As Thurman Thomas sat watching the ABC broadcast of the final drive of Super Bowl XXV for the first time, he began to nervously kick his legs. His fist opened and closed around the remote control. He knew what was coming. Jim Kelly was going to spike the ball with eight seconds to go. Everyone on the sidelines would join hands. Scott Norwood and his single bar facemask would take the field…don't worry, I'll stop there.
The first time I watched the same footage was about eight months earlier on a couch in Ken Rodgers' office at NFL
Films. Ken was directing a documentary about the Bills' historic Super Bowl run, and he enlisted me, the company's unflappably loyal Buffalo girl, to produce alongside him.
Of course I was excited for the opportunity to work with some of the most brilliant minds in the sports documentary business and to be part of the prestigious 30 for 30 brand. But mostly, like any Buffalonian would be, I was thrilled to know my Bills were going to get some love in the national spotlight, and that my childhood heroes would be treated as such. This wasn't going to be a film that portrayed the Bills as a national punch line.
The Bills, and for that matter, the Bills fans in our film would be relentless warriors who emblemized the ideals of perseverance and resiliency. Their story would allow us to revisit some of the most iconic moments in Buffalo and NFL history. 51-3. The Super Bowl XXV rally at City Hall. The Greatest Comeback. Don Beebe chasing Down Leon Lett. Jim Kelly beating cancer.
Did you know that Super Bowl rally in Buffalo had at least 10,000 more fans than the one held for New York? You know, the place with nearly 20 times more people and where they actually won the trophy? The film makes it pretty clear: in Buffalo, we have each other's backs. We circle the wagons. The fans helped carry their team back up football's highest mountain season after season.
All of the Bills alumni interviewed for this film love Buffalo. But no one spoke more passionately about it than Norwood. If nothing else, I hope this film allows younger fans to learn who he is—and who he isn't.
Scott Norwood isn't a joke. And he isn't a choke artist. And he isn't Buffalo's boogeyman. In "Four Falls," you'll meet a man who laments his role in Buffalo sports history because of how it affected the people of Western New York. He was adamant that Buffalo is "nothing but a winning city," no matter what anyone says.
I honestly walked away from our initial three-hour interview with the impression that if he could somehow go back and make that kick go through, he wouldn't do it for himself. He'd do it for Buffalo.
Listening to his story and then giving him a hug afterward was more than cathartic. For this faithful Bills fan, it was therapy.
Which brings us back to the couch at NFL Films. As I watched Kelly and the Bills offense take the field for the final time in Super Bowl XXV, I started sweating. Why am I doing this to myself? Will they notice if I close my eyes? I don't think I can make it through this...but, I did. And I'm glad I took this journey back.
After over a year of researching, interviewing, deliberating and filming, my colleagues and I unraveled a story of teammates who became brothers—bickering and all—as they found the will to battle back to the Super Bowl four straight times. That's a feat former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman claims was harder to achieve than the Cowboy's back-to-back championships.
Of course, nothing sums up Buffalo's tenacity better than Marv Levy's iconic "Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton," which he recited for us one more time in the Buffalo Public Library.
"Fight on, my men," Sir Andrew said
"A little I'm hurt but not yet slain.
I'll just lie down and bleed a while,
And then I'll rise and fight again."
As it turns out, "Four Falls" is actually about that rise.