Ball signed by the Jills
• August 8, 2015
Eleven years ago, I took my old Wisconsin Badger football to the Bills Camp at St. John Fisher College to be autographed. The lines were too long, so instead, noticing that the Buffalo Jills cheerleaders were signing items in the activity tent, I had the young women inscribe the ball. Almost every year since, I have repeated the ritual.
In ’06, Nicole offered, Cheers! In ’10, Hannah, XOXO. In ’07, Sarah Michelle wrote to my middle aged friend, Dean, Your the future bills quarterback! In ’12, Julie beckoned to my elderly father and his elderly friend, See you boys at the Game! That same year, I was pleased that Meghan went one further, Dave, see you after the game! My favorite is *Kelly, Buffalo Jills, Rochester, NY 8/26/04.
For years now, I have held the now deflated Rawlings triumphantly, telling any one who will listen; “See, I went to Bills Camp and I got KELLY [Jim Kelly was the Bills quarterback during the run] to sign my ball!” And it is true. Photographs don’t lie. Ultimately, the plan is to donate the ball to the WXXI auction (if it will gain any bids) or better yet to the Hunter’s Hope Foundation
This year when I go back to Fisher, although I will not be able to get the next Jills installment, like all the faithful, I will fantasize whether this year can be that elusive fifth Super Bowl. This time of year memory often slips back to those four glorious years (although I was in Wisconsin for two). Of the many remembrances, three stand out vividly.
I remember during the blacked out Frank Reich comeback game against Houston walking through the snow to Jeremiahs where they had the game on the dish. There was no room in the bar so we stood outside catching a little on the big screens through the windows and listening to Van Miller on the radio. Frozen fools, we cheered madly when the Bills won in overtime.
Against the Giants, I was at a University of Buffalo Department of English party in Amherst. There a collection of feminist scholars and literary deconstructionists — the least likely of Bills fans — held hands in a silent circled vigil as Norwood’s foot swung. From now on, it is January, not April, that is the cruelest month.
The last may be a bit unsavory. In 1991, I went — I admit — to the Half Dollar to watch a Playboy vs. Penthouse run off in which one performer represented each magazine. The girls offered prizes if you voted for them. For example, you could enter a raffle to be invited to their personal Super Bowl party. Also, the performance was during the early stages of Gulf War I. The girls walked the stage carrying American flags, rallying the crowd with, We are going to kick some ass in Iraq! At the time, I had grown a beard. In the bathroom, someone brusquely said to me, Iraqi go home. The next day I shaved. To this day I don’t know if I did the right thing. I also did not win the raffle to be invited to the personal Super Bowl party of either the Playboy or Penthouse girl.