All posts by Phil Mann

This week at McFadden’s: 2013 Game 2


SNAP IMPRESSION: Do you believe in miracles? What a game – and especially what a game to watch during our Sally Kabel fundraiser. Mario Williams had an incredible statistical day, despite one horribly stupid penalty that could have cost us the game. CJ and Freddie (as a receiver!) were strong, and Kiko Alonso is lots of fun to watch. And then, of course, there’s EJ – leading the first of what I hope will be several comebacks (although it’d be nice to win a no-doubter every so often). Even when we had only six points, I thought he was playing well. And, speaking of six points – Carpenter kicks a 55-yarder and an ugly 48-yarder after missing a 42-yarder? I’ll take it. Between the fundraiser and the game, I think this was my favorite McFadden’s moment ever. Unlike the Pats victory, no cops were involved.

On to our Fan of the Week…

Meet Dan Farr – A resident of Stanford who works in Greenwich, in finance. But, despite where he lives and works, this is no Giants or New England fan. He’s a proud UB grad, and grew up in Elmira, NY, in a family of Bills fans (being a Bills fan was “a family thing,” he says.) He proved his Bills cred by working at a Ralph concession stand during his UB years – giving him a chance to see the games even when he didn’t hold a ticket. He’s been coming to McFadden’s for several years, and this week believes he saw EJ Manual “become a man” with the comeback he led.

Beyond being a Bills fan, Dan’s lucky (not to mention generous) – which is why he’s holding the grand prize from our Sally Kabel fundraiser: a signed Jim Kelly photo donated by Hunter’s Hope. Dan had never met Matt Kabel before, but has followed him on Twitter for two years, and also follows the Kabel family’s blog about their journey with Sally,

A big thank you to everyone who contributed to the fundraiser. I know the Kabel family appreciates it beyond what they can express.

This week at McFadden’s: 2013 Game 1



Welcome back, Bills masochists fans. There’s so much out there on the web about the Bills that I’m now devoting this column to resurrecting Fan of the Week – a chance to get inside info, the dirt, about the people we watch games with.

I’ll kick off each column with a quick “Snap Impression” – my top-line takeaway on the latest game.

SNAP IMPRESSION: The more things change….Look, there are no moral victories. But, I thought EJ was really good. So were the Jell-O shots provided by NYCBBBer Alex Valentine. The penalties and run-defense…not so much. But, EJ, CJ and Fred Jackson give me hope against the Panthers next week.

On to our Fan of the Week…

The fine young man pictured above was the youngest fan in attendance this past week – seven-year-old Thomas Kabel: son of Nicole and Matt, brother to William and Sally. Thomas bravely marked his near-debut at McFadden’s in a week-one Pats game (he attended a game when much younger, which he doesn’t remember.)

I’ll admit that the noise level of McFadden’s – and the allure of a nearby iPad – made interviewing Thomas for this column kind of a non-starter. But, come the second half, Thomas was clapping along to Shout!, high-fiving and having a blast whenever he took a break from his apparent goal of sampling nearly every food item on the McFadden’s menu.

He did answer one question for me, though:

“Hey, Thomas, what’s your favorite part about being here?”


Good answer. King Kabel might have a future NYCBBB leader in the making. I look forward to being his 70-year-old loyal subject one day.

On a side note, let me put in another plug for our Sally Kabel fundraiser during next week’s game. More info on the way, but there’ll be plenty of prize opportunities.

This Week at NYCBBB: 2012 Week 16

Another Bills season nearly come and gone and what have we learned? This past week, I learned that watching the Bills while recovering from a bout of stomach flu is redundant – the nausea and malaise induced by the two are nearly identical…but, at least I knew the stomach bug symptoms would be gone in a few hours. The Bills, on the other hand, are the gift that keeps on giving.

And speaking of gifts, my travels and subsequent sickness prevented me from submitting this now-dated column before Christmas, but the sentiments remain. Inspired by the long history of Jews before me who wrote Christmas songs, I offer The 12 Days of a Bills Fan’s Christmas. In the interest of time and space, I consolidate the 12 days into one, final verse:

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Ralph Wilson sent to me
Twelve more touches for C.J.,
Eleven defenders defending,
Ten more yards on Lindell’s leg,
Nine new coaches,
Eight guys with Eric Wood’s attitude
Seven sold out years at the Ralph,
Six division victories,
Five meaningful games after week 13….
Four injury-free offensive linesmen,
Three strong receivers,
Two fewer Toronto games,
And a QB who doesn’t make the Big Mistake!

