Dear Mr. Bon Jovi,
Thank you so much for your letter to the people of Western New York published in the Buffalo News on August 3. It has been a tumultuous time since the passing of Ralph Wilson some months ago and not everyone has elected to speak directly to the people of the region – I commend you for taking your case directly to the people rather than remaining mute.
I agree that there is great speculation about your ownership group as you vie for ownership of our beloved franchise. We as fans are not privy to the inner workings of professional sports team ownership, stadium development or the high finance that goes along with such endeavors – we can only read the newspapers, sports websites and tweets from those who may or may not have accurate information. To date, much of what we have heard about you and your ownership group is conjecture.
I appreciate your passion for football, and the NFL in particular. You have a proven track record as an owner of a professional football team and your accomplishments in turning that franchise into a winner are commendable. I have no doubt at all that you would bring tremendous passion to the Bills every Sunday as we do as fans , after all, they would be your team and would represent the achievement of one of your most ambitious goals.
Our passions for the Bills closely mirror one another’s, until we get to a key distinction. I, and Bills Nation as a whole, are passionate about the Buffalo Bills, you would be passionate about the Bills.
To understand how inextricably intertwined the Bills are with Buffalo may be hard to understand if you haven’t ever lived in Western New York. In the early days of the last century Buffalo was a major metropolitan area – a hub of commerce with railroads and the Erie Canal. Manufacturing jobs were plenty in post-WWII Buffalo, but the 1970’s saw most of these jobs lost as steel mills and manufacturing plants shuttered. Buffalo fell of very hard economic times. Through the tough times the people of Buffalo had the Bills, and later the Sabres, to provide a much needed sense of civic pride. Things in Buffalo have improved, but to a large extent our pride in our region is linked to our sports teams. Yeah, we get lake effect snow by the foot, but we went to an unprecedented 4 straight Super Bowls.
Buffalo is a blue collar, down in the dirt no-BS kind of place. People are friendly, honest and real. It’s been down on its luck but it keeps on fighting. It is a place right out of the lyrics of many of your songs – the docks on which Johnny used to work before the union went on strike could well be in Buffalo.
Sadly, the decline of the region and the lack of Fortune 500 companies make operating a professional football team more challenging than in larger metropolitan areas like Toronto. The people and companies of Western New York don’t have the kind of money you could find elsewhere. It would certainly be an attractive business proposition to operate a professional football in a new, untapped Canadian market, especially in the nation’s most populous city.
Shakespeare was wrong when Juliette posed “…that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet”. Should the Bills ever relocate out of Western New York they might retain the name, players, logo, but they would not be the same team. You would maintain your passion for the team, we would not.
I understand that you would like to make the Bills successful in Buffalo. I take you at your word when you state this in your letter. Such a scenario would make us all happy. But what you fail to elucidate in your letter is what constitutes “success”. With what yardstick will you measure the success of the franchise in Buffalo? Are they revenue/attendance/performance targets you hope to attain, or will the team constantly be measured by how you believe it would operate in the larger more affluent Toronto area? By failing to define success you leave your ownership group a tremendous out to one day state that you tried to be successful in Western New York and failed – where does that leave us as fans?
And let’s not ignore the elephant in the room as you did in your letter to us – your partners have strong business interests in Toronto. To believe that they would prefer to operate an NFL franchise an hour away, outside of their main markets, in another country is folly. To flip the coin to the other side, do you honestly believe a business mogul in Buffalo would have an interest in buying a team like the Toronto Raptors and keeping them in Toronto?
If the newspaper reports are to believed, you are seeking to be the leader of your ownership group. If that is accurate you would need to own at least 30% of the team. I know have been wildly successful as a musician and a businessman – you’ve accumulated more wealth than most people would accumulate in a lifetime of lifetimes – well done. You are firmly in the fabled “top 1%”, but NFL ownership generally falls to the realm of people in the top .01% - people who could self-finance a billion dollars or more. Even as a lead owner, a majority of the team would belong to Canadian business interests. If we take you at your word that you would like to keep the Bills in Buffalo would you really have the muscle to withstand a desired move by your partners?
As a straight shooting, no-BS guy from Buffalo I will tell you that I think I like you, even though we have never met. From what I’ve read about you, you seem to be a really great guy (just look at your charity work – nobody can claim you’ve not done great things). You’re successful. You’re smart. You work hard. You’re a very talented guy (few have had a career even close to yours). That said, I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you, and neither do many in Bills Nation. There is nothing you can say to change that – no amount of letters to the newspaper or time spent “on the ground” in Buffalo will gain my trust. Until I see some tangible action to show that you are serious about keeping the Bills in Buffalo and can withstand pressure from your fellow investors to prevent such a move I will wish you good day and root as hard as I can that someone else is named the next owner of the Buffalo Bills.
Tony Bogyo, Buffalo Bills fan
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