Sunday, October 21, 2007

Week 7 - Heads or Tails

Buffalo, NY - 10/21/07.

Something didn’t feel right.

Maybe it was the windy weather we flew through on our way north to Buffalo. Maybe it was the fact that Canadian Football was on TV in the hotel room. Maybe it was the dozen wings I ate Saturday night (much more on that in a moment). Maybe it was the half dozen Labatt Blue’s I used to wash away the spice. Or maybe it was the fact that the temperature in Western New York felt more like West Palm Beach at kickoff (66 and sunny.) No matter the cause, the effect took the form of a loss that left the entire cast and crew feeling flat.

For starters, our takeoff took us into some gusts that gave everyone on the plane a moment of pause. Normally the turbulence comes and goes without much concern from the passengers, although Lauryn still hasn’t mastered the art of flying. On Saturday, however, just about everyone on board had the USC flight fresh in their minds and after we took a few dips and dives somewhere over Eastern PA, the casual conversations and commotion stopped as the plane went silent. To calm our nerves, the pilot came on the PA system and informed us all that we were through the worst of it. He didn’t know what lay ahead on Sunday.

First came Saturday night though and another culinary adventure for the RaveTV crew, Lauryn and I. The only goal of the night in B-Lo (does anyone really call it that?) was to get some authentic Buffalo wings in the birthplace of, well, little chicken parts marinated in spice. The crew followed the crowd to The Anchor Bar, which is said to have served the first Buffalo-style chicken wing. It’s hard to argue considering their street sign states that they’ve served 246.8 million of those little suckers. And with an average of 6 wings/chicken (according to our waitress), that’s like 80 million chickens. How does PETA not picket this city on a daily basis?

In any case, after getting slapped in the face by the smell of buffalo sauce when we walked in the door, we added another 60 to the grand total by inhaling the better part of 5 dozen legs, wings, and maybe even some heads and tails – its hard to tell under all that flavor. And although I would classify the cuisine as finger lickin’ good, they weren’t finger lickin’ great. I’d go with Old Bay Style any day, and I’m from New Jersey. (I recommend Coburn’s, Della Rose’s and Pickles if you’re in the mood.)

The night continued to the not-so-famous Chippewa Street and the bars of Buffalo. Apparently you can drink till 4AM in this part of New York and the 10 o’clock crowd paled in comparison to the mob scene at The Anchor Bar. We grabbed a few drinks, cringed at the twelve runs the Red Sox scored on Cleveland, and headed back to the hotel, unfortunately without trying another Bison City staple – chicken finger sandwiches. Speaking of cringing at the Red Sox, what is Kevin Millar doing throwing out the first pitch of Game 7? Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Orioles…

Game day got off to a glorious start. No clouds. 66 degrees. A slight breeze. Lots of sun. Not what you’d expect so close to the Canadian border just 10 days shy of Halloween. The star of the day, and our Wired Raven this week, was Willis McGahee who was returning to face his old team and his former fans. The paparazzi were out in full force as every camera in Ralph Wilson Stadium awaited his first steps on to the field. As we filmed him walking down the tunnel a chorus of cheers and jeers greeted both the current and former #23. Bills jerseys, Ravens jerseys and even two fans that decided to go sans jersey, but still show their support for McGahee, filled the bench-style bleachers (the stadium is a little outdated).

The pre-game activities would prove to be the high point of the day as Brian Billick announced to the locker room that the captains for the game would be the trio from “The U” – Ray, Ed, and as Coach quipped, McGillis. When I heard that Willis was going to be walking out for the coin toss, I thought it was great news for the Wired crew. Little did I know (which, as Dustin Hoffman explains in one of the most underrated Will Ferrell movies, Stranger Than Fiction, means that there is an actual plot building) it would also result in a trip to mid-field for this mild mannered blogger.

Jeff Atkinson, RaveTV’s Director of Photography, waved for me to join him on the field as he finished filming the team stand at attention for the National Anthem. I sprinted to his side and watched Lewis, Reed and McGahee dance, sing and eventually form a former-hurricane huddle to allow Ray to thank the other two men in his circle for being with him on this day. The triplets began their walk to the center of the field and Jeff kept his camera rolling. I only wish it had been acceptable for me to take out my camera and grab a shot of the crowd from the center of the football universe. I’ve stood on the 50 before, I’ve even had Coffee on the 50 but never have I experience what its like to take center stage during a game, or in this case, just as the game was about to begin. The stands were full, the crowd was on their feet, the firework smoke had cleared and although no one was staring at me, they were all looking in my direction. I got so caught up in the moment that I didn’t even see if the coin toss landed on heads or tails.

The game itself was hard to swallow. Even harder than that 12th wing, which had gone cold and just sat in a pool of room temperature sauce for ten minutes, as the Ravens found themselves trailing the entire day. McGahee started slowly, but energized by the 12th man, he went on to rack up 114 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown scamper that landed him atop the NFL Rushing Race. Unfortunately the score took more out of him than I care to report – let’s just say you’d be able to tell how many wings he had Saturday Night.

As the time ticked away, Jeff, Lauryn, Larry and I had a front row seat for the fateful snaps that would bring the game to a close. The 9-yard strike to Quinn Sypniewski gave us hope and we looked at each other as if to say, well, maybe we can still escape this place with a win. Of course, that was not to be and instead we escaped to the locker room to pack up as quickly as possible.

I happened to get ready for the flight in what was Jonathan Ogden’s locker just moments earlier (our crew tends to wait until the big boys have left the building). As I changed I noticed a bag on the ground that was simply labeled “XXXXL”. That’s right, four X’s! I’m not sure what the package had contained – gloves, socks, a parachute/t-shirt, but it was a reminder of just how big these guys are. They are mammoth men and superior athletes that line up each week for one common cause – to win. As we approach the bye week, it’s still hard to tell how good this team can be. I’ve seen a dominating defense, an offense that features league leaders in receptions and rushing yards, and unfortunately three road losses that add up to a 4-3 record. Maybe it’s the injuries. Maybe it’s the quarterback carousel. Maybe it’s the lack of home cooked meals. Maybe you know. Me? I can’t make heads or tails of it.


alexis said...

No comment necessary.

Jarrett said...

Thanks for repping for the Old Bay style.

I recommend Putty Hill Station's 10-cent wing Tuesdays.