It’s here: Game 1 is upon us. But we, oh town of ever-so-many expats, should remember our roots and the embarrassment of sports riches into which we walked. Moving to Boston in 2003, I felt split in my desire to both root for the home team and remain true to a semblance of Buffalo pride (Buffalove, if you will). The Bruins and the Patriots were not friends. The Red Sox were a curiosity because there is no MLB in Western New York. (Though I recall recognizing the curious power of Fenway on Roger Clemens’s arm during Game 3 of the 1999 ALCS).
Buffalo’s adored teams wile in prolonged mediocrity but call to me. I recognize Rene Rancourt as a cultural icon, but I don’t connect with him like I do Rick Jeanneret, the Sabres’ play-by-play announcer. When I think of memorable first games of the Stanley Cup Finals, I remember not Patrice Bergeron’s bitten finger, but rather Jason Woolley’s overtime goal in 1999.
I’m conflicted, and it’s not because Blackhawks star Patrick Kane is from my hometown. He punched a cab driver there in 2009, so I have no warmth toward him. Rather, it’s been a tough decade for the Sabres (and the Bills). I remain a hockey fan nonetheless, but the decade of Boston championships are bittersweet when I feel what’s lacking 500 miles west on I-90. “Just walk away, Rene(e): you won’t see me follow you back home.”