Hometown heroics

For the first time in a long time, I wasn't disappointed. I wasn't embarrassed, and I didn't have reason to cover my face.

Yes, Sidney Crosby put the dagger through my heart with his overtime goal Sunday afternoon as Canada prevailed, 3-2. The Americans failed to pull off the impossible. They failed to produce the miracle that we had all hoped for and managed only a silver medal.

But for the first time in a long time, I was proud. I was proud to be a native of the red, white and blue, and I was proud to know that this is my country.

But most of all, I was proud to be a Buffalonian.

It may sound crazy, but the past two weeks have given me reason to stick my chest out, raise my chin and say, 'I'm from Buffalo.' I can walk around with my head held high and say, 'This is my city, this is my town, and I'm proud of it.'

I don't get that feeling too often. It's hard to be proud of a city that has suffered through four-straight Super Bowl losses, a 10-year playoff drought, the Music City Miracle, a Monday night meltdown, 40 years without a Stanley Cup… well, you get the picture.

For 17 days, the Winter Olympics changed all of that. While the heartbreaking Buffalo losses will always linger in the back of my mind, the Olympic Games made me forget I live in a town plagued by sporting futility.

The representation of the city of Buffalo shone brighter than the immortal Olympic flame that lit the Vancouver sky for two-plus weeks. From the face of American Olympians to a 17th-place finisher, I was proud to know that my hometown athletes dawned the red, white and blue for not only my country, but for my city.

Although he hails from East Lansing, Mich., Buffalo Sabres' goaltender Ryan Miller has become Buffalo's pride and joy. After his showing in Vancouver, the 29-year-old has skyrocketed from the Queen City's son to the face of hockey.

What he did at the Olympics was nothing short of spectacular. He stopped 139 of 147 shots in six games, recorded a 5-1 record and despite falling short of the gold, was named tournament MVP.

Miller took the ice in Vancouver with the stars and stripes on his mask, but displayed the Buffalo blue and gold in his equipment. While it may be overlooked by most, I knew that he was not only representing America, but symbolized Buffalo.

He displayed to the world what it meant to be a humble, blue-collared worker – a man that takes nothing for granted and leaves it all on the line. He embodied the meaning of a true Buffalonian.

I couldn't help but get a bit emotional as Miller received his silver medal. Call me corny, but hearing the Canadian fans erupt in applause for the leader of their rival country sent chills down my spine. The mixed emotions of determination and courage turned heartbreak and anguish made the hair on my arms stand on edge.

On the verge of tears, Miller bowed down, accepted his medal and saluted the world with a swift, classy gesture of thanks.

I've never felt so proud to be apart of Buffalo sporting history than that very moment. Miller stood before us as a defeated man whose spirit was lifted by the respect and appreciation given to him by fans around the world.

That's worth more than any form of medallion in my eyes.

Before we know it, the Bills will once again be the talk of the town and I will once again be sanctioned to my cave of embarrassment and depression.

But until then, I want to simply say thank you, Ryan. Because of you, I can once again proudly say, 'Hey, I'm from Buffalo.'

E-mail: joe.paterno@ubspectrum.com