The Buffalo Bills in the Playoffs Takes Me Back to the ’90s

Scott Norwood

They made their fans sweat it out, but the Buffalo Bills are in the playoffs again this year with the Jacksonville Jaguars loss this weekend. Their season hasn’t been pretty, but they’re in pretty good form right now and can make a run at the Super Bowl with a little luck.

Whether they achieve that goal or not, just seeing the Bills back in contention for a Superbowl berth takes me straight back to the ’90s. Back then, the Bills being in the playoffs and having exciting moments went together like peanut butter and jelly. Like back in 1993 when they were a wildcard team and had to face the offensive powerhouse Houston Oilers.  And they had to do it without their starting quarterback Jim Kelly, their starting tailback Thurman Thomas, and one of their best linebackers, Cornelius Bennett.  At least they were getting to play in their home stadium if nothing else. 

My old man and I decided to watch the game that afternoon.  My Dad was just a casual football fan and rarely watched a game unless it was the Superbowl, and even then I think it was just because it was a national event, and not because he personally enjoyed it so much.  As for me, I was really getting into football at that point, and watched full games every week, and was excited about all the playoff matchups.  What we thought was going to be just an enjoyable playoff game, turned out to be one of the most exciting NFL games ever played, and featured the greatest comeback in NFL playoff history. 

At halftime, with the score being 35 – 3 in favor of the Houston Oilers, my Dad decided he had seen enough, and changed the channel to some western movie most likely.  Even though the game was a blowout, I decided I wanted to keep watching it and headed off to my bedroom to see the rest of it. 

As the Bills started their comeback and continued to rack up points, I tried to keep my Dad informed by yelling from the bedroom to the living room, “THE BILLS JUST GOT A TOUCHDOWN!  IT’S 35 – 10!”.  “THE BILLS GOT AN ONSIDE KICK!”.  “THE BILLS JUST GOT ANOTHER TOUCHDOWN!!!  IT’S 35- 17!!!”.  It wasn’t until they had come all the way back and took the lead that he became interested once again and changed the channel back to the game.  I rejoined him and we watched the closing moments of regulation where the Oilers tied the game with a field goal with just a few seconds left. 

But that was just a formality, as destiny was clearly on the side of the Buffalo Bills.  The defense picked off a Warren Moon pass that set up the winning field goal from Scott Christie to set the Bills on a course to the Superbowl and left the Houston Oilers on the wrong side of history.

Watch the highlights on YouTube

Now if you’re relatively new to the world of football, you may read that and think that maybe destiny will shine on the Bills again this year, but as Lee Corso would say, “NOT SO FAST”.  Because the Bills have also been on the wrong side of history in the playoffs before, and matter of fact, it was such a moment in NFL history that it earned a nickname..the Music City Miracle. 

Back in 1999, on a cold and snowy Saturday here in the Appalachian mountains, I took a ride with my brother to look for some carpeting for his house instead of just laying on the couch watching football all afternoon.  At the carpet outlet, they had a television set up and were watching the wildcard match-up between the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans.  The game was a low scoring affair, but I had a seat and focused on the game while my brother was doing his browsing and haggling with the salesman.  When he was ready to leave, the game was half-way through the 3rd quarter. 

We got back home, and I turned on the game, and he decided to sit and watch the end of it with me since it was a close game.  After just a few minutes, we watched the same Steve Christie kick what was thought to be the game-winner with just 18 seconds left to play, but this time, the Bills WERE NOT the Cinderella team.  The Tennessee Titans were as you’ll see in the clip below. 

So as the Bills enter the playoffs once again, I have to wonder if Lady Luck will shine on them this time, or will she be riding shotgun with their opponents?  One thing is for sure, with their history of dramatic playoff games, I’ll be tuning in, and I’m sure all those nostalgic memories of their games from the past will come flooding back again, and take me back to the ’90s once more. I’ll try to forget the one where Scott Norwood went wide right though. That was a heartbreaker right there.

Maybe I should call up my Dad and brother and see if they are up for watching one more Bills playoff game together.

The Christmas Eve Party

As I’m writing this, it’s 6:52 AM on Christmas Eve. I’ve got some spreading of Christmas cheer to do later this morning as I’m going to visit Dad, drop off a homemade cobbler to my brother, spend some time with Mom at the nursing home, make a stop at a store for a last-minute item, and drop in on a few friends for a few minutes along the way.

