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Walking into the stadium on a cool August evening, my head is high. Actually, it’s a little loopy—I’ve had a few Irish breakfast shots and a couple beers already in an Orchard Park backyard.

I’m in my favorite place in the world with my favorite people in the world. And it’s August, so the regular season hasn’t started yet. I’m full of hope.

We walk through the hallowed halls of Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills. The energy is electric, everyone’s excited. I belong here.

We make it to our seats, get more beers, and take some commemorative photos. I look around, beaming. I’m euphoric.

An eager vocalist belts out the national anthem, which seems to echo from above and below, encircling the bowl of the stadium. But this is back in 2013, before protests and political stances made their way to the field. The game begins with a deep boot into the end zone.

The first drive of the game, the Bills are on defense. And just like that, Viking quarterback Christian Ponder goes down. The Bills get a huge sack on the first snap.

I leap out of my seat, the combination of alcohol, joy, and adrenaline shooting me into the air, like rocket fuel propelling me to the moon.

And that’s when I land. SNAP.

Although, I don’t hear the snap. The stadium is too loud, and the cheer that erupts from my own mouth is deafening. And yet, my ankle twists on reentry. I shake it out, roll it around a couple times, brow furrowed in confusion and concern. It hurts, but doesn’t look swollen in my beaten up, navy blue Converse.

I sit back down, continue to observe, and laugh, and chat with my friends. It’s their first time at a Bills game, and I’m not sure I’ve ever smiled this much before, beaming with enthusiasm that they’re here with me. But that’s not the only sensation I feel. My foot is throbbing, pangs of pain. I wonder if it’s from the jump. I continue to sip my beer like a portrait of football Americana. It seems to help.

The game continues. It’s preseason, so it doesn’t matter.

My foot still hurts. A lot.

I get up to go to the restroom to take my shoe off and examine it more closely. Yeah, it hurts to walk. I limp to the bathroom. I take my shoe off. It’s not swollen. It must be a sprain. I hobble back to my friends and finish out the game, nursing that beer all the way until the end.

The walk back to the car feels like summiting Everest.

My friends and cousins, true, faithful, and stable provide a couple of piggy back rides. Like the sinking feeling I get whenever Tom Brady gets the football against the Bills, the realization clobbers me. I think my foot might be broken.

My sister doesn’t believe me. Of course she doesn’t. I take some Advil, go to bed, and hope the pain goes away.

It doesn’t. My foot looks like artfully spread jelly on toast, inflated and colorful hues of bright blue, black, red, and purple. I ask my dad to take me to UrgentCare.

The doctor describes it with medical precision. “You broke it good.” Unfortunately, he follows that with a dagger. “And you’re out for the season.”

My foot is broken. But it was worth it.

Erin Vail

Erin is the 2003 West Reading Elementary Geography Bee champion, a TV obsessive, and never not thinking about Buffalo sports.

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