Yeah, yeah, the Bills rolled over the Colts 30-7 in the season finale but it was mostly against their backups, blah blah blah blah. Some call it a cheap and empty win, I say it still feels good. The boys exhibited some borderline amazing gameplay and I can finally say I got to see the Bills win, up close and personal. This calls for storytime.
It all started on Sunday, Jan. 3, right outside Orchard Park, NY. My friend Ems and I awoke at a Residence Inn to see snow flurries flying, a Bills text alert warning against frigid weather conditions and a hotel room that...well, let's just say if anybody can make a hotel room look like it's been lived in for a week in only one night, we'd be the girls for the job. We hurried to partake in the complimentary breakfast buffet (because we live for anything free) and ended up eating with two random men that hadn't been to a game since the Jim Kelly years. I'm pretty sure I impressed them with my wiz of a football mind. Again, if anybody can find a stranger to have a full length conversation with and leave feeling like friends forever, we'd be the girls for the job. We returned to our room to pack and get layered up. Unfortunately, we did those two things in the wrong order; spandex bottoms, stuffed into jeans, Underarmor long sleeve, short sleeve, hoodie, two pairs of socks and Timberlands (or Uggs)went on first but we then proceeded to sweat profusely as we packed and cleaned the room. Once again, if anybody is incapable of making the appropriate most simplest decision, we'd be the girls for the job.
We cleaned off the car, got a substantial amount of snow on ourselves and in the car (because, you know, it makes perfect sense to use your sleeves to wipe off the snow and you should definitely leave the door wide open while doing so) and told Mandy (my GPS) to take us to the game.After getting mildly lost (yup, we're talented enough to get lost with a GPS) and crawling across unplowed streets and beside jackasses who don't know how to drive, we parked in the mud lot and began our trek across slushy pavement to Gate 5, which was the beginning of the end for our toes. After successfully smuggling our flasks (which we didn't use at all because it was too cold), a popcorn ball and crackers in by stuffing them in our pants where they're not allowed to frisk you, we rejoiced over the FREE Poz trading card we were given and actually managed to find our seats. Let the game begin.
Peyton Manning took to the field with a disappointing and lackluster performance early in the first quarter. He was picked off by rookie Cary Harris on a 3rd-and-7, which was good for us (not only from a game standpoint but because it gave us a chance to jump up and down to get the blood flowing) but annoying because that's not the Manning I was excited to witness. Freddy J got his fabulous day of running off to a quick start with a 35 yard drive that ended with an 11-yard TD pass from Fitzpatrick. We're up 7-0 and after dancing to "Shout," this is when I realized that I could no longer feel or move my toes.
The Colts quickly answered with a 72-yard drive that ended in a one-yard TD by Mike Hart late in the first quarter to tie it up. At 7-7, this is when I began to worry that I would develop frostbite on my toes. Ems assured me that this would not happen and I threatened to cut off her toes if she was wrong. Manning took a permanent seat on the bench and rookie backup QB Curtis Painter began his epic failure of a game.
Snow flurries turned into something a bit more, which was annoying because I couldn't see through my glasses but exciting because it was like being in a snowglobe. Around this time, Freddy J displayed some more rockstar running ability and set up Fitzpatrick's 21-yard TD pass to Lee Evans, his seventh of the season. With us in the lead, 14-7, this is when I discovered that the words to "Shout" were marque-ed across the top of the stadium and I could now not only contribute my killer dance moves I've perfected at happy hour to the celebrations, but also lend my high pitched shrieky chanting to the mix.
Painter struggled to connect with WR Hank Baskett over and over again and eventually just fumbled, which Chris Kelsay recovered and set up Terrell Owens' 41-yard TD. Amidst my assumptions that Hank Baskett also wasn't playing up to par because of too much canoodling with wifey Kendra Wilkinson and new daddy-duty, I managed to make a friend. We were leading 21-7 and this chick in front of me was searching around to see who was screaming as loudly as she was. She turned around, saw me with my hands cupped around my mouth and a really annoying shrill sound emanating from it, and leaned over for a high five. We were instant friends and continued to miss high fives the rest of the game.
By this time, even Bills fans were on the Painter-really-sucks-and-this-is-painful-to-watch wagon. He overthrew a pass and handed Harris his second interception of the game just before halftime. Rian Lindell knocked a 31-yard FG through and brought the lead to 24-7. By this time, Ems (who hadn't previously understood football) noticed that messages like "Great Run!" and "DEFENSE" were scrolling across the top of the stadium marquee and took these as her cues when to cheer and exclaim. She put forth such a valiant effort at being a good football fan and will be even better next time around.
Halftime is when we failed in our mission to find feet warmers. We got this really nice free plastic bag from the Bills Store but decided it was too nice to stuff in our boots for insulation and better suited to keep us dry if we wanted to sit down during the second half. Instead, we took about half the napkin dispenser and I braved the cold to remove my boot and wrap my foot up like my Asian ancestors did back in the day to keep their feet all weird an pointed, which is incredibly gross. Guess what...this didn't work because then I couldn't fit my foot back in my boot, so Ems used the napkins as a makeshift blanket.
The second half started and I'm pretty sure I may have slipped into a cold coma for part of it because I feel like I remember far less of the second half than I do of the first half. But I know I was there and that I eventually made it to the very first row of seats where my view was much better and I had to use all the self control in my body to keep myself from climbing over onto the field and giving Terrell and Lee and Freddy J and Perry the best hug they would have ever experienced.
Freddy J racked up 212 yards by the end of the game and surpassed the 1,000 yards rushing mark. The entire offense decided it was going to do whatever it had to do to get Jackson to this landmark, which clearly shows how tight it has become this season. Lindell put the ball between the posts twice more to make the final score 30-7 and Painter lost the ball so many times I lost track.
As the game came to a close, the best 2 seconds of my life occurred. Terrell ran around the field and smacked fans' hands as a celebratory goodbye type thing. I had been on my way up the steps because I needed to get my boots off and my feet on the car heater ASAP, but when I saw what was happening I paid no heed to the treacherous ice laden metal bleachers and hurdled (y'all know how I feel about him so you should understand that I mean this very literally) my way back to the wall, just in time to feel his gloved hand connect with my gloved hand and to see his smiling face beneath my favorite fur hat of his that he wore at the Toronto game. It was magical.
Ems and I booked it back to the car, essentially laid ourselves across the heat vents, probably flashed the mud lot while we changed into sweatpants and began the almost 7 (YES, I DO ACTUALLY MEAN ALMOST 7) hour drive home to Albany. Four-and-a-half hours turned into seven, thanks to western New York weather and the Thruway's inability to properly plow. Usually, putting the actual plow apparatus down so it touches the road and scrapes up the snow is how to clear the pavement...however, these plows failed to get that memo and I had a borderline amazing time driving between 48 and 55 mph for the majority of the trip.
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