Running around on Christmas Eve is nothing new for me. When I was younger, I would tag along with my dad as he made his usual rounds on that day. He owned his own business, and back then, it seemed like all of his friends owned and operated their own businesses too. And since these were small businessmen, they were generally open on Christmas Eve as their livelihood depended on working as many days a year as possible.

But Dad would go around and visit each of them on Christmas Eve. I remember stopping by Popsicle Sweat’s used car lot, Billy Wayne’s auto part store, going to see Grey Preston at the local bank, stopping by Estel Venable’s gas station, and dropping in at the fire department, the rescue squad, and the police station as well. Some of my favorite memories of Christmas are these yearly trips around time spreading cheer.

Once all of that is done, it’s time to put the finishing touches on things for tonight’s Christmas party. We’ve got some family and friends coming over for what should be a very enjoyable evening/night. This too reminds me of one of my favorite parts of Christmas growing up…the family parties on Christmas Eve.

Growing up I had huge families on both my Mom’s side and my Dad’s. My Mom was one of eight children, and each of those 8 had a couple of kids. My Dad was one of fourteen! And each of those had multiple kids as well. I had tons of cousins and would see various ones of them throughout the year, but the family get-together on Christmas Eve meant that ALL of us would be together at one time. We ranged in ages from 7-17, so there wasn’t a huge disparity there.

On Christmas Eve, we would start by visiting my Mom’s family. It was always a simple dinner menu of Ham, some veggies, mac and cheese, and a plethora of desserts. The folks would sit around in the kitchen while all of us kids would be in the living room. We’d hoop and holler and go through the presents under the tree, waiting for one of the adults to come in and play Santa Claus. Usually, it was my Uncle Ernest who had a booming voice and was quite intimidating. He would walk in and get real loud, telling us all to get away from the tree or he wouldn’t be handing out anything. He’d then torture us by going through and finding all of the adult presents first and having us run them to the various recipients. He’d finally get through with that and move on to us kids.

With both families, there were so many kids that we drew names. You could count on getting one present from whoever got your name, and a little something from the grandparents as well, which was usually a shirt of some kind. Before we would leave for the other party we had to go to, my Uncle Jack would go out on the front porch and start lighting off Jumping Jack fireworks, and that always got all the kids in an uproar. That is a tradition I need to implement in my own family’s Christmas. I remember how much fun that used to be running from the unpredictable fireworks.

Then we would head over to my Dad’s parents for their party. You could always count on plenty of finger foods and desserts there like sausage balls, cocktail wieners, ham biscuits, cakes, pies, and homemade candies. We would draw names there too and that meant a couple of more presents before heading home. A few of the presents I got in those years stick out in my mind, so I must have enjoyed them quite a bit. I remember getting the G.I. Joe S.L.A.M. Tank, a Three Stooges VHS Tape, and a Popeye VHS tape at various times.

As time marched on and I got married, my wife and I settled into the tradition of going to her family’s Christmas Eve party. I’d sit and watch my kids running around with their cousins just like I used to do. And even though I seemed to hate it as a kid, I emulated my uncle Ernest. I’d go in the living room and tell the kids to quiet down and start picking out presents for the adults and have the kids deliver them before they get any of their presents. Life had come full circle.

Over the last five years though, her family has suffered many losses. Several of the older generation of the family have passed on, some of the younger generation have grown up and moved away, and the family Christmas party has shrunk quite a bit. My wife’s aunt hosted the family party for a couple of decades but these days don’t quite have the energy she once did, so she gave it up last year. At that point, my wife and I stepped in. We hosted a small gathering last year, and this year we’re hosting our first full-fledged family Christmas party.

This suits me just fine because now that my daughters are mostly grown, I expect they’ll be leaving home any year now, and I want to have this family Christmas Eve party tradition established with the hopes they’ll return each year with their families, thus carrying on the tradition I’ve known all my life.

Things are mostly set for a big night tonight, minus a few last-minute details I need to attend to. I hope that with all I’ve learned from the Christmas Eve parties of my past, I can create an atmosphere of holiday cheer and fun that the little ones at the party will be writing about thirty to forty years from now like I am this morning. Or at least have memories they fondly look back on one day. I guess that’s all one could ask for.

Hardee’s Fried Chicken of the 90s

Hardees Fried Chicken

Like most other American households in the 1980s, when my family wanted fried chicken, we got it from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Not KFC, but Kentucky Fried Chicken. We weren’t all metro back in those days using just the initials to identify the fast food chain. Other than the price, not much has changed from then to now. You can still get an 8-piece bucket of chicken, along with two family sides, and four biscuits. It’s an American staple at this point.

