The weather sucks, the people are bitter, there’s never anything going on. The food’s great, the sports fans are devoted, there’s always something to do.
Western New York. Two different views, each held (in one regard or another) by everyone who has ever lived in the area. There’s no way for someone who knows these parts, who has lived this way of life, to truly forever love or hate Buffalo, Rochester, or any point in between.
I suppose the same could be said for many regions, but it’s not often that you find such a strange mixture of views on the day-to-day from the locals as you do here. The same people who are infatuated with everything you see in this part of the state will eagerly join in on a conversation knocking each and every downfall – be it the school systems, the snow, the sports teams, or any multitude of other gripes – and those who are always down on the place they live will be quick to come to bat when someone has even the slightest negative remark to make about it.
Case in point – earlier this week, Brad Marchand, a player for the defending champion Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and by default natural enemy of all Buffalonians, told WEEI radio in Boston that Buffalo is “the worst place in the NHL … I’ll be pretty excited to leave” and the uproar began. The way folks were reacting, you’d think the guy sifted through the Yellow Pages and called every number in the 716 area code just to tell them what their mother does with her spare time. Now, this is nothing new – not by any means. We’re used to national figures, athletes mostly, wiping the city and the area through the mud when they talk about it (other notable recent incidents include comments from NFL stars Tom Brady and Willis McGahee as well as future NHLer Emerson Etem) and really, should we be so defensive?
If you think about it, for a millionaire (or anyone high-profile for that matter) this tree doesn’t exactly have ripened fruit dangling from every branch. Guys like that, those who travel from city to city regularly looking to be coddled in their down time, are simply not finding much to please them around here. This, as Matthew Stewart of The Daily Torch mentioned in a discussion over the subject recently, is a place for families that don’t mind being cold. For better or for worse, this is a solid assertation about WNY. You don’t hear about folks from other parts of the country planning trips to come around these parts, and you sure as hell aren’t seeing families jumping for joy to plant their roots in our podunks without good reason. This is a place for people who were born here and haven’t found an excuse to leave yet. Every single family and individual that I’ve known whom left greener pastures for New York’s redheaded stepchild did so for one of two reasons – primarily, it’s because they have relatives around here that need them for one reason or another and much less frequently, these relocations are for a job opportunity.
Those job opportunities haven’t exactly been bountiful in recent years, and it’s not a number trending upwards. Buffalo’s always been referred to as a ‘blue collar’ town – a city filled with low-to-middle class people working hard for modest wages. This classification originated during the 20th century when it was one of the largest cities in the country and industrial boom created many factory and construction jobs for its inhabitants. In the past few decades, though, much of that has died off – yet the mentality still remains. When I think of a blue collar individual, I think of the typical lunchpail-toting worker coming home after a long day of doing whatever necessary to get by and provide for their family. Update the image to a more recent timeframe, and that’s most people you’ll meet from this area. A job is a job as long as it’s putting food on the table, and it’s uncommon to find many who aren’t living closer to a paycheck-to-paycheck life than in financial comfort in these parts. For folks like that, downtime’s important.
For those of you reading this who are from WNY, just give it a thought – when you or your peers are trying to have a good time and really unwind, what’s the plan? A lot of folks will go to one of the numerous hole in the wall dives peppering the streets of every town. Some take to various sporting events of all different levels, or maybe catch the occasional concert from a group who accidentally scheduled a venue in the middle of nowhere. Often, though, we think to leave town to truly enjoy ourselves. Niagara Falls, New York City, out of state, out of country. It’s not that we’re looking for something new most of the time, either – it’s that we’re looking for anything at all. I myself get out often in between a full work schedule, but I enjoy attending minor league hockey games, seeing the same faces in the same dimly lit bars, and eating at the same niche restaurants after catching a show from a band I’ve never heard of. The same things that constitute a decent application of my slim amounts of time and scant income (and those of many like me) would be simply unappealing to the likes of a Marchand, McGahee, or Brady. For those types, this region’s a bump in the road to bigger and better. They’d much rather be in a city like New York, Boston, Dallas… you name it – somewhere that their lifestyles are accommodated.
You consider that, and can you still take the same level of frustration with comments the nature of those the aforementioned made? For them, it is a bad place to be. It takes a certain fool to enjoy this area and its people, it takes a deranged mind to eat something that looks like and is named after garbage, and it takes an absolutely damaged soul to stay true to these sports teams.
But we do, so why should we care that they don’t?
I, for one, couldn’t care less. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go brush the snow off of my car and find something to do in this godforsaken hellhole.