So, like many other lifelong "die-hard" Buffalo Billsfans, I am outraged and disappointed at what looks to be another long and tedious non-playoff year in 2009. When the Bills pulled a "Bills" and found another way to lose to the hated rival New England in week one, I literally tore off my official Reebok Drew Bledsoe jersey and tossed it into our family room fireplace. I told my wife, who coincidently is from Connecticut and thus does not understand the pain that sports fans from Buffalo feel, that I have just had enough of watching complete ineptitude. I told her that I have no more "it's just a game" or "they will play better next year" to make it all better. Moreover, she needed to understand that I just couldn't see the light in what has been a long tunnel of darkness for WNY sports and, in particular, Bills fans, anymore.
You have to understand, I have never been one to act like the sky is falling. Actually, I have stayed positive through "wide right" and "the music city miracle" to Nick Folk hitting two last second 53-yard field goals on Monday night helping the Bills find another new way to choke yet again. I have even kept a positive spin on the Buffalo organization giving WNY "the finger" by playing an important divisional game IN A DOME up in Toronto. I have no more positive energy to muster; nothing more I can give. The pain is so real, so devastating that even missing the toilet "wide right" brings back a flood of painful memories. My Buffalo blood is strong but my arteries are clogged with failure. I can't care this much anymore. It's just not healthy. Yes, I'm sorry to say, it is that bad.
It wasn't always this way. We Bills fans did have had our 15 minutes in the spotlight. The late 80's and early nineties do seem like a million years ago but they were so wonderful that I'm reticent to let go of the hope that it can once again be that good. There were some great years in the 60's too when the Bills and Jack Kemp won AFL championships but, like the Jim Kelly era, those are our only salvation in a landscape littered with losing and doing it in spectacular fashion. To be honest, even those few great years are marred by devastating losses when it mattered most.
It's time, Buffalo, to come to terms with the fact that the Buffalo Bills have just simply lucked into two great eras in an almost 50 year history and that, one of them (the Kelly era) is blemished by just not being good enough. Basically, in 50 years there HAD to be some good years and good players. It was inevitable that eventually we would do some things right. (Even the Arizona Cardinals have somehow lucked into a little success!!) Unlike the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins or Green Bay Packers who have almost consistently been amongst the leagues best, teams who have used great business sense and shrewd decision making to build multiple dynasties without decade long losing spells, the Buffalo Bills have done anything and everything in their power to operate to the lowest common denominator. The Buffalo Bills are that guy scouring the beach with a magnet looking for pennies while the other teams are the guys who made their pennies by selling magnets to guys looking to scour the beach looking for pennies.
The Buffalo Bills are a joke. They are an afterthought. Yes, our Buffalo Bills , the team we bleed for every Sunday, the team we grew up inviting into our lives and embracing with every part of our body and soul, are nothing but a footnote in the history of American Football. Why? Simply put, football is big business and the Buffalo Bills aren't. Do you really think the NFL cares what happens to the Bills when they are busy salivating over the prospect of taking the league international? If it weren't for Ralph Wilson, the Bills would already be in Toronto or Los Angeles. The Bills are the Buffalo Bills because of and despite of Ralph Wilson Jr. That is to say, they stay here in Buffalo because of Ralph Wilson but they have been and will continue to be inept and non-competitive because of Mr. Wilson. To be honest, I'm not sure if Ralph Wilson had a chance to remain competitive in today's NFL . Is it fair? No. It's just big business. The little guy always loses out when the almighty dollar is at stake.
As a result, Ralph Wilson has become an enigma in WNY sports lore. We aren't sure if we should love him or hate him, hug him or spit on him. In truth, I admire the fact that he has kept the Buffalo Bills in WNY despite it being a bad business decision but I can't help but feel betrayed by his lack of common sense. I often get the feeling that he doesn't always have the best interest of the football team in mind when running his business. I never have doubted whether or not Mr. Wilson WANTS to win but I have seriously doubted whether he really knows how to build a winning organization. He only lucked into having one of the best personnel men ever EVER in his organization (Bill Polian) and then he ran Bill out of town. He then lucked into Polian's understudies John Butler and AJ Smith being great, who learned everything they knew from the legendary Polian, but then, again, he butted heads with them and the Butler/Smith combo shuffled off to San Diego to build a contender. Ralph Wilson has NEVER, EVER gone out and paid a premium to bring in a big name executive or head coach! EVER! Marv Levy was a chump when we hired him. He only BECAME great after being hired, originally, as a cheap solution. Polian and Butler were nobodies and when they became some-bodies they were dismissed only to be replaced by another inexpensive nobody! Wilson has a long history of trying to squeeze as much juice out of a lemon as he possibly can.
A marketing executive and NOT a football man now runs The Buffalo Bills . Lets think about that. A professional football team is headed not by a football guy but by a guy who made his bones in the marketing world. Actually, this may be the most brilliant move of Mr. Wilson's career. In the twilight of his life, when Ralph Wilson knows the end is much closer than the beginning he has hired the cheapest option who has the best chance of creating the illusion of a great football team. Isn't that essentially what marketing is, creating an illusion? Basically, the Buffalo Bills are merely a cheap, generic and inferior product made to look like the real deal! The title starving WNY fans bought into the illusion and, during the off-season, we actually bought into the Trent Edwards/Dick Jauron era to the effect of selling all season tickets out. Itís Brilliant! We, Buffalo Bills fans, have now paid an NFL price to watch a team more befitting of the defunct Arena Football League and, now, ever more prescient is the fact that there will never be another NFL dynasty in Buffalo's future. Not under Ralph Wilson and not as the "Buffalo" Bills . Not unless luck so happens to intervene.
I'm not abdicating giving up all hope nor am I suggesting jumping ship and running to salvation. No. I'm just publicly coming to grips with reality that I was one of the unfortunate few to have been born a Buffalo Bills fan. I'll die a Buffalo Bills fan for better or worse, even when they are no longer actually in Buffalo. I'm just hoping, like many of you, that all of my senses are wrong and that I will be able to look into another Bills fan's eyes and see the glory of victory rather than the pain and despair of being defeated, in spectacular fashion, yet again. Maybe Mr. Wilson will luck into the next great executive or head coach who currently is a nobody. Maybe luck will strike the Bills again, in my lifetime, and we will all be so lucky as to feel like a champion for one shining moment, but "maybe" just isn't good enough for me anymore. "Maybe" is nothing more than the illusion of hope packaged up in a nice expensive looking box. Sorry Ralph, I'm just not buying that hope runs eternal. My sports soul is way too tattered and my heart jaded by years of loving something incapable of loving me back.
PS. The use of in this public rant was complete and utter sarcasm to show my disdain for the big business that the NFL, and in particular, the Bills have become!.
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