But then in the early ’90s comes Hardees with their fried chicken offerings. The chain had purchased the Roy Rogers chain and started using their recipe to sell fried chicken in a good deal of their locations. Not having a Roy Rogers anywhere close to here, we were totally unfamiliar with their brand of chicken.

Coupon for Hardee’s Fried Chicken Family Meal, Johnson City Press 1995

My family was a little skeptical in the beginning for a couple of reasons. One was the fact that here is this burger chain selling fried chicken all of a sudden. It was as foreign of a concept as Kentucky Fried Chicken starting to sell Big Macs would have been. And two, how is anyone going to compete with the Colonel’s secret blend of herbs and spices? Well, the answer to that part is they couldn’t, but Hardee’s could certainly compete with the Colonel’s extra crispy recipe. The chicken at Hardee’s was of the extra crispy variety, which I loved, but the bigger draw was the biscuits.

The biscuits at Hardee’s have always been at the top of the fast food biscuit world, and because they were now selling fried chicken, you could get their signature biscuits at any time during the day. It was almost like a little slice of heaven had fallen to earth. But the chicken and biscuits combo proved to be a good one, and for a while there, my family switched to Hardees when the craving for fried chicken hit, and we didn’t really go away from it until Hardee’s pulled it from their menus around these parts. But I still think back on it and remember fondly all of the weekends at the lake, busy evenings after school, and Sunday afternoons eating Hardee’s fried chicken and biscuits while watching my NASCAR with my old man.

McDonald’s Patty McMelt of 1995

McDonalds Patty McMelt

I have a deep nostalgic connection to the McDonald’s Taste of the Month promotion from 1995. Maybe it’s because I was driving and able to go get things for myself, or maybe because I worked across the street from a Mcdonald’s. But whatever the reason, I loved a lot of the special items they rolled out that year as part of the promotion, and this Patty McMelt is near the top of my list of promotional menu items.

I’m still trying to track down info on the releases for each month that year, and I’ve not found suitable info on this one yet. But I do know that it came out early in the year, as in January, February, or March. I know this because I remember it being cold and snowy when I was enjoying them. I’m a sucker for a patty melt, and this version was pretty good. I’m not sure what the slice of Canadian bacon had to do with a patty melt, but they threw a piece on this sandwich, and somehow it fits. Their grilled onions could have been a little more grilled for my tastes, but that minor squabble aside, McDonald’s version of a Patty Melt is worth remembering.

Most people have little or no memory of it existing, and the commercial below is about the only reference I’ve ever been able to find about it online. I’ve made the plea before, but I’m going to make it again…if you know anything about any of the taste of the month promotions from 1995, please get in touch with me. Any info at all, no matter how big or how little the detail would be appreciated. The Arch Deluxe made its debut as part of the promotion in my area, and my favorite of the lot, the Super Hero Burger, was part of it, but I still have a lot of gaps in my knowledge.

1990/1991 NBA Hoops Trading Cards

Somewhere in 1990, I really started getting into trading cards. Baseball cards mostly, and some non-sports cards that I thought were cool. In the fall of that year, I spotted packs of 1990/1991 NBA Hoops cards and they would be my first foray into the world of basketball cards. I saw them at my local grocery store one day and bought a few packs. I really didn’t know what to expect. I just knew that some other kids at school were trading basketball cards and these were basketball cards. I found that I loved them. The silver border was cool. I knew some of the players, there were rookie cards and all-star cards to try and find, and my friends at school now wanted to include me in their trading. All was well in my world when it came to basketball cards.

The next time we went to the store, I spent my whole allowance on packs of these. When we got to the car, my mom threw a fit about me using all of my money on cards. She gave me a lecture on how cards aren’t worth what people think they are. In her words, “If they were worth anything, they wouldn’t put them in those packs. They’d just sell them for what they’re worth.” She clearly didn’t understand how the secondary market worked. And she didn’t understand that having these cards got me into a somewhat exclusive group at school. To me, that made these cards worth spending a whole week’s allowance on.

I still dabble in trading cards from time to time, and when I’m on that kick, I’m always on the lookout for unopened packs of these. It’s not with the hope of finding anything valuable in them because that’s not really a possibility. It’s just that opening an unsealed pack of these takes me back to my middle school days for just a little while, and that’s a high you can’t buy.