Since the 1980’s I have been a loyal fan of the Buffalo Bills. To this day I still recall the experience of going to my first Bills game, and I recall most of the games I have attended since that time. At one point I was even a season ticket holder.
Nothing’s better than celebrating a big play with 80,000 of your closest friends. As a teenager I recall fall days helping my father work outside while listening to the Bills on the radio, and I recall hearing the roar of the crowd. I remember pausing to listen every time the great announcer Van Miller’s voice would grow louder when a big play was made.
These are my personal memories of the Bills, but they are shared by many. One could argue that no team has meant more to their city than the Buffalo Bills. In many cities NFL games have become a corporate event, but in Buffalo it’s still so different. It’s a city that has seen tough times, yet every week the stadium is filled with some of the most loyal fans in the NFL. It’s possible we’re all loyal to a fault.
It hasn’t always been this bad for Bills fans. There was a time in the 80’s when the team was bad, but those memories were erased by some of the best years this franchise has seen in the 90’s. Unfortunately those players couldn’t play forever, and the team started to decline, but it seems we always felt better times were around the corner. We hear the rumors that the team will leave Buffalo, but we’ve also heard those rumors in the past only to see them stay.
How could they leave after we’ve supported them so strongly? We always seem to come back at the start of every year with new found optimism that this will be the year that the Bills return to glory. Other teams go from bad to good in one season, why not us? So we buy the tickets and go to games regardless of weather, or we sit in front of our televisions for 3 hours every Sunday to watch some of the worst football being played at any level. We deal with heartbreaking losses that would turn some fans away, but we return the following week. This happens week after week, year after year.
I feel fortunate to have this venue to express my frustration – as it’s become evident to me that we’re being played as fools. It is obvious the Bills brass cares little about the fans that have supported them for so long. While the owner deserves credit for keeping the team here as long as he has one thing has become obvious, it’s all about the bottom line. He won’t spend on a legitimate GM or coach, and when he does spend on players it’s either spent on the wrong players (Roscoe Parrish, Derrick Dockery, etc.) or it’s a ploy to sell tickets.
COO Russ Brandon is brilliant at selling and marketing this team. This is proven by the fact we keep coming back to support horrible teams. When the Bills signed TO it was not to win games, it was to sell tickets for one more year. At this point of his career he is over rated and a distraction, but he sells tickets. Brandon knows marketing, but not football. That is painfully obvious. Dick Jauron is a great man and a good coordinator but he’s not a head coach, yet Ralph Wilson keeps him on despite the fact an overwhelming majority of fans have wanted him gone for months.
The O-line is in shambles, the QB looks like a rookie again, the special teams are no longer special, and the defense could fill a hospital wing with their injuries. The bad news is they don’t seem overly motivated to fix any of it as long as the seats are filled. This past weekend they even conveniently forgot to tell a stadium full of fans and the media that Ralph Wilson decided not to have a planned ceremony to receive his Hall of Fame ring.
All of this is a slap in the face to some of the best fans in football, and during the next home game this leadership group should come out at half time and issue an apology to the fans. They should apologize to fans that spend money that they barely have to support this team, partially because they’re scared to death that if they don’t the team will leave even sooner. They should apologize to fans for breaking their hearts time and time again, yet doing nothing to prevent it from happening again.
There was a time that the Bills were one thing the City of Buffalo and Western New York could be proud of. We took pride in being the “12th man”, as we were known for making things difficult for the Bills’ opponents. But now the Bills are an embarrassment, and it becomes harder by the day to support a team that cares so little about their fans.
Let’s hope Ralph Wilson sees the light and tries to make this team a winner before it’s too late, or let’s hope that eventually an ownership team purchases the team and keeps them in Buffalo with the goal of rewarding the fans with a Super Bowl. We have to hope, because right now our fading hope is all we have to hold onto.