As a Bills fan living in New Jersey, I spent my Sundays surrounded by Jets fans beaming with a sense of entitlement and an arrogance usually reserved for teams that have won a title after 1968.
As a Bills fan living in Connecticut, my energy was spent saying, “I know,” to the sea of Patriots fans cascading their team’s accomplishments (along with speckles of chowda) over me daily.
Now, I am a Bills fan living in Alaska — and I don’t know what to do with myself.
Nobody here yells “Wide right,” when I’m walking down the street. Why isn’t anyone mocking me and pointing out that the Bills lost four straight Super Bowls when I was in pre-school? Has anyone here even heard of the Music City Miracle? Does anyone even care?
I’ve spent my entire adult life putting up with Buffalo antagonists who will quickly point out my city’s flaws whilst eating our “wings” from the nearby “best wings ever” joint in East Brunswick. But here? People could care less here. But that’s not going to stop me from being a fan.
Because that is the power of sports: It travels with you.
Your love for the game or a team is always there, whether you wear it on the outside or not. Sometimes, even to a fault, it stays stuck to you. Your sports loyalty is you after a few drinks and you are the girl at the end of the bar. She might not always see you, but you are always lurking. Creeping. One way or another, you will make your presence known by the end of the night/game.
And who doesn’t use sports as an escape from the perils of normal life?
Things can be going terrible. My boss can hate me. My girlfriend can hate me. I can hate my job. I can hate my life.
Wait, the Bills started OTA’s?
You can watch the Sabres’ pre-game skate online?
I’m never going to give that up.
This has every indication of being the most exciting season since I was four. I’ll be dammed to let a little something like the Rocky Mountains or Canada get in my way.
Three days after Mario Williams signed the Declaration of Relevance, I received an offer to move to Ketchikan, Alaska and become the sports editor of the town’s daily newspaper.
As someone who went to school for this very reason and spent the past year reporting on monotonous town council meetings in the suburbs of Hartford, I knew that this was a step in the right direction.
So I packed my Honda Civic to the gills, said goodbye to my friends and family, turned my back to the Atlantic and drove west for six straight days. The drive was cathartic in a way. It was a pleasant distraction from the notion that the Stanley Cup playoffs were starting and the only Sabres playing hockey were in the loser’s bracket called the World Championships.
I’ve been here a month now and things are not all that different. I’ve spent this time mainly covering high school sports and 5k runs. I’ve loved every minute of it.
This past month, went on a postseason tear and made the state championship game after an abysmal 3-11 regular season.
So what if nobody on that team will sniff a Division I scholarship. So what if all these kids spend the rest of their lives working on a boat. For the past two weeks, these kids were kings. And I went along for the ride. I had people coming up to me, asking me when the next game was, who they were playing next and how I think they’d do.
Just another example of the power of sports.
Is Alaska different? You better believe it. Whether it’s for better or worse, I’m still working out.
Ketchikan is a town (they call it a city) of about 13,000 located on an island inside a national rainforest. It is located in Southeast Alaska — closer to Vancouver than Juneau or Anchorage — and the temperature ranges from 30 to 70 year round. The main caveat is that it rains. Scratch that. It pours. Scratch that. It doesn’t stop pouring. Ketchikan holds the record for most consecutive days with rainfall in the US (101. Fucking. Days.)
Bills Backers you ask? You’re looking at him. I am the one percent. I’m going to start up my own here in Ketchikan. It’s going to be me with a case of Alaskan Amber Ale and BSN on my laptop to keep me company. Come join. Just watch out for the bear I saw sifting through the neighbor’s garbage.
But it has upsides too.
Gone are the days of me sitting in traffic in downtown Hartford or Anystreetimaginable, New Jersey. There’s no traffic because there are hardly any cars. And there are no cars because no roads leave the island.
The air is clean, the seafood is phenomenal and my girlfriend moved out here with me. Lastly, I’m pursuing my dream and living one hell of an adventure at the same time.
And no, Sarah Palin does not live next door to me, I do not ride a dog sled around town and I don’t have to ice fish for my dinner — although I could if I wanted to. But let’s be real, with the way things are today, I can be living in New Jersey or Alaska and still have just as much access to the teams I love.
I’ve been a displaced Buffalo fan for five years now. I know all the ways to watch the games (both legal and … not so much). With Twitter, I get all the split-second news (both accurate and … not so much). I’m a text message away from yelling, “Holy shit, did you see that?” to any of my friends.
So I, just like you, will be sitting on my couch on Sept. 9, wearing my jersey and Zubaz, ready to welcome Mario Williams into my living room. The only differences are it will be 9 a.m. when the game starts, and I don’t think my voice will carry the almost 3,000 miles to Metlife Stadium.
But that won’t stop me from cursing or caring.
So one more time, with my rain gear on, my view of the sun limited to a few hours a day and my resolve to make the most out of this stronger than ever:
Let’s go, Buffalo.
Alex Jankowski is a displaced Buffalonian currently living in Ketchikan, Alaska with his extremely loyal girlfriend, Vanessa. Follow him on Twitter twitter.com/alexjank) to find out if he ran into a black bear today.