The premise of this breathtakingly insane Politico article really is—swear to God—that Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City because the Buffalo Bills couldn’t win a Super Bowl. The author attempts to say otherwise, but he also says this:
The second half was, if anything, worse: more interceptions, more fumbles, and—another Super Bowl first—21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The Bills lost 52–17. It was not only their third consecutive Super Bowl loss, it was, by far, the worst of them all. It was at this point in his life that Timothy McVeigh gave up on any kind of a normal future.
You will have to read this thing for yourself to fully appreciate the light-stepping that allows author Sam Anderson to breeze right past “spent his free time nursing conspiracy theories about the U.S. government and writing ominous letters to the editor of his local paper,” plus or minus one half-assed, last-ditch “human motives are incalculably complex,” to arrive at the unwieldy and overloaded suggestion that losing a bet on Super Bowl XXVII was the tipping point that sent McVeigh on a path towards domestic terrorism and murder. The experience is really something: You’re reading along in the first half, vaguely enjoying an especially colorful description of Buffalo’s K-Gun offense, and just hoping against hope that the title—“How Football Fed Timothy McVeigh’s Despair”—was something you imagined, or misread. Nope!
There was simply no way the Bills were going to lose again, not for a third consecutive time. That would be a world in which nothing made sense, in which an entire community had been unjustly worked up into a fever of false hope. Now was his chance, McVeigh figured, to make everything instantly a little bit better.
McVeigh, you see, had a very fucked-up time in the Gulf War, and came home a miserable, shattered man. He was broke, he was underemployed, he struggled with PTSD and suicidal tendencies. Hard to believe a desperate man at the end of his rope would bet money on a Super Bowl outcome, unless he had some sort of extra special emotional attachment to one of the teams, the kind of “powerful, stable, visceral” sense of belonging and destiny that would “amplify his native pain” if it were suddenly polluted by, uhh, a loss. Hey, see if these dots on the timeline need something as random and unrelated as a Super Bowl result to draw them together into a coherent narrative:
“[A] 24-year-old Buffalonian ... who spent his free time nursing conspiracy theories about the U.S. government and writing ominous letters to the editor of his local paper...
“...found and latched onto the cause that would define the rest of his life. A group of citizens in Waco, Texas—a religious cult called the Branch Davidians—had refused to surrender its weapons to the federal government.”
Ah ha. So a conspiracy-minded down-and-out former soldier who’d become disillusioned with the U.S. government around the time that he “performed poorly and dropped out” of a tryout for the Special Forces became obsessed with a case that pitted that same government against a cult stockpiling weapons in a rural compound. Impossible to make sense of such a progression without, like, some sort of disappointing sports outcome.
To this day, even well-adjusted Buffalonians walk around imagining alternate lives in which their team actually won four Super Bowls in a row, becoming arguably the greatest team in NFL history, putting the city on the map in a way it otherwise never could have dreamed of.
Well, jeez, if even well-adjusted Buffalonians wish their team had won four Super Bowls in a row, imagine the consequences for a fellow who was already writing letters to the editor of his local paper. My God, it turns out many of history’s greatest monsters have lived in towns where [tugs collar] sports teams lost games.
It’s easy to pretend that sports doesn’t matter in real life, but for many millions of people, it does. It matters profoundly, every day.
The solution must be swift and decisive. Abolish the Buffalo Bills.