Niagara Gazette

June 8, 2014

SINGER: The tale of two football cities

By B.B. Singer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — With the Bills’ future still to be decided, a new training season gears up amidst hopes simply for the coming football year. Meanwhile, straight across the country some 3,000 miles west on the 90 lies Seattle, where Buffalo alum Marshawn Lynch and a slew of other celebrated players, along with an entire city find themselves in the pleasant backwash of a well-earned Super Bowl victory.

That franchise is situated in proverbial La-La Land (only marred by inveterate winter rain, contributing to the recent tragedy in logged foothills of the nearby Cascades). Seattle remains the city of lattes made just so, and yes, that incessant drip from at least mid-October to the end of March; and in summer, sweet skies, no air conditioning, and lakes, ocean, islands, and mountains providing a near-at-hand playground.

The city’s Seahawks feature a coach (and exec vice-president) who couldn’t be more right for such a milieu. Despite his true individuality, industry and football smarts, very evident during last year’s march to the Super Bowl, and many previous laurels, Pete Carroll is a somewhat typical La-La Land guru. One denotes this in his newspaper quotations and in the self-help tone of his autobiographical book “Win Forever.”

Yes, Carroll worked as well in very different eastern milieus, such as Buffalo, and as head coach in Foxboro, where he got the best from a Patriots’ quarterback known here, too, Drew Bledsoe. Carroll also learned in the country’s mid-section from one of coaching’s greats, Minnesota’s Bud Grant, with a flint-like mien they don’t make anymore.

But let’s face it, Carroll was raised in tony Marin County (though far more expensive now), a lovely part of the SF Bay Area. And he cut chops under Bill Walsh of his favored NFL team growing up, the 49ers (whom Seattle ironically beat in the 2014 West Coast winner-take-all).

Still on the same idiosyncratic coast, another of Carroll’s formative football experiences came with a deservedly applauded college coaching career at USC; and finally, to top everything else on his resume — a Super Bowl straight north on Puget Sound! The man finds himself on a summit in Seattle, but will the Seahawks repeat — or even come close — this coming year? Doubtful perhaps, but who cares? A more important question around here: will Buffalo finally make the playoffs?

Zat ees zee kvestion, right? And a problematic one. Unlike Seattle or the Bay Area or Greater LA, it’s a tough climate here both literally and figuratively. Patient Bills’ fans have become experts in deferred gratification (a George Will phrase concerning his beloved Chicago Cubs); but loss of patience, not to mention the bubbling up of derision and anger can easily burst forth if the team doesn’t significantly improve this time out.

For people aren’t invariably blessed with a sunny disposish in these parts. You could say (and I admire this trait) that they’re generally more realistic and down to earth than West Coasters. For some reason (as a kind of contrast), my mind flips to a famed Seattleite, Bill Gates, holding forth recently on Charlie Rose’s TV program, and blithely informing us that the entire world’s largely becoming a sweeter place.

Typical West Coast fare? Somewhat, I believe. Because despite all Mr. Gates’ undoubted genius in his field, I saw a man here disserting on others’ pains (and there are myriad such in this big world) from the optic of his own gorgeous environs on Lake Washington. There the air has a nice ping to it and there are nearby pristine views (when clouds don’t intervene too heavily) of the Cascades and in an opposite direction, the Olympics. Not to mention that down-lake icon of them all in the Northwest: lordly, menacing, marvelous Mount Rainier.

So Seattle does by and large take it easier than here, and generally, too, sees the world as a kinder place. And of course now gets that outlook confirmed by a championship, while the Bills? Here, people will cheer this year if they even make the playoffs. Let’s hope they do ...  

B.B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.

B.B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.