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Dear Bills Mafia,
I found a safe space, away from whatever made the sound, and I am in hiding. It seems to have gotten colder and I am aware now, more than ever, that I am not alone. Whatever, or whoever, is out there is searching for me. I must be more careful now, but it only makes these messages even more urgent.
I need to keep sharing my evidence.
In my last message, I told you about 001. Did you manage to find anything more about him? If you didn’t, please do, it’ll greatly help the research. However, as I said, the discovery of him gave me hope to keep searching. That’s how I came to meet Phoebe Schecter (aka “Subject 002”). She isn’t what you’d call a “Bills Fan,” not originally anyway…
Introducing Subject 002
For an American, 002 in her own words, would be a bad one, because of her complete lack of interest in football in her early years. She guesses, at most, she watched two Super Bowls. So how did she get here?
It all started with horses. Yes, horses.
Around 10 years ago, she moved to the UK, specifically Cheshire (whoop Go Lancashire!), to work with the animals and meet new people. After finding an advertisement for American Football tryouts, she decided to give it a go, despite having absolutely no idea what she was doing. She ended up making the team and just continued to evolve with it, to a point where she played for the GB Women’s National Team. After some time, she realised that contact sports for her wouldn’t last forever and instead turned her attention to coaching.
002 started with the youth team of Manchester Titans. This is where opportunities really arose.
[Subject 002 is enthusiastic and honest about her journey into the sport. Quite a pivot from simply moving to the UK for equestrian reasons. She even took the time to ask me(!) about my life and interests?!? Yet she’s the one being interviewed. A class act]
Collaborating with the Titans allowed her confidence to build to a point where she was comfortable being involved with the Women’s World Football Games. This was a programme that allowed women from all over the world to come and compete and learn in a five-day camp. Eventually, this incorporated the NFL Women’s Career Forum. And thus began the start of 002’s career in the NFL.
She got the opportunity to network with “everybody and anybody” who meant something in the world of football. From owners, like Kim Pegula, executives such as Scott Pioli, and coaches, like Ron Rivera. This pushed 002 to apply to the Bill Walsh Diversity Fellowship. A programme that allows underrepresented groups to take part in training/mini camps. This is how she ended up in Buffalo.
[Subject 002’s path to the NFL is nothing short of admirable. Every opportunity she got, she took. Take notes kids.]
But football isn’t all 002 is about. After her successful, albeit short, football playing career, 002 pivoted to Kabaddi. (If you don’t know what this is, I highly recommend watching a few videos on YouTube, if that’s still a thing anymore…) A woman she played against introduced her to the sport and, after the first tackle, 002 was hooked. Not only because she was fed a full meal after playing, but because of the culture and community that comes with the sport.
[After coaching and playing, 002 wanted to do more with the sport and has turned to the media side of the NFL. Making appearances on Sky Sports and becoming a pundit. I wanted to know if that was a challenge, and how to further Women in Sport Journalism]
Coming from a sports background, 002 thrives on feedback. She wants to know how she can improve. She had to become her own critic, more so than normal. One person she notes that really helped her was Charles Dagnall (cricket pundit). 002 told him how she wanted and needed criticism to improve, so he provided her with just that. She learned from him about how to host on radio and how it differs from working on TV. From experience, she now knows to always ask for help.
“Whatever it is, asking people for help is not a weakness, it’s a strength.”Phoebe Schecter on asking for help
[Subject 002 doesn’t seem to fit the profile of an International Bills Fan so far, maybe it’s time to find out about her coaching time with the Bills.]
In her first camp, 002 worked with DBs, specifically corners, but occasionally switched to safeties. Then, in season, she worked with TEs. But it wasn’t just simply working with players. She got scout teams ready for special teams (#NFLsSwaggiestKicker) and updated tablets with the playbooks the players would need. Furthermore, since her office was in the defensive section of the building, if the defensive teams needed anything, she would help. Anything that needed to be done, she was more than happy to lend a hand.
[It sounded to me like she was doing typical intern busy work. Did that not bother her? She was there for a learning experience, but it didn’t seem like that. I needed to know because I’m sure it would bother me.]
She remembers a time when she was walking and talking with Coach McDermott. Suddenly, he just stopped and bent down to pick up a piece of trash and throw it out. Coach told her how the place was like his home, and he wanted his home to be clean. 002 notes how he could’ve simply left it or got someone else to clean it up. But he didn’t.
He both inspired and embodied the belief that everyone must do their part to improve themselves and, by extension, the whole team. So no, 002 didn’t feel annoyed or “too big” for all the work she did. All that mattered to her is what she can do, no matter how small a task, to contriburte to the overall success of the team. (But no one wants to work with McDermott, right? *Rolls eyes*)
[After hearing this story about our King Coach McDermott, I wanted to hear more stories like this.]
Everyone’s favourite time comes twice a year when the Bills play the Patriots. As excited/apprehensive/nervous as the fans get, the team feels that too. 002 remembers the first time she played New England. As noted, even the team feels that atmosphere of simply playing the Patriots, so they build on it.