This Week at NYCBBB: 2012 Week 14

10-year old: “Daddy, did you notice that whenever you decide to wear Bills stuff, they lose?”

Me: “Sweetie, they lose no matter what I wear.”

I toyed with a lot of directions for this column, but as we approach the final three weeks of the season, those of you still paying attention know the drill. The same as last December, the December before that, and so on…to paraphrase Green Day, wake me when December ends. Or, to paraphrase our staff photographer Mike Coniairis, in reaction to the Bills appearing on a foolish “In The Hunt” playoff graphic this past week, I feel comfortable making other plans for January.

The Rams game, to me, epitomized the sad story of our beloved franchise over the past decade: poor, often questionable choices and, despite the talent that exists on this roster, the critical mistake — or, lack of execution — at the critical time.

As a one-time defender of Coach Gailey, I’ve got to point to the sequence that bothered me most: the strategic choices and clock management in the final seconds of the first half.

Look, I’m not going to hang a coach – or player – out to dry for one mistake, or even one game. But, to me, this sequence embodied why the Bills (once again!) need to fundamentally re-think how this team is run (and, speaking of “run”…well, more on that in a moment.)

#1: the conservatism of the play-calling at the end of the half dumbfounded me. It’s clear that seriously going for a touch down wasn’t part of the plan. Buffalo had all of its timeouts with a little over a minute on the clock. They faced a 3rd-and-9 situation just outside of the Rams’ 20, but used a timeout with nine seconds remaining to go for a field goal.

OK, fine. But, two questions: 1) Why not take a shot at the end zone? Lack of faith? And, 2) Why not let the clock run down to three seconds? With nine seconds remaining, the Bills still had to kick off, giving the Rams a puncher’s chance at making something happen.

Not that a Jeff Fisher-coached team ever ran back a Bills’ kick in the waning seconds.

This brings us to #2: the remarkable under-utilization of CJ Spiller.

You know, I’ll let someone else say it for me. Watch this whole video at your own peril: I suspect 90 seconds is plenty. I’m not as much of a purist as this guy, but he makes the general point for me.

And, by the way, I apologize if the song parodied here is already out of style by the time you hear this:

I fear my semi-annual “Who will be the next Bills’ coach?” column is forthcoming. Somewhere, Jim Haslett, our Future-Coach-For-Life, is paying attention to what’s happening in Orchard Park.

So, here’s the good news: McFadden’s and Calico Jack’s were pretty crowded, and will be open for business for the duration. See you on Sunday!

This Week at NYCBBB: 2012 Week 9

It’s hard to see people you care about suffer – without power and feeling helpless.

But I’ll get to the Bills in a moment.

Seriously, I hope you all came out of Hurricane Sandy and the follow up storm healthy and with no, or minimal, property damage. I know it’s been rough for a lot of people.

Luckily, or not, we have the diversion of football.

The Bills are 3-5 at the midway point. A run down of the midway points of the prior five seasons:

2011: 5-3 (final record: 6-10)
2010: 0-8 (4-12)
2009: 3-5 (6-10)
2008: 5-2 (7-9)
2007 4-4 (7-9)

Are you familiar with the phrase, “water seeks its own level?” Regardless of how they get there, the Bills inevitably level out at mediocrity: whether that means a strong second half to reach 6-10 (last year), a poor second half to finish below .500 when the playoffs appeared possible (2008), or even going .500 in the second half to remove some of the sting of an 0-8 start (2010).

Never good enough to make the playoffs; never bad enough to draft the elite QB. No Andrew Luck. Just Bad Luck. Even when the team went 4-12, there were three worse teams.

But this year was going to be different, right? The defense, coupled with a good-enough, run-oriented offense and good special teams, was going to give us that second wild card team birth we’ve all prayed for (you know you’re a Bills fan when even your most craven football fantasies involve second wild card status.)

In reality, the Bills have very clearly shown us what they are: generally able to compete against poor and middling teams (the Browns, Chiefs and Titans, for example) and generally unable to compete against the elite or arguably elite (the Pats, 49ers and even the Titans, to name three – although the Titans game was more uninspired than it was embarrassing.) The opener against the Jets was probably the only game not true to form.

