They're Baaack…

By Arthur Page

Release Date: January 24, 1994 This content is archived.


Who better to offer some perspective on Super Bowl XXVIII and its outcome than three professors from the University at Buffalo, hometown university of the Buffalo Bills? Here are some opinions from sports historian Norman Baker, psychologist Michael Raulin and sociologist Lionel Lewis.

The fact that the Buffalo Bills' place in sports history rests not on the fact that the team is going to an unprecedented fourth Super Bowl but whether it wins Sunday's game is tied to a uniquely American notion that "unless you're No. 1, you're no good," according to Norman Baker, Ph.D., sports historian at the University at Buffalo. "This is part of a North American sporting 'problem,' the notion that there has to be a winner, that unless you're No. 1 you're no good. In many countries, if two teams play evenly or to a draw or tie, it's satisfactory. But for Americans it's not. There is an overemphasis on winning."

Baker, UB history professor, said steroid use among athletes and the recent attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan demonstrate the extremes to which individuals will resort because of the emphasis on winning. The obsession is also reflected in the attitudes of fans. '"The reality and the unreality have become so mixed up that the unreality, the sports world, for many people becomes more important, more real than the real world. They invest more emotion, self-image, more sense of themselves in the sports world than the real world."

Baker may be reached by reporters in his office, 716-645-2181, extension 567, or 716-645-2245; or at home, 716-832-5983.

Michael Raulin, clinical associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, says it appears to him that with the Buffalo Bills' win in the AFC championship game, Buffalonians "are kind of taking an almost illicit pleasure in aggravating the rest of the nation." Referring to the banner unfurled by fans at the end of the game that proclaimed "We're Back: Deal With It America", he added: "Every single person I have talked to has seen that sign and immediately resonated to it. Almost everybody knows we're not supposed to go back to the Super Bowl. We're sort of an embarrassment if we're in the game. That doesn't seem to bother Buffalonians very much.

"I think the Bills are a good icon for Buffalo. They've been enormously successful, have come back from disastrous seasons, do it year after year and don't seem to get any respect for it."

Raulin was present in Rich Stadium for Sunday's win against the Kansas City Chiefs. "People were joking about how much fun it was to upset the rest of the country and go back to the Super Bowl. It's nice to stand up to the rest of the country and show them that the city didn't fold and that our football team didn't fold."

Raulin may be reached by reporters in his office, 716-645-3697.

The Buffalo Bills can go from a three-time Super Bowl loser to a football dynasty overnight if the team upsets the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII, according to Lionel S. Lewis, professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo.

Lewis said the "labeling theory" of sociology is reflected in the fact that although the Buffalo Bills have been "the most successful team in the country in the last four years as reflected in their four consecutive Super-Bowl appearances," they have been labeled "losers." A win Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys could lead to an overnight shift in popular opinion, he added. "The 'loser' label will evaporate overnight and the Buffalo Bills of the last four years will be considered a dynasty."

Lewis said the Buffalo Bills have utilized a "siege mentality" -- as reflected in quarterback Jim Kelly's comment of "We're baaack" to the national television audience at the end of Sunday's AFC championship -- to return to their fourth consecutive Super Bowl. "If Marv Levy and his coaching staff can continue convincing the Bills that no one wants them to win, that they are the outsiders, the downtrodden, that may be the extra incentive they need to win the Super Bowl."

Lewis may be reached by reporters in his office, 716-645-2417, or at home, 716-634-6770.