Sabres—whose histories of near-glory and stake-in-the-heart disillusionment can be encapsulated in two words apiece? To wit—

WIDE RIGHT: The Bills’ first and best chance at winning the Super Bowl, in 1991 against the New York Giants, came down to the wire. The Bills trailed by one point, 19-20. Buffalo’s Scott Norwood needed to kick the pigskin with sufficient force to fall between the uprights, 47 yards away. The ball went the distance—but passed “wide right” of the field goal. (In Queen City native Vincent Gallo’s film BUFFALO 66, VG’s character’s mother, played by Anjelica Huston, is doomed to watch the nightmare perpetually, albeit a reenacted version, as it plays over and over on an ever-glowing television.) Under Coach Marv Levy, the Bills would return to the Super Bowl three more times. In a row. And lose each time.

NO GOAL: During the Sabres’ second entry into the NHL finals, in 1999 against the Dallas Stars (the first was in 1975 versus the Philadelphia Flyers), the team lost 2-1 in game 6, during sudden-death triple overtime. When the Stars scored their game- (and series-, and Stanley Cup¬–) winning goal, Bret Hull’s skate was in the Sabres’ goal crease—an illegality, but one that the NHL explained away with a complicated definition of “possession.”

Whereas the Bills’ loss to the Giants was heartbreak, pure and simple, for the Sabres and their fans, the loss reeked of sweaty-palmed scrambling on the officials’ part (how to keep a clear head and review the tape impartially, when the cheers had already begun, the confetti was covering the ice, the champagne corks had all popped?). Some would eventually hone their conspiracy theories—a Texan would steal another contest the following year, after all.

Was it all a dream . . . ?

By some lights, game 6 never ended. “No goal” became a rallying cry among the faithful.

There is no hockey this year, but there may be hockey next year, and the year after. Game 6 will remain in suspended animation until the powers that be decide to make the right choice. We will find ourselves once again in triple overtime, with an entirely new cast of players—perhaps the 18th lineal descendants on each side—and we will see what happens then.