So, what happens from here? Six predictions, rooted in football knowledge that’s probably no better than yours, and in many cases lesser than yours:

  • The second half schedule is pretty hard to call, but I envision another headlong rush to a just-below-.500 record. The team may still appear on the bottom of the networks’ playoff scenario charts in early December, but just for giggles. If your High Def settings aren’t working right, we’ll be cut off from the bottom of your screen.
  • Unlike many other Bills fans I know, I’ve often wondered how the team would come to terms with eventually firing Chan Gailey. He struck me as too competent to give you a real reason; the time would simply come for a change. I suspect that time will come in January, and for good reason. And this time, the team will go for the hot assistant or young college coach. Unless Marty Schottenheimer or Rich Kotite are available. I’m actually not sure we’ll change Nix as the GM, though.
  • Remember Fear the Beard? The next facial-hair chant will be Trash the Stache. I see no way that Dave Wannstedt survives this. At least he probably doesn’t hear the boos as loudly in the box as he would on the field. Unfortunately, his players, in turn, don’t seem to hear HIM. Or maybe they do – and that’s the real problem.
  • There will be intense fan pressure to finally – for real this time – find a top-notch QB, probably through the draft. The problem is, the Bills’ mediocrity doesn’t typically put them in position to draft the “can’t miss QB.” For them, the Losmans are still on the board. They’ll have to find a way this time: I love Fitz, but never, ever saw him as a playoff-caliber starter. He’s the great backup everyone wants. As a starter, at some point he makes the Big Mistake nearly every game, and his ability to go deep comes into greater question by the week.
  • There’ll be lots of debate about our running backs – two of our best and most popular players, and for good reason. I’d love to keep them both and maybe the Bills will. But, if one goes I suspect it’ll be Fred.
  • I hate to say it, but Ralph is less and less visible these days. The Bills’ future will become an even hotter topic this off season, I suspect, as people question how much longer the Wilson family will be involved: a reasonable question when the owner is in his 90s, regardless of how visible he is.

Hope to see everyone at McFadden’s and Calico Jack’s this week? One thing we’ve proven after all of these years is that the group can still have fun even when the team isn’t.

This Week at NYCBBB: 2012 Week 7

Perhaps influenced by the election season, this past Sunday I couldn’t help but think of the late humorist Will Rogers, who once remarked, “I am not a member of any organized political party; I am a Democrat.” Similarly, I must confess to those who meet me for the first time, “I am not a fan of any organized professional football team; I am a Bills fan.” Unlike Democrats who generally take Republican abuse for their allegiance, I typically elicit reactions ranging from bewilderment to outright pity.

Also similar to politics, where more often than not we’re casting our votes “against the other guy,” Bills fans consistently struggle with who to disdain most at any given moment: Immediately after last week’s game, Matt Kabel texted to ask who he should be maddest at: Chan Gailey, Dave Wannstedt or Ryan Fitzpatrick. He didn’t even mention the matadors posing as a defense.

My gut response was Gailey, for playing ringleader to this band of scary men, punctuated by some bizarre play-calling at the most inopportune moments (a Brad Smith throw to the end zone? Really?) Wannstedt, I figured, had already proven we should consider anything under 30 points allowed to be a moral victory. And Fitz…well, Fitz is Fitz. That’s what he does.

But then I realized this isn’t politics. We don’t need to make our choice. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Hillary Clinton noted it takes a village. Likewise, the construction of a uniquely frustrating football team requires the efforts of more than one man. This is a team effort.

All of that said, the Bills were (tie-breakers aside) actually tied for first place entering this game. And tied for last place as well, for you glass-half-empty types.

Football fans tend to over-emphasize the importance of individual games, but I really did see the Tennessee game as pivotal. The team has generally proven itself as incapable of competing against the elite or supposed elite (New England, San Francisco). Yet, it also proved itself capable of playing competitively against the decidedly not elite (Cleveland, Kansas City). Scrape together enough of those sorts of victories, and perhaps against all odds you can sneak into the playoffs as the low-seed wildcard.

The Titans, at home, are a team they have to beat for even that most modest of goals to be a possibility. The team proved itself two points short of that this past Sunday, which is probably fitting. The Bills aren’t bags-over-the-head bad; they’re not we-get-to-draft-the-top-quarterback bad; they’re just not good enough, and still find new ways to snatch defeat from victory.

And now it’s the bye week. I can’t help but wonder who we’ll be saying “bye” to by the time the season ends. Yes, things can improve, but as of now I’ve got to believe that Gailey, Wannstedt and Fitz (as a starter) are all vulnerable. Naively, I always wondered how the team would eventually find a way to fire Gailey, who just reeks of sober competence, and would appear to be the right guy to incorporate his two outstanding running backs into the game plan. Ironically, I believe he did that this past Sunday better than he ever has; ultimately, that wasn’t enough.

This Week at NYCBBB: 2012 Week 1

I can’t believe I had to throw out my whole column proclaiming the Era of Vince Young. Guess it’s time for Plan B.

