Winnipeg and Buffalo; sister cities in sporting renaissance.
That's sure how it feels these days as two North American towns on opposite sides of the border suddenly find themselves no longer solely the butt of jokes largely because their dormant pro sports teams have revitalized local spirits.
Or maybe that's just the outsider point of view. Maybe people in The Peg and Buffalo liked their towns just fine and don't need people who didn't know their business before starting to pat them on the back now.
Still, the past few months - weeks? - have certainly changed the way in which sports fans are looking at these cities. The word "envy" is even creeping into the conversation.
In Winnpeg, the NHL Jets are back, and with every ticket sold for the next five years, are the least of Gary Bettman's worries. Not as much, say, as the fact the co-owner of the New Jersey Devils is willing to pay $23 million just to get out from under his stake in the franchise.
The Blue Bombers, while losers in Toronto on the weekend, are still leading the league. Beyond that, however, is the real future, as the new University of Manitoba stadium will be the first brand new home for a CFL club in a long, long time. With that venue and the MTS Centre where the Jets play, the city may soon have the best football and hockey buildings in the country.
Vancouver's had a heckuva run as Canada's leading sports city, and the Grey Cup is still coming up in November.
But Winnipeg's gotta like what the next few years hold.
For Buffalo, the last decade has been awfully tough in a sporting sense, and even when the city made the ambitious step to hold the world junior championships last summer, it was treated by some as merely a convenient opportunity to lampoon the city for its municipal shortcomings.
Like Winnipeg, Buffalo knows what it feels like to lose a pro sports team outright, having seen the NBA Braves leave for California in 1978. There have been times, however, during the past few years when one was left to wonder whether the city would be left without any teams at all. The Sabres had their owner go to jail and then went bankrupt, while the Bills were not only dreadful on the field, they entered into a game-sharing arrangement with Toronto, opening up more speculation as to what might happen to the franchise when Ralph Wilson was no longer around to own it.
For the Sabres, everything changed last winter when Terry Pegula bought the club, which is suddenly one of the NHL's big spenders and has local fans jazzed about the future rather than resigned to holding cautious hope. We'll see how Christian Erhoff and Ville Leino pan out, but the Sabres were sure aggressive in the off-season, even in making the kind of financial deal with young blueliner Tyler Myers that would have been unthinkable just a year ago.
And how 'bout them Bills? A spectacular 3-0 after Sunday's stunning win over New England, and suddenly a team to watch in the NFL, comeback artists of the first degree.
The future is still unclear, and the 92-year-old Wilson watched the game from the Detroit area, too weak, according to reports, to attend the contest. At some point, the team will come up for auction, and the bidding will be intriguing.
For now, it's Buffalo's team with a little bit of Toronto mixed in, and the Oct. 30 game at the Rogers Centre between the Bills and Washington Redskins sure doesn't look like the dog it did not so long ago. Could even end up being a hot ticket, and thus complicate the scenario going forward, with next year the final season of the five-year Bills in Toronto Series deal.
The two cities, Winnipeg and Buffalo, have little in common, really, save the fact that people love to talk up their negative characteristics and identify them as places they'd never want to live.
So maybe it's time for the citizens in both towns to feel a little, well, smug. Why not? For the first time in a while, sporting momentum is on their side, and while that's not necessarily as useful as a reduced unemployment rate or crucial civic improvements, it's not half-bad, either.