Bills, AFL And I Get Good Start To Season

by Kevin Burton

   Super Thursday anyone?

   Yeah, you’re used to Super Sunday. Big meals, commercials as big deals and oh yeah, a football game, the Super Bowl.

   Did you ever want to skip the five months of preliminaries and cut straight to the chase?  Ever want to skip all the insurance commercials and sideline reporters and get right to it?

   The NFL seemed to do that last night by pairing the team that just won the big game, the Los Angeles Rams, against the team many people think is going to win the next one, the Buffalo Bills, in the season opener.

   Chances are you saw it, Buffalo 31, Los Angeles 10.  The Bills had some turnover problems or the score could have been uglier still. 

   Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos, Ravens, Bengals, you haven’t played yet but this year. But based on what I saw last night, the AFC goes through Buffalo. Feel free to prove me wrong.

    It seems that for every last-second Super Bowl win, there have been two or three blowouts, clunkers. Last night’s Super Thursday game was much closer to the latter.

    But Americans crave football, any football. This was on the highest level. Instant gratification on a school night, and I was on board because in two ways, there was more to it for me.

   First, this game pitted one of the old American Football League teams against a stalwart of the National League. If you’re younger you may not know the history.

   In some quarters the NFL is called “the shield” to show how brand and image-conscious it is. By all accounts it has always been that way.

   You wonder how a game with an oblong ball played by kids in the dirt got to be so big and corporate and full of itself.

   But on this day in 1960 the American Football League was born, when the visiting Denver Broncos beat the then Boston Patriots 13-10 in front of 21,597 fans at Boston University.

   The NFL sniffed, if they noticed the start of the new league at all.  People called the AFL the Mickey Mouse league and worse.

    The AFL got two big breaks along the way, a $36 million dollar contract with NBC sports to televise their games and new media-savvy ownership of the New York franchise.  

   The history of the AFL/NFL rivalry is delicious and I can’t do it justice here. There was a high-stakes bidding war for top college players that led to a merger of the two leagues.  You can learn a lot about the mentality of both fat-cat and underdog Americans by studying the history of professional football here.

   After the leagues agreed to merge, they played separately for two more years, but agreed to play a championship game that was not yet called the Super Bowl.

   It was commonly believed that the NFL was superior in every way to the AFL. In fact, the reigning champion Green Bay Packers were far superior to anything going, AFL, NFL or otherwise. But their star players got older and their legendary coach Vince Lombardi retired.

   So it happened that nine years after that rag-tag Broncos Patriots game, quarterback Joe Namath famously wagged his right index finger in the air in triumph as the AFL champion New York Jets humbled the NFL’s Baltimore Colts 16-7. 

   The upstarts stormed the palace! And they kept right on storming as the next year the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs beat the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in an even more dominating performance.

   Old-timers like me see the NFL in those terms. So the Bills crushing the champion Rams on their own field last night, was beyond delicious. 

   A second win for me last night: one of my fantasy football matchups featured my player, the Buffalo wide receiver two, Gabe Davis, against my opponent’s player, the Rams’ wide receiver two Allen Robinson.  Great to get the old fantasy meter running and juices flowing right out of the gate.

   So, this probably is as good a time and place as any to reveal to my Page 7 proofreader and co-manager in fantasy, that as you slumbered Wednesday night Jeannette, a fourth entity was born, breathing free, blinking against the oncoming glare of Super Thursday.

   We now have the K&J Vipers, a fourth fantasy mouth to feed.

   Aw, come on, this can’t be surprising to you J!

   All our teams are under “K&J,” K&J Silvers, the third place team and the only team we had last year, K&J Sonics, K&J Misfits and now K&J Vipers.

   I almost put the Vipers under “ABJ”

 for “against better judgment.”   

   But Gabe Davis delivered on Super Thursday for the Bills, the AFL and for the K&J Vipers to the tune to 16 fantasy points to one. 

   Now that is far from the last word for the season or even for the week. But here I am nevertheless, jogging behind Broadway Joe to the metaphorical fantasy football locker room, index finger signifying that I am number one, at least for two days.

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