Buffalo’s Got a Spirit (Ban “Better Days”)
No. Please, stop. I can’t take it anymore. Originally recorded for a Christmas album, the use of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Better Days” to promote Channel 2, its love of Buffalo, and water splashing is downright insufferable, and it’s become our unofficial civic anthem. You should be insulted.
It started back in February, during the Super Bowl. Channel 2 showed this, which everyone immediately recognized as being derivative of the Sabres’ own “Better Days” video from the 2007 playoffs:
Channel 2 updated it for the Olympics. Instead of a blurry sea of lights behind the interstitial captions, now we have water splashing. Why? A statement about the weather? Something about diving or swimming? Foreshadowing? Symbolically reinforcing that we’re just drops of water in a big pond? Who the f*ck knows?
I detest these commercials. I have come to have an almost visceral, physically negative reaction to the song itself. Aside from the fact that it’s a maudlin, depressing, weepy dirge, I object to the song’s lyrics and sentiment. “You ask me what I want this year” is the opening line – it’s a Christmas ballad. Why have we turned a Christmas ballad about Jesus and forgiveness and redemption and lifting oneself up from a horrifically depressing tough time into the de facto anthem of Buffalo and western New York? Is living here so bad that we have to pine for the Messiah, or the Rapture, or Christmas? Is living here so fundamentally awful and sad that we need big business (Sabres) and big media (Gannett) to tell us, in effect, that it gets better?
We’re watching these young, talented athletes compete at the highest levels of their respective sports. We’re watching a rare display of international sportsmanship and peace. Channel 2 decides to chop up that coverage by occasionally making you feel like a chump for living here.
Is there a story, or is it just a slideshow? The new video opens with sunrise over Buffalo and Lake Erie. Fade to helicopter shot of our downtown. Fade to kid swinging on a swing? Then – a splash of water with a “what I want this year” caption. It’s not Christmas. Why do I care what you want? Fade to Kleinhans – pan left to right. Quick cut – a couple walking in the park; quick cut – a little girl with what appear to be her grandparents. They’re laughing at something unknown and unknowable. They’re loving each other. They’re happy. Maybe it’s an ad for Caucasians.
Fade to a beach on the Lake and the Lackawanna windmills. The lake appears cold and choppy. The beach is groomed. The lifeguard’s chair is empty. Abandoned. Like someone had prepared for a busy day of sun and sand, and then abruptly fled. Wait – quick cut to another Caucasian, this time a female, playing with her black lab, which is cavorting in the surf. Quick cut to the dog carrying a stick, quick cut to the woman kneeling by her seated dog, looking wistfully at the camera. She, too, appears to be wondering where and why everyone fled.
Fade to water droplets overlaid with the words “Better Days”.
Next, apropos of nothing, we fade to a soldier hugging his wife or girlfriend. They run to each other, and we quick-cut to him hugging two little kids – a boy and a girl. Fade to another water splash with “take these words” captioned over it. Fade to – whoa, fish eye shot of Coca-Cola Field from a passing vehicle. Quick cut to African-American hotel porter giving the thumbs up. Seriously, it’s like something out of a Marx Brothers movie – back before the War when African-Americans were able to be cast in motion pictures, but only as servants. Fade to water splashing and “sing out loud”.
Quick fade to the Botanical Gardens. Cut to two perfect white people in their perfectly manicured backyard, hugging their perfect little kids. It’s ok. Everyone’s happy. Even these people. Almost as much as thumbs-up-porter guy. Water droplets behind “everyone”. Then we cut to a time-lapse photo of cloudsmovingveryfast behind part of the Buffalo skyline, and we cut to a mother greeting her young boy, apparently just arrived off the school bus. Cut to American flag wafting gently in the breeze. We’re very proud to be proud. Cut to two teenage girls picking peaches out at the Bidwell Farmer’s Market. Cut & quick pan to a street sign reading, “Buffalo” at the corner of First Street. White fade to a helicopter shot of the American Falls. Fade to splashes, “tonight’s the night”, which, as we established above, is an allusion to Christmas or Christmas Eve.
Cut to sun shining through some trees. Cut, zoom, focus on the “Village of Hamburg” welcome sign. Cut to boats in front of the rusting, hulking grain elevators. Flags of Canalside, pan up. Time-lapse of the corner of Main & Huron at dusk. Cut to a female looking at some Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass, then turning her head to the camera, smiling. Shot at sunset from a moving car out by the marina, with “tonight’s the night” captioned over it, fade to helicopter shot of downtown at dusk, with “to start believing in” captioned over it, as the words “better days” fade in beneath. Shot of the sunset as the Channel 2 logo flies in, and the Olympic rings embed themselves in it.
I guess the story is sunrise to sunset and an average day in western New York, that is if your average day is made up of generic b-roll.
Buffalo has problems just like everyplace else. Perhaps they’re more chronic, systemic, and difficult to improve, but it’s a great place to live. We love our seasons, our sports, our arts, our schools, our people. It’s a nice place, not a depressing place that needs a Christmas song perpetually to cheer itself up. Things are indeed looking up, but we hit bottom long ago – the song would have you believe everything is awful, but we’re about to turn a corner, if only you’ll watch Channel 2. I think the corner’s been turned, and we don’t need cheering up. We like it here just fine, and we don’t like people suggesting to us that we’re a bunch of cretins for living in such a rust-laden, depressing place. It’s not sad. Hell, the Sabres doing well in 2007 wasn’t sad, either. Stop making me sad, Channel 2. Stop playing Christmas songs in July. As cheesy as “Talking Proud” was, at least the song showed that Buffalo is a happy place with happy people. Buffalo’s got a spirit, bitches.
This song and its overuse as Buffalo’s anthem was the topic of discussion on our “One Thing” podcast with Brad Riter at Trending Buffalo.
Do you have a better idea for Buffalo’s unofficial anthem? Some ideas are being thrown around the Twitter machine under the hashtag “#betterdays2“.