For older Bills fans like me, the Dolphins long personified “the enemy.” If you’re reading this, you probably know why: the losing streak. Dan Marino. Brian Cox.

Over the course of time, as both the Fish and Bills began wearing mediocrity like an old, comfortable sweater, many Bills fans turned their animosity toward the Pats. Again, if you’re reading this, you know why: Tom Brady. The Hoodie. Spy Gate. And maybe the Super Bowls.

But, for me – and for so many of the hundreds and hundreds of New Yorkers who keep McFadden’s and Calico Jack’s bursting at capacity – the Jets are now the Baby Ruth in the NFL’s swimming pool; not as scary as they appear to be on the surface, but pretty vulgar just the same. Again, you know why: the fans. Rex Ryan. The fans. Even Mark Sanchez, who probably wouldn’t register on the radar of most Bills fans if he played in Houston, Baltimore or San Diego, is a source of derision. He’s dating Eva Longoria. If he played in Jacksonville he’d be dating a second shift waitress from the local Denny’s.

The real reason so many Bills fans dislike the Jets, of course, is their proximity. We have to live, work and breath the same air as Jets fans. That makes it personal.

And that, in turn, makes it so remarkable – and simultaneously exciting and irritating – that our team opens the season against the Jets, right in the heart of northern New Jersey.

But it goes beyond that. There are two other reasons this is such a big deal for NY Bills fans: we’re taking over a block of seats that’s 500-strong (thanks, ironically, to the Jets, who kindly offered to sell us those seats), and…

No, I can’t say it.

OK, I’ll suck it up.

And because we sort of think the Bills might actually be good this year. We believe they may be good enough to possibly, maybe make the playoffs, even with a QB that only makes us forget Edwards and Losman because they weren’t worth remembering to begin with. A belief which will be tested immediately in a road game against the Jets – a team that performed so badly in the pre-season that they actually need to win this game.

This will either be the best or worst possible start to a season.

Either way, it’s great to be back for another season at McFadden’s and Calico Jack’s. The NYCBBB is bigger than ever, and I’m willing to bet there will be no place more crowded on Sundays over the next few months than Second Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets.

A View from McFadden’s – 11/13/11

“You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” – Lou Holtz

At least David Nelson scored points with his cheerleader girlfriend. Then again, he did get her booed. Maybe Jerry Jones will fire her.

Is it possible for a mid-November game against the Dolphins to be a “must win?”

I believe so – unless you subscribe to the theory that the only must-win games are those in which a loss results in elimination.

This season’s been a blast for Bills fans, but let’s face it; this week, the team looked as bad as the 44-7 score, and the game against the Jets the prior week wasn’t as close as the 27-11 score would indicate.

Maybe teams are catching up to the Bills’ schemes (those short passes don’t seem to be gaining 10 yards at a clip anymore; they seem to be gaining two or three.) Or, maybe an overall lack of talent is becoming more apparent – and damaging – on both sides of the ball.

Regardless, at 5-4, our worldview isn’t as rosy as it once was. To be honest, I’d be stunned if many of us are actually surprised this has happened. Which doesn’t make it any more pleasant to confront.

Which brings me back to the premise of a mid-November “must win” on the road against the Fish.

Let’s figure the Bills need 10 victories to potentially contend for a playoff spot. The team still has to face the Pats and the Jets again, on the road. They also need to face the Chargers on the road – which won’t be easy regardless of the Chargers’ recent struggles.

The Bills need to do a lot of things better – quickly – and among those things is beating the Dolphins twice, beginning this coming Sunday. Two victories over the Fish, combined with December home wins over the Broncos and Titans, would take Buffalo to nine wins.

One step at a time, though. First, they need to win in Miami.

See you at the bars!

A View from McFadden’s – 10/9/11

“Vote,” blared the headline this past August: “What city is the sports capital of the world, Philadelphia or Boston?”

Ignoring, for the moment, whether most of “world” cares about American sports teams, the entire premise of the question requires rethinking.

Boston? It’s had a great run, but the Red Sox’ monumental collapse probably precludes choosing them – and then, of course, there was the Bills’ tremendous, Brady-shaking victory over the Pats a couple of weeks ago (four interceptions. Remember?)

OK, so I guess the choice is Philly, by TKO (technical knockout – nothing involving Takeo Spikes). But, wait, the Phillies – bandied about just a few weeks ago as perhaps an all-time great team, were eliminated in the first round of the MLB playoffs! And then this past Sunday, yet another QB – Michael Vick – also threw a personal all-time high four interceptions as the Bills’ defense dogged him all day (couldn’t resist) – or, at least in the first half. Had the poor guy chasing his own tail (sorry again).  Bills 31, Eagles 24.

