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SUPER BOWL XXVII : COMMENTARY : Buffalo Experience Was Plus for Dallas

February 01, 1993

"History is ongoing," Marv Levy was saying as the pall of another Super Bowl disaster settled around him . . . and don't the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Scott Norwood know it?

Before Sunday, the Vikings and the Broncos were football's ranking synonyms for big-game futility and disgrace under pressure, going a combined 0 for VIII in trips to the Super Bowl.

Today, the Vikings are a plucky gang of troupers and pluggers--their worst Super Bowl loss was by only 18 points--and the Broncos, though losers of their last two Super Bowls by scores of 42-10 and 55-10, at least did the decent thing and stopped winning AFC championships before they did something totally humiliating to themselves, like losing three Super Bowls in a row or committing nine turnovers against the Dallas Cowboys.

Norwood's portfolio, too, is looking better this morning. On bar stools across Buffalo, the prevailing wisdom about Norwood, the Bill who couldn't kick straight, has swung from "Dirty rotten scoundrel" to "Good ol' Scotty--at least he came close."

One Sunday afternoon in Pasadena, along with 52 Dallas Cowboy points, has changed everything.

Thrice, now, the Buffalo Bills have come to the Super Bowl.

Thrice, now, the Buffalo Bills have become Michael Dukakis.

They are a walking, talking law of diminishing returns.

Lose your first Super Bowl by a point? Return the next year and lose, 37-24. Return the year after that and lose, 52-17.

Postseason experience--obviously, a team can never have enough of it.

The Super Bowl, meanwhile, has had enough of the Buffalo Bills. If they were a sitcom, they'd have been canceled some time around Troy Aikman's third touchdown pass. Then again, if they were a sitcom, they'd come attached to a laugh track, which would be totally inappropriate.

As all of America knows by now, a Buffalo Bill Super Bowl goes by the working title "The Crying Game."

What can be done to prevent more of this, short of planting signs around Atlanta's Georgia Dome, site of Super Bowl XXVIII, that read Post No Bills ?

James Lofton, the pragmatic Buffalo wide receiver, might have come up with a solution.

"We're going to petition to change conferences next year," Lofton said, couching his suggestion as a joke.

Why couch? This is a proposal that merits serious consideration. Act now, Paul Tagliabue. Put the Bills in the NFC East, they'll finish behind the Cowboys, the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants, they'll never be heard from again.

Disturbingly, Levy and his players kept talking Sunday night about coming back.

"The disappointment will eventually pass," Levy insisted, not sounding entirely convinced. "The biggest defeat you can have is to crawl into a shell and say, 'Well, that's it. I tried and we're not going to make it.'

"That's not going to be our style. We're going to go back to work and make every effort to appear again. All you can ask for is the opportunity."

That's what NBC, ABC and CBS are afraid of.

Darryl Talley, who was not punched out by anyone's bodyguard at the Rose Bowl but was pushed around by a few Dallas offensive linemen, promised to "never quit. I'm going to keep fighting. . . . If you're not man enough to play hard to get back to this game, you shouldn't be playing this game."

Someone asked Talley how history will view the Bills, now that they have ascended to the throne of America's Also-Rans.

"I have no idea," Talley told the questioner. "You guys are the history makers."

Talley shook his head.

"It's gut-wrenching to think that we got here three times in a row and weren't able to win it once," he said. "It's mystifying. I can't comprehend why."

At 36, Lofton has been around longer. He fielded the place-in-history question better than he fielded Frank Reich's sure touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, a drop that prevented the Bills from pulling to within 28 points.

Lofton called the inescapable comparison to Denver and Minnesota "pretty fair. It is. You're always looking for analysis in sports. You read the stats. We're one of three teams to appear in three Super Bowls (Minnesota and Denver actually are 0-4) and not win one. It's something we have to deal with."

Deal could be the operative word in Buffalo this spring. Break up the Bills? It does have a ring.

Bill Polian, the Buffalo general manager, cautioned against an off-season overreaction.

"The one thing you don't want to do is knee-jerk," Polian said. "You can't say, 'We lost our third Super Bowl in a row, so heads will roll. . . .'

"We want to take a look at this team analytically, not emotionally. We're wounded, and the human tendency is to lash out. But that would be the wrong mentality.

"We're a far sight better than a lot of people out there. But we're not better than the Dallas Cowboys. What we need to do is sit down with our coaches and see what it takes to get as good as the Dallas Cowboys."

Hint: The Cowboys made 46 trades in four years.

"I am certainly not going to exhibit despair," Levy said. "I don't feel any despair. And I'd be an awfully poor leader if what I did sow was despair.

"If we come back and win one of these, maybe they'll call us the most persistent bunch of SOBs ever."

How about striking a deal?

We'll call the Bills whatever Levy wants.

In return, the Bills don't return. Just stay away. We'll all live longer and, in Buffalo, the townsfolk will certainly live more happily.

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