For someone who grew up 800 miles away from Buffalo despite having lived my first six years there and subsequently the last 15 back here, the Buffalo Bills always remained my one and only football team.
One week before my family made the trek down to the Deep South, the biggest turning point in Bills history took place when Jim Kelly officially became the teams starting quarterback. This would be the first moment that would eventually make NFL history.
Over the next few years the Bills would have several historic drafts where 4 future hall of famers would be selected. It was these core players the would be the driving force behind a team that would go to an unprecedented 4 straight Super Bowls. Something that had never happened before and hasn’t happened since.
Four straight Super Bowls and 4 straight losses, is what everyone across the country knew about the team that dominated their conference and would be the winningest team of the 1990’s. What the rest of the country wouldn’t know is how much this team means to the hard working people of Buffalo and how much the city would come to mean to the team.
In the latest installment of ESPN’s critically acclaimed sports documentary series, 30 for 30, director Ken Rogers takes a deeper look at those unparalleled 4 seasons that the Buffalo Bills put together. Along with producer Luke Russert, son of the late Meet The Press host and South Buffalo native, Tim Russert, the film takes a deep look that no one has shown before. With interviews from former players, including the infamous Scott Norwood, who is famously quiet about his missed field goal in Super Bowl XXV, we get the emotions and memories of those fateful games.
Hall of Famers Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas sit down together and watch those four games that they have never watched before. As they sit and discuss those games as they view them you can hear in their voice some of the disappointment they felt and still feel about the things they could have done better.
The crown jewel of the entire documentary is the brutally honest interviews with Scott Norwood and his discussions about the tremendous weight he still carries and will always carry by missing on the most famous play in Super Bowl history. For a man that is painfully private and has RARELY discussed that night.
The film is also as much about the city, it’s brotherhood atmosphere truly contains, as it is about those games. Anyone from Buffalo will not be surprised how their love for this team is portrayed. It’s every other football fan that will not only come to understand our love for the Bills, but how the players feel about our community and why it is so special to them.
That team was infamous for its defeats, but is now more respected for its accomplishments than any of its failures. Director Ken Rogers said it so elegantly when he said, “Maybe America isn’t about winning. Maybe America is about the Bills. It’s about continuing to come back if you didn’t win. To me, that’s a value that should be celebrated much more than the people on top of the podium.” That is never more evident than with this team that never stopped fighting no matter the circumstance.
This film is not just another 30 for 30 film in ESPN’s impressive film vault, this is a truly great documentary and piece of filmmaking. It is more inspirational and emotional than any other film in the series. It’s the love letter to the team and the fans and an entire community that stuck with that team and BILLived. It shows that it’s not about the one moment that is so famous there hasn’t been a Super Bowl yet that has gone by without discussing their accomplishment. Yes, every year the footage of “wide right” is shown, on what seems like a continuous loop to Bills fans, but the respect for them rises every year when their accomplishment is not matched.
It really can’t be summed up in words so it is the highlights of everyone involved from fans to players to those without a vested interest in the team. Saturday night at 9:30 directly after the Heisman trophy ceremony take the time to feel inspired and to learn that not reaching the top of the mountain doesn’t mean you failed in your climb, but that the real accomplishment is to never stop trying.