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Homecoming season for a Bills fan 

The last four falls, I've been a Bills fan in exile on the peninsula of Portland, Maine. That's deep in Patriots country, enemy territory.

            Surrounded by Patsies, I'd take refuge in sports bars to watch Buffalo play via satellite. I had to arrive well before kickoff to stake out a stool near the one TV in 10 showing the game.

            I wasn't competing for seats against Patriots fans. They were all at home, sitting on couches, watching the Patriots-partial local stations and practicing witchcraft, or whatever they do.

            I was angling for position among what would become, as the season progressed, a familiar crew of football refugees --- Steelers fans, Raiders fans, a confused kid who liked Carolina, and a few of those ubiquitous assholes who love the Cowboys. There was one other Bills fan there, but he didn't talk much. He had the air of a man defeated.

            Spot secured, I'd start pounding PBRs (as close to my beloved Genny Light as I could get) and eviscerating second-rate chicken wings in frustration. I can't tell you how many times I watched the tiny football leave Rob Johnson's hand, bounce off a panel in outer space, and fall to the ground, incomplete.

            The experience often brought thoughts of Frederick Exley, author of the autobiographical novel, A Fan's Notes: a schoolteacher on a bender in a Watertown bar, raving for Gifford and his Giants. I was a journalist with a beer buzz, muttering curses against our foes, like Bledsoe.

            (By the way, am I the only one around here who suspects this guy is a secret agent the Patriots pawned off on us to sabotage our season? If a few conspicuous Bledsoe interceptions keep us a game behind New England this year, don't say I didn't warn you.)

            Like Exley, I squandered a lot of emotional capital on the outcome of the games. If the Bills won, I felt hopeful, even heroic, strolling home up Munjoy Hill in the golden autumn afternoon. But if they lost, I was a loser, a bum trudging up the sidewalk stinking of cigarettes and cheap beer. I'd reproach myself for having wasted a fine Sunday staring at a bunch of rich jocks who'd have kicked my ass in high school, given the chance.

            Why did I waste my time in places like Asylum, a particularly soulless sports bar that raffled off Bud Light T-shirts during the games?

            I'd like to think I had better things to do, like the stuff listed in this fall guide. I could have been picking apples, or picking out a pumpkin, or riding around country roads, lounging on a bed of hay in the back of a pickup truck, looking at leaves.

            But it wasn't so much what I could have done as what I used to do that drew me back week after anxious week.

            It was memories of slouching in the bean bag by the fireplace of my folks' old house in Fairport. The wood would crackle, the popcorn would pop, and Joe Ferguson took the snaps. It was an era of low expectations, embodied by a grammatically challenged slogan: "We're talking proud!" ("We play pretty one day!")

            But it was also the memory of the time my buddy Giz and I watched the big wild card comeback against the Oilers at MacGregor's in Perinton. The whole bar became one, as Frank "The Second" Reich pulled it off. We were rowdy with joy. There were countless high fives. I hugged a neighbor whose grass I used to mow.

            And it was the memory of Rochester itself, which the Bills' season brought to mind as strongly as the smell of chimney smoke in thin air.

            It's great to be back in Bills Country, looking forward to a fall surrounded by my fellow fans. I don't suppose I'll spend many Sundays in sports bars, unless the home-game blackout inspires a road trip to Toronto. I'll leave that scene to the football refugee community here, and practice my witchcraft in the privacy of my own home.

In This Guide...

  • Music, theater, and art: a season of celebration

    It seems entirely appropriate that the publication date of City's Fall Guide this year is September 11. In this annual issue, our writers preview the season in music, theater, art, performances, exhibitions, and literature.

  • An upstate autumn: eating what you kill

    Credit: Kurt Brownell Text: At a recent lunch, the subject of venison came up, with one friend saying how awful he always finds it.

  • Television: Reality is dead; cops, docs, and lawyers live on

    With 32 new shows set to kick off in the next couple of months, City thought you might require some sort of guide to help you separate the wheat from the chaff.             Otherwise, how would you be able to tell the difference between Do Over (WB, 8:30 p.m.

  • Headline: Movies: Great expectations, after summer's best

    p> Credit:

  • Movies: A harvest of remakes, sequels, and series

    As all students of the contemporary cinema know, and most reviewers tediously reiterate, the change of seasons from summer to fall should also signal a transformation in the variety of entertainment flickering in the multiple tense darknesses of the megaplexes.             Accepted wisdom preaches that with the kids back in school and the weather turning cooler, and perhaps freed somewhat from the desperate need to release some new spectacular every week, Hollywood will serve up heartier fare than the usual kiddie cartoons, raunchy comedies, exploding blockbusters, horror films, science fiction, cop thrillers and of course, assorted teenpix.

  • Festivals

    Agricultural Society Fair, Genesee Country Nature Center, 1410 Flint Hill Rd, Mumford (538-6822, A country fair, 19th-century style, with food, livestock and crafts. Oct. 5-6.

  • Art

    Local 1570 Gallery, Valley Manor, 1570 East Avenue (442-8470): "Art for the Soul," with work by Eve Bothelho, Coral Dalton, M. Wendy Gwirtzman, Raphaella McCormack; opening reception, 6-8 p.m.

  • Literature and lectures

    30th Annual Rochester Book Fair, benefits the University of Rochester Libraries: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 21, the Student Life Center, St. John Fisher College, 3690 East Avenue.

  • Theater

    Blackfriars Theatre, 28 Lawn St (454-1260; Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, Oct. 5-26. Dirty Blonde, Dec. 7-29, with performances Dec. 31.

  • Classical music

    Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Text: Philharmonic Series(454-2100): All concerts at 8 p.m. in Eastman Theatre; pre-concert chats at 7 p.m.

  • Families and museums

    Text: Center at High Falls, 60 Browns Race (325-2030): Historic district, touring and learning center with orientation to Rochester for groups. Attractions: Original Mill Raceway, Archaeology Site & Giant Waterwheel,"Laser, Light & Fireworks Spectacular!" offered weekends through mid-October, holidays.

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