Tampa Bay and Buffalo are both small underdogs tomorrow in their respective conference championship games, as they should be. One does not simply walk into Lambeau and take down Aaron Rodgers or saunter into Arrowhead and outfox Patrick Mahomes. But that doesn't mean there isn't cause for optimism for Bills fans and Bucs fans alike.
Those who believe in prestige television storylines predicting future events will be delighted to remember or discover for the first time that these teams played a vital role in The Sopranos, a show about football gambling wrapped inside a show about waste management and the importance of New Jersey print media at the end of driveways.
In Chasing It, the 81st episode of the series and only six from the finale, Tony and the boys are watching the Sunday slate at their favorite topless bar, when the mob boss suffers an absolutely brutal but impossible-to-understand bad beat. The two teams involved: Tampa Bay and Buffalo.
The scene in question is here, though viewers should know it includes nudity, as tended to happen at Bada Bing! That was just the business model.
Earlier this year, Alex LeMere of Trainwreck Sports did the Lord's work of breaking it down in great detail:
After reviewing the scene, I can tell that the game’s being set up for us with the Bills trailing the Bucs 24-22 in the final minute of the game, inside the Tampa 30 with a third and 2…and JP Losman under center for the Buffalo with the game on the line. It seems as Mr. Soprano has Tampa Bay -3 in this game because when Benny Fazio leans over to him and asks, “You got Buffalo, right, T?” to which Tony replies, “No, line is 3. I’ll settle for a push”. They never make it clear if he’s giving or getting 3, but I assume he means Bucs +3…if it was -3, he’s already dead without a turnover return for TD by the Bucs with the Bills trailing by just two. If they were to just kick a FG, they win by one, and a TD, they win by four, so Bucs -3 makes no sense for the sweat, and I’m rolling with the logical assumption he’s on the +3.
There really are no logical assumptions here as the math does not make any sense. Neither does the game's final play, which features a few fumbles — which may not have been legal to advance upon recovery at the time, but that's for another blog — and the Bills quarterback scampering into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
As the TV shows the final score of Buffalo 28, Tampa Bay 24, Tony disappears into a back office to throw some billiards balls around and smash some stuff. As one does. It is not a happy time for him, though the second part of season six isn't exactly filled with good times out on the Shore and uninterrupted dining.
There are two explanations here. One, the writers simply needed two teams and came up with these randomly. Unlikely, right? The more reasonable scenario is that David Chase somehow left this little Easter Egg in there after time-traveling to the year 2021. Like an homage to Back to the Future when he sees that the Chicago Cubs have finally won the World Series in 2015.
Neutral observers should drop any plans to root for Team X or Team Y and begin rooting for this final score two weeks from now in Raymond James Stadium. Would finally give the show some ultimate resolution after all these years.