On another note, did anyone catch the Sabres carving a path – through Europe! – to begin its season 2-0?

Welcome to Buffalo – the sports capital of the world!

OK, maybe a little premature. But, we’ve got to feel a lot better than we did a year ago, as the Bills were on route to an 0-8 start.

Remarkably, but not surprisingly, nearly every mainstream media headline I’ve seen refers to the Eagles losing rather than to the Bills winning. My favorite: “After loss to Bills, time to admit the Eagles just aren’t that good.” As if losing to the Bills is, by definition, a clear sign that your team is in a downward spiral.

As usual, the Bills likely drove fans to the medicine or liquor cabinets. Or both. The week one blowout of the Chiefs aside, every game’s been a nail biter, with the Bills either rallying or allowing the other team to rally.

There are a lot of things to savor about this one:

  • Fred Jackson’s performance…once again. He should at least be a small part of the MVP conversation (although I’m convinced Peyton Manning is proving himself as the true, perennial MVP – it’s unbelievable what the Colts are like without him)
  • The (re) emergence of the Ralph as a place where opposing teams shouldn’t want to play
  • Donald Jones’ perfect receiving day. We’ll conveniently omit the part about him leaving injured after two receptions
  • The team once again won a game it certainly would have lost last year

Yet, at the risk of being a total buzz kill, there are clearly concerns:

  • Without Fred Jackson, I don’t know what yesterday would have looked like
  • The Amish Rifle has been mediocre for much of the past two weeks
  • For most of the second half, both our offense and defense seemed overmatched. I’d swear we were seeing flashbacks to Edwards/Jauron

There’s got to be plenty of game film here for the Giants and future opponents to exploit. We need to count on the Bills to recalibrate.

But, meanwhile…pre-season, who would have thought the Bills would be 4-1 coming to New Jersey to play the Giants? Here’s hoping you all enjoy next week’s game, either at McFadden’s/Calico Jack’s or at whatever the Giants call their stadium these days.

A View from McFadden’s – 10/2/11

Where are they now?

A rough (and deserved) loss last week. No time to dwell on that, however: the Eagles are 1-3 and will be desperate for a win. After that, the Bills face a very tough stretch of the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys, with the traditionally early bye week wedged in.

At least the schedule actually matters this year.

We all know how long it’s been since the Bills played meaningful October football. A lot of players, and managers, have come and gone through the leans years. Ah, memories. Makes me wonder where some of them are now.

Well, rather than focus on the Bengals game, let’s play a little “Where are they now?” with some of the Bills’ brilliant, recent standouts.

Trent Edwards: cut by the Raiders at the end of training camp; currently a free agent.

JP Losman: starting QB for the 2009 United Football League (UFL) champion Las Vegas Locomotives, he is currently a free agent.

Gibran Hamdan: this former 3rd string QB and first NFLer of Pakistani descent, Hamdan retired from the Canadian Football League last year – and this year launched the roll-off-your-tongue clothing line, Alial Fital (

Shaud Williams: my NYCBBB colleague Kevin Smith’s favorite former Bills RB now plays that position for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL.

Travis Henry: Going back in time a bit…our former star RB is serving a three year sentence in federal prison for financing a cocaine trafficking operation. And that’s probably the best thing he’s been involved in since leaving us.

Coy Wire: one of the few part Asian American football players, this forebearer to Ed Wang is currently a free agent.

Ko Simpson: Another stellar find of an old regime, Simpson’s also a free agent. In 2009. He was arrested in South Carolina for hindering police while they attempted to break up an unruly crowd (this wasn’t at McFadden’s). Simpson reportedly told the police, “I’m Ko Simpson with the Buffalo Bills. I am worth millions!” If that didn’t work for OJ Simpson, it ain’t working for Ko Simpson.

Josh Reed: I liked this guy. But, after signing a one-year deal with the Chargers last year, the wide receiver was cut and is currently a free agent. I’m beginning to think “free agent” is a euphemism for “involuntarily retired.”

John McCargo: Oh, John McCargo. Drafted far higher than anyone else thought he would (or should) be, the DT did nothing for Buffalo before signing with Tampa Bay, which waived him last month. He currently resides in free agent land.

Aaron Maybin: Congratulations are due to every Bills fans’ favorite top draft pick, who registered his first career sack in this past week’s Jets loss to the Ravens. This came after resigning with the Jets last week (they had waived him in early September.)

Our current roster’s looking better all the time.