Buffalo-Boston. Sports History for $200.
What have we got?
How about the beloved C. Montgomery Burns/Jeremy Jacobs owning the Bruins and running Boston’s vaunted hockey franchise from Buffalo since 1975?
How about scoring-machine Bob McAdoo and NBA rookie of the year Ernie DiGregorio leading the Buffalo Braves against the John Havlicek-Dave Cowens-Jo Jo White Celtics in the first round of the 1974 playoffs? It took the Celtics six games to beat the Braves. Tommy Heinsohn’s championship-bound Celts had to go through Buffalo again in 1976. Two years later, there was a complicated NBA ownership/franchise swap where the Celtics stayed put and the Buffalo Braves moved to San Diego.
How about when the Buffalo Sabres and the French Connection line played vs. Bobby Orr and the Big Bad Bruins in the early 1970s? Anybody remember the Terry O’Reilly-coached Bruins beating Buffalo in a six-game set en route to the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 1988?
Didn’t think so.
How about War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo? It was the original home of the Bills and also is where Robert Redford and Co. shot “The Natural.’’ That should count for something. The Boston Patriots played the Buffalo Bills at War Memorial in the summer of 1960; the first (exhibition) game in the history of the upstart American Football League. Journalist/screenwriter Brock Yates wrote that War Memorial Stadium looked “as if whatever war it was a memorial to have been fought within its confines.’’
The first Patriots coach was Lou Saban (who may or may not be a second cousin of Bill Belichick disciple Nick Saban), who later coached the Bills for four seasons. The Patriots first draft pick was running back Ron Burton — dad of Channel 4′s Steve Burton.
In December of 1964, the 10-2-1 Patriots lost their season finale to the Bills and got knocked out of the playoffs. The game was played at Fenway Park and angry Pats fans pelted both teams with snowballs in the fourth quarter.
In 1998, Buffalo had Doug Flutie and Flutie Flakes.
In the 21st century of Patriot dominance, Buffalo is where New England receiver David Patten was KO’d and fumbled on a sideline play that was somehow not ruled a fumble because the ball was in contact with part of Patten’s body as he lay unconscious across the sideline. In 2003, Buffalo had Drew Bledsoe and a 31-0 Bills victory over the Bill Belichick Patriots . . . the same week Lawyer Milloy was cut by the Patriots and signed by the Bills.
Buffalo is where the names of Fred Smerlas, Jack Kemp and O.J. Simpson adorn the home team’s wall of fame.
And Buffalo gave us homeboy Rob Gronkowski, who routinely torched the Bills.
The Patriots and Bills have faced one another 125 times. But only twice in the playoffs.
The Pats beat the Bills in a playoff game a month after President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The win vaulted the Pats into the AFL championship, where they were beaten by the Chargers, 51-10.
Fifty-eight years later . . . in bitter cold near Niagara (Frostbite) Falls Saturday night . . . the Patriots and Bills played their second playoff game. It was their third meeting in the last 41 days.
We all know what happened in the first two jousts. On Dec. 6, the Patriots beat Buffalo, 14-10, in a crossfire hurricane on “Monday Night Football.” It was the Patriots’ seventh consecutive win and vaulted them into the top spot in the AFC (remember those good old days?). New England’s rookie quarterback Mac Jones threw three passes in the game, completing two for 19 yards. The Patriots ran off 33 consecutive running plays and Belichick’s defense neutralized Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
Twenty days later, Allen came back with a vengeance, throwing for 314 yards and running for another 64, in a 33-21 manhandling of New England one day after Christmas at Gillette Stadium.
Wild-card weekend gave us the rubber match. In freezing cold. The second Bills’ home playoff game of the last quarter-century. The Ali-Frazier III of the 2021-22 AFC East.