Looking for relief from the oppressive heat, I stopped off at the Glen Park Tavern for a quick one on Thursday evening. As masked barkeep Jack Gray grabbed me a Blue Light, I noticed my old friend Rex Carr sitting alone at the end of the bar.
You know Rex. He’s the rumpled old cuss who considers himself Buffalo’s biggest sports fan. He had a bunch of fantasy football magazines spread out before him and a miserable expression on his face, his masking hanging from one ear.
“Why so glum, Rex?” I said, sidling in beside him. “There’s actually Bills worth drafting in fantasy this year.”
“True,” he said. “But it figures. The first time the Bills are favored to win the division and make a real title run, and we might not be able to go to the games because of COVID. You can’t win with these teams.”
“Well, it beats the alternative. The Sabres missed the playoffs by one game and the Pegulas took a chainsaw to the organization. Imagine if the Bills weren’t competitive and being run by competent people.”
“I hear you,” Rex said. “Those clowns need to just get out of the way and let McBeane do their thing. But I’m worried that they’ll get cheap on the football side, too. They did say economics were a big factor in that letter to the PSE people back in January.”
“Yeah, nice effort by Kim trying to make out that their cost-cutting was because of the virus, which hit two months later.”
“Speaking of money, did you see what Patrick Mahomes got?” Rex said, spitting beer on his chest. “Half a billion and change over 10 years!”
“Yeah, and to think the Bills … “
“Don’t even go there,” Rex said, jabbing his finger into my mask. “I’m sick of you complainers talking about how McDermott screwed up by trading away the pick in ’17.”
“It’s not exactly fake news,” I laughed.
“That wasn’t such a bad draft for a first-timer,” Rex said, “though Whaley’s guys did the scouting. Mr. Process got Tre’Davious White, Matt Milano and Dion Dawkins, who are all in line for big paydays. I'd say that’s a pretty nice haul, plus they got assets for the future.”
“Granted, but I’d still rather have a guy who was the league MVP one year and Super Bowl MVP the next. Mahomes is the best player in the game. They’re talking about a Chiefs dynasty. So you have to admit that Andy Reid knew what he was doing when he got his old protege, McDermott, to ship him that draft pick.”
“I’m happy with Josh Allen,” Rex said, sounding like a true Bills believer. “He has all the intangibles. I love his swagger, it reminds me of Jim Kelly. He gets Buffalo, too, and you have to love the way he connects with fans. Who says he can’t be as good as Mahomes and those guys?”
“Uh, most people who know the NFL.”
“Josh will be getting the big payday soon,” Rex said. “I see a breakthrough year for the kid. I don’t care if they have to give him $35 million a year. They haven’t paid that kind of money for a quarterback in decades. Where did it get them?”
“You don't have to tell me. I lived through it. Yeah, Allen could be the next Jim Kelly. He could also be Mitch Trubisky. This is a huge year for him to prove himself.”
“He did OK last year,” Rex said. “He was a lot more accurate on short throws, and good in the clutch. He rated 110 in the fourth quarter of games, with 10 touchdowns and no picks. And boy, when he runs the ball … “
“Yeah, and he fumbled 14 times. Sure, he was more accurate. That got him all the way to 32nd in percentage. He was 26th in yards per attempt. Pro Football Focus rated him dead last in throws over 20 yards. And he melted down in the playoffs late.”
“I don’t care what the stats say,” Rex snarled. “I believe in him. He’s a winner. You just watch how he takes off with Diggs on the field, and with Singletary having a Thurman Thomas-type leap in Year Two."
“What you’re saying is there’s no more excuses, and I agree. He has better weapons, continuity on the O line and the coaching staff. If he’s such an 'arm talent', it’s time for the Bills to become a passing team in a passing league. And no more hero ball.”
“I just hope there’s a season,” Rex moaned. “Did you hear Diggs isn’t comfortable playing right now? Figures we’d get a stud wideout who’s skittish about the virus.”
“I can’t blame him. Look at the spikes around the country right now, and the hot spots look like a map of Football America. Pro athletes aren’t stupid, like some of these kids running around the beaches and bars in Florida and Texas.”
“I could see more players opting out,” Rex said, “but I don’t see them shutting down the season. There’s too much money involved. It’s a TV sport, anyway.”
“I’m with you there,” I said, as Jack came over with fresh beers. “I remember my father coming for games in the early 1990s and saying it just wasn’t the same as watching from the easy chair in his living room.”
“I was really fired up for this season,” Rex said. “Getting to the playoffs was great. It’s time to actually win a game. I can’t believe it’s been 25 years. I was there when they beat Miami. It was Shula’s last game. It kills me to think they could win a home playoff game with nobody there to see it.”
“But at this point, Rex … “
“Yeah, I’ll take it,” he said.
Jerry Sullivan is a sports columnist with over 30 years experience in Western New York. Follow him on Twitter @ByJerrySullivan or respond via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.