On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills put an absolute beatdown on the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium to clinch the AFC East Division title for the first time in a quarter-century. Upon returning home, the team was greeted by a sea of raucous fans at the airport celebrating the achievement.
Fans in the thousands bundled up and stood in the freezing cold to await the team's arrival and let them know how much they meant to the community. The scene quickly garnered national attention and, frankly, served as a feel-good story for the whole country.
But on Monday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, a Democrat, decided to dump a big old bucket of ice water on the party.
During a press conference, after reporters evidently asked Poloncarz one too many questions about the Bills — and whether or not fans would be allowed in the stadium for upcoming playoff games — the disgruntled politician shot back with a sharp message: "Get your priorities straight."
"If we can get fans in the stadium, great, but our priority should be on reducing the number of cases and deaths in our communities. I announced 60 people died unfortunately in the last few days and most of the questions have been about the Bills," snapped Poloncarz, who announced at that point that he would not take any more questions about the team, according to WGRZ-TV.
Earlier in the conference, the county executive reportedly expressed disappointment over the fact that so many people chose to gather without properly socially distancing themselves amid a pandemic.
"If somebody in that crowd was sick and they passed it on to other individuals and only increased our rates, they're only hurting our opportunity to be able to actually put people in the stands. And what would happen if [star quarterback] Josh Allen got COVID?" he said, obviously frustrated.
While Poloncarz's point is not totally unfounded, he failed to see that in a season of grief, the Bills have supplied the community with something positive to rally around. By scolding fans and reporters for celebrating, he likely won't win any more supporters, especially in a county obsessed with its football team.
To make matters worse, Poloncarz, though not totally rejecting the notion, expressed doubt about the possibility that fans would be allowed in the stadium this postseason, noting that the positive COVID-19 test rate is higher in the county now than it was before the season began.
His remarks came after Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seemed to open the door to the possibility. To the ire of Bills fans, Cuomo has barred fans from the stadium all season, but now he apparently wants to attend a game himself. Ultimately, the decision will be made by New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.