Bills make the playoffs without the Jills; remembering Jacksonville vs. Buffalo in ’96

Bills make the playoffs without the Jills; remembering Jacksonville vs. Buffalo in ’96

[According to the website: “It should be noted that this small, grainy picture is the ONLY picture on the internet of Jim Kelly getting carted off the field during the 1996 playoff loss to Jacksonville. It’s almost like Jim Kelly and his Illuminati cohorts have conspired to suppress any photographic evidence of this event. If I was Jim Kelly, I’d want this picture erased from the Earth too. As great a Quarterback as he was, dazed and concussed on the back of a golf cart was a horrible, horrible, way to go out. He deserved better.”  From Remembering how gory were the glory days]

In the course of Talker, we have publicized the unfortunate parting of ways between the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Jills, including a visit to the Otter Lodge by former Jills who met fans and signed memorabilia.   Bring back the Jills”; Cheerleaders deserve their stage


Former Jill Jean Zydel re-inflating Jack the Ball at the Otter Lodge in Brighton. 1/23/16 From “Bring back the Jills”; Cheerleaders deserve their stage

In No Jills; no playoffs for the Bills, we argued that the last few years of the playoff drought were partially due to the unfair absence of the Jills.  In a way, we placed a curse; the Bills were not deserving of the playoffs until they unjilted the Jills.

So yesterday I had mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I wanted the drought to end, but, on the other, I hesitated lifting the curse.

As seen in the chart, when the Chargers and Titans had won and Baltimore was leading Cincinnati 27 – 24 with time short in the 4th quarter, the Bills chances had fallen below 15%.  So the Bills would likely get their just desserts.

bills chart

Chart showing the fluctuation of the four team’s Wild Card chances from 4pm to 8pm on New Year’s Eve, 2017

But then Cincy completed a 4th and 12 and then Andy Dalton threw a 49 yard touchdown pass.  The drought was over.  Sorry, Jills, I cheered.

On to Jacksonville — even if the Bills are going stag to the Big Dance. I’ve decided to temporarily lift the hex which will return next year if the Bills haven’t kissed and made up with their better halves.

The other time Buffalo and the Jacksonville met in the playoffs was December 28th, 1996.  Still having the core players from the Super Bowl runs, the Bills finished 10 – 6, and were favorites against the 9 – 7 Jaguars.

Democrat and Chronicle, 29 Dec 1996, Sun, Metro, Page 42

Caption: Let go of me! Jacksonville’s QB Mark Brunell was in the clutches of Bills defenders such as Chris Spielman but still managed to guide the Jaguars to the upset playoff win. Democrat and Chronicle, 29 Dec 1996, Sun, Metro

But the Jags pulled off the 30 – 27 upset.  The game was tight the whole way.  Bruce Smith had won Defensive Player of the Year, but was neutralized by the Jaguars’ young tackle Tony Boselli.  With 3 minutes 7 seconds to play, kicker Jacksonville Mike Hollis’s 45-yard field-goal attempt clipped the right upright and bounced through to break a 27-27 tie.

By that time, however, Bills quarterback Jim Kelly had been knocked out of the game on a hard hit by Jaguars safety Chris Hudson, and fumbled the ball.  Dazed and concussed — not even realizing he had fumbled — Kelly was carted to the locker room.  The 36-year old quarterback never played another down. Todd Collins came off the bench trying to salvage the Bills’ hopes, but fell short.  The Bills made the playoffs in ’98 and ’99 and then again yesterday.<

Back then — and still today — the D & C graded the game.  In ’96, the post mortem went to Leo Roth who still covers the Bills. Leo gave six C’s, one C-, and two D’s.  Jim Kelly “left in a daze in which he seemed to be much of the season.” Andre Reed was a “virtual no show.”  An ailing Thurman Thomas ” wasn’t up to the challenge.”  Bruce Smith was “flat out beaten by Boselli.”

Democrat and Chronicle, 29 Dec 1996, Sun, Metro, Page 42

Democrat and Chronicle, 29 Dec 1996, Sun, Metro, Page 42

Democrat and Chronicle, 29 Dec 1996, Sun, Region, P8

Caption: Leap to glory Jacksonville’s Natrone Means dives away from Buffalo’s Matt Stevens to score for a 17-14 lead. Democrat and Chronicle, 29 Dec 1996, Sun, Region, P8

In late December, 1996, while most of you were freezing in western New York, I watched the game in paradise.  I was vacationing in Puerto Rico, mostly on the nearly pristine island of Vieques, masquerading as a civilization dropout and beach bum.

san Juan-page0001

Life was good in late December, 1996. (left) Old San Juan; (right) Navio Beach in Vieques


Bananas. Vieques, Puerto Rico where I watched the game.

hat-in-hand CROPPED

The 17 year drought took its toll. Remember to give the gift that keeps giving. From Help Talker fill its empty hat

After swimming and playing Frisbee on the pure white sand of Navio Beach uncluttered by tourists, I sauntered into Bananas that had a satellite dish.  When Hollis’ field goal ticked the goal post and took a Jaguar bounce, I grew restless.  Kelly once said, “The game is played with pain,” but when he was carted off, I knew all the shots of the painkiller Toradol (“Vitamin T” to players) weren’t bringing Jim back.  Collins tried to rally — and the Jills cheered him on — but Todd fumbled on his own 30 and Brunell kneeled down for the win.

But life was good in 1996. I forget about the game as soon as it was over — there would be more playoff games — as I had hacer el amor on my mind.

Life has been tough for Bills fans since 1999 as it has been for Talker. Both of us — until yesterday — have been down on our luck and will take whatever we can get.  Remember to give the gift that keeps giving.

UPDATE: The Jills ball as talisman thwarted; the curse is back.


The Jills ball as talisman thwarted; the curse is back.

Vivid memories of the four year Super Bowl run

ESPN’s “Four Falls of Buffalo” and “Vivid memories of the four year Super Bowl run” and still jilted by the Bills

“Bring back the Jills:” Cheerleaders deserve their stage

No Jills; no playoffs for the Bills

Remembering how gory were the glory days

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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