This reflection on one of the newest in the 30 for 30 catalog, comes from Mockingfriend Paul Harris.

It is needless to say that ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has repeatedly brought to screen some glorious glimpses into the human heart.  The Four Falls of Buffalo, now streaming on Netflix, is no exception. Place this movie on the top of your must see list!

24389899You may remember the Buffalo Bills losing streak of four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-1993. Sadly, The Bills, especially the 1990-96 rosters were and often remain synonymous with failure. Players like quarterback Jim Kelly, star running back Thurman Thomas, head coach Marv Levy, and most importantly, placekicker Scott Norwood, know all too well the weight of failure, receiving heaps of scorn and ridicule in response to failed attempts to win Super bowls. What does BILLS stand for? “Boy I Love Losing Superbowls”

Norwood would shoulder the greatest weight, though, after what would be one of the most talked about upsets in NFL history, his last-second kick going “Wide right!” The Four Falls chronicles each defeat of the early 90’s in play-by play detail, contrasted by the uncanny loyalty of Buffalo’s fans. They never let up. As the Bills motto goes, “When it’s too tough for them, it’s just right for us”. I mean, come on!

The set up: During the 1990 Super Bowl (XXV) between The New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills, the game would be settled at one pinnacle moment.  This is where the film starts. You may remember, with 8 seconds left on the clock in the final quarter, Scott Norwood sets up to kick a whopping 47-yard field goal, a difficult kick by most standards and, according to even his critics, one that 50% of kickers could not make. It was a kick at the limit of Norwood’s range.

Among a packed stadium of emotional fans, still coming down from Whitney Houston’s national anthem performance, the Buffalo Bills’ first Super Bowl victory was within a foot’s reach. I am still biting my fingernails. Norwood would miss and would forever be remembered for that defining moment of failure. It’s painful to watch the reaction of the coaches and players on the sidelines and not feel for Norwood as he is being interviewed. Over 20 years later he is still reeling…

SPORTS MCCOY BILLS NORWOOD MISS“I had expected a very positive and exciting result. To so quickly turn to the other end of the spectrum is really quite an emotional flip-flop… I almost relate it to being in some type of accident- it’s almost a shock. The magnitude of it not working out kind of seeping in on top of me. Sorrow, I guess, and disappointment in letting down the teammates that are there on the field of battle with you. I get choked up thinking about it, putting myself back in that situation…on the side lines, you know, it goes wider, it’s goes quickly- organizational level and the a city. The City of Buffalo is nothing but a winning city and it deserved it.”

Tissues ready? Coming in from stage (wide) right, the citizens of Buffalo  move in. As the Bills return to Buffalo, heads hanging in sorrow, and no one more dejected than Norwood, they are greeted by 30,000 screaming fans on a cold Monday morning. Many of them parents, children in tow, skipping school to be a part of this moment to welcome back the Bills. It was specifically powerful for Scott Norwood, while the stadium all chanted together, screaming “WE WANT SCOTT!!…WE WANT SCOTT!!”

It’s a scene that must be viewed. The message penetrated deep for Scott:

“We got back to town and I did not know what to expect. What I really wanted to do was just remain behind the scenes, but there was a chant that intensified…I was not expecting to be called to the front like that. I had to speak off the top of my mind and real quick. I think in a sense, that’s when the truest feelings arise. ”

With mic in hand, Scott would say, “I know that I have never felt more loved than I do right now.”

In addition to the fans, Norwood’s would find support from his team. Bruce DeHaven, the Bill’s special teams coach, would later name his adopted son after Scott. Others rose to Norwood’s defense, including running back Kenneth Davis, who claimed the ball was blown away by an apache helicopter hovering over the stadium at game time. Promising to the throng of Buffalo fans to do better next season, Scott Norwood would return the following year to help win the AFC title against Denver after a successful 44 yard kick. Hats off to Buffalo for keeping Norwood around for a second chance. Unfortunately the Bill’s second Super Bowl attempt in 1991 wouldn’t be much different.

Through failure—and there are a lot in relived detail in The Four Falls of Buffalo—the Bills discuss their shortcomings on and occasionally off the field that may have led to losing four Super Bowls. Despite each failed snap, fumble, turnover and defeat, the fans of Buffalo continued to welcome the team back home. “‘We’re rooting for you’, that’s Buffalo,” says former general manager Bill Polian. This surprising, unswerving Gospel-rich reception resonates with coaches and players alike. Jim Kelly, at the start of his career, when asked which teams he would not play for declared the Minnesota Vikings, the Green Bay Packers and the Buffalo Bills. True to his word, Kelly dodged a draft pick by the Bills, choosing to play instead for the short-lived United States Football League.

Later, and there’s no mystery why, Kelly would find his permanent home with Buffalo. ESPN reporter Andrea Kremer states, “If you look at the way Jim Kelly is embraced, it’s almost like they don’t even remember the Super Bowl losses.” There is no question that the unrelenting grace of the fans of Buffalo moves collectively through the Bills, allowing them for a moment to find humor in the face of their failures on the field.  (The Snicker’s commercial says it all!)

In between their efforts to answer the critics, the humor and lighthearted tone of the Bills illuminates the message of 2 Corinthians: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses.” The Bills would spin failure on its head and have good laugh with plenty of tears along the way.