“If you print something and don’t collect the sheet within a light second, you’d be left fumbling, trying the find the pages. And then, you’ll find the printout in your inbox tray with a sticky note on it saying, ‘Bill says thanks!’ Just little things to get the blood pumping.”Phoebe Schecter on how the Bills prep for the New England Patriots
One of the cooler anecdotes she had was when the Bills played away at the Jets. Now, as a female, it was hit or miss on 002’s locker room situation. Some stadiums are really accommodating, others she’s had to get changed in a custodian closet or the back of the athletic trainer’s room. But, with the Jets, they said not to worry; they’d get her an escort to her changing room. So, she followed.
Her “changing room” was the Giants locker room. 002 had the entire room to herself, in her words, “living her best life”.
[It didn’t occur to me that Subject 002 would encounter problems of this nature, so it was fun to hear about. After this, I had to assume that she had a favourite game.]
The Minnesota Vikings game, or as Bills fans remember it, Josh Allen hurdling Anthony Barr. The Bills went into that game as double-digit underdogs, SB Nation quoted the win as the “upset of the season, maybe even the decade.”
But Subject 002 remembers the lead up to that game. One thing highlighted in the gameplan was to find a way to quiet the Vikings fans because they are notorious for being super loud, especially playing indoors. The goal was to see that sea of purple leaving at the half. And they succeeded.
Subject 002 remembers looking around the stadium at halftime and thinking, “this is happening”. Every goal they set out, they achieved. It was really cool to see their hard work paying off, especially post game. It was 002’s first win on the coaching staff.
“If you could bottle that euphoria, there was simply no greater feeling. It was very special and something she won’t ever forget.”Phoebe Schecter on her first win with the Bills (Bills-Vikings, 2018)
[You can see that euphoria still on Subject 002’s face. She was living through that moment all over again. I know because I still watch the highlight of Allen hurdling Barr when I’m feeling down.]
Conversely, Subject 002’s least favourite game was hard to say. She was very much in the “pinch me” moment because she was working with professional, elite players at the top of their game. Even when losing to the Packers that season, she couldn’t help but be happy because she was on the sideline at Lambeau Field.
One thing she didn’t like, was at the aforementioned Jets game. The Bills had won, so that euphoric feeling was still there. 002 had made notes during the game, as all coaches do, and she had gone to photocopy them. When at away games, the coaches use the same machine as the home team. She walked into the office and a few of the Jets coaches there knew they were going to be let go.
It was a really horrible feeling. Everyone who watches the game is just watching it on that one day; there’s no human connection to it. But on the flip side, those are still just guys, doing their jobs. They’ve got homes and families to feed, so any loss or win can completely change the trajectory of their career.
[Subject 002 was lucky, in my eyes, to be on the ground floor when Allen made his break onto the NFL scene. I had to know what she thought of the “Stupid Rook” at that time.]
002 remembers a conversation she had with a Sky Sports pundit a while ago, in which she told him “Josh Allen’s the guy. He’s the guy.”
She says he’s such a great human, all the guys love him. And he’s a freak of nature, in terms of his arm, size, and speed. Even in walkthroughs, he would be taking people’s fingers off with the football.
The biggest thing now she see when watching him, is that he no longer feels like he has to carry the team on his shoulders, he has weapons surrounding him. And, more importantly, he has more experience after facing multiple defences, so he’s making better decisions. She says he’s still basically a baby and has so much time left to improve even more.
[Subject 002 has so much football insight, it’s incredible. I wanted to know if that affects the way she watches games now.]
002 simply can’t switch the coach part of her brain off. To combat that, she doesn’t really watch the game when she’s with friends or family, so she doesn’t get too into it. Instead, she watches it in the privacy of her own home so she can invest more time into it.
[The time I had left with Subject 002 was coming to close, unfortunately, so I had one final question for her… Who does she think will win this year’s MVP award and Super Bowl?]
She’s waiting for Allen to finally win. In fact, she’s still in disbelief that he didn’t win it last year.
002 says she’s always going to pick Buffalo to win the Super Bowl. It’s a big year for the Bills and they’re probably feeling a lot of pressure, especially since they could’ve won it last year. However, Super Bowl LVII belongs to the Bills.
It’s weird, she notes, that she had to move to another country to fall in love with football.
Bills Mafia, I think the final answers prove that Phoebe Schecter is, in fact, a Bills Fan. She showed enthusiasm for the team and the sport in a capacity I had not seen before. If you want further evidence of this, you can find her on Twitter (@Phoebe_Schecter), Instagram (phobe_schecter), and this clip I found online.
I am one step closer to proving the existence of International Bills Fans. And this is only the second piece of data I’ve collected. The outlook is looking good so far so, despite the danger I am in, onward I go.
I must move quickly now, whatever has been searching for me is closer than before, I can almost feel it. I hope to be able to end another message in the coming days.
In the meantime, tell my family I love them and Go Bills!
Original Featured Image: Phoebe Schecter/Twitter