You know it is a slow news day when a local TV station spends seven or eight minutes on the timeless story of whether the Buffalo Bills are going to stay in Western New York beyond Owner Ralph Wilson’s lifetime.
Channel 2’s Scott Brown spent that amount of time at 6 p.m. Monday in a feel-good, speculative report that rehashed interviews with NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell from four years ago and Wilson five years ago and included new material from so-called local and national experts reading the tea leaves.
Brown’s report concluded that the Bills were going nowhere as long as the area continues to meet strict NFL guidelines against relocation and fans continue to support the team, a few hundred million is spent to repair The Ralph and the team remains profitable.
After the report ended, Channel 2 anchor Maryalice Demler said during happy talk that she can sleep better now.
I wish I was as sold on Brown’s conclusions. But his report was overly optimistic and needed some balance as much as much as the Bills desperately need a stronger pass rush.
A realist or cynic was needed to point out some holes in Brown’s Pollyanna argument in the story. Or perhaps Brown could have asked the two experts he interviewed –national stadium relocation expert Mark Ganis and Canisius College sports management expert Shawn O’Rourke – some questions that realists might want answered.
Brown’s optimism included suggestions that three local billionaires – Terry Pegula, Jeremy Jacobs and Tom Golisano – could be local buyers. I hope Brown is right but they didn’t become billionaires by making bad investments. The Bills possible price tag of $800 million or so makes it a questionable investment even if you accept the $29 million profit that Brown reported the Bills made last year.
Here are some of the things that I would have liked to hear explained away.
Like President Clinton likes to say, it is simple arithmetic. Wilson paid $25,000 when he bought the Bills and presumably has no debt on the team. If the new owner financed, say $500 million of the purchase price, one wonders if the interest costs certainly would take a big bite out of the team’s profit. If so, how hard would it be to show a loss and achieve one of the NFL’s requirements to move the team?
Then there is the issue of fan support. Yes, the Bills have gotten solid fan support during this endless playoff drought and have sold out all of their home games so far this season. But there are thousands of tickets left for this year’s remaining home games. The Bills also have one of the lowest ticket prices in the league. What’s preventing a new owner with a heavy debt load to come in and raise prices substantially in a few years? If the owner does, it also might become more difficult to sell as many seats. If so, could another of the NFL’s requirements to move the team be easily achieved?
Then there is the issue of whether other owners would approve a move. Brown reported 75 percent of the 32 owners – 24 if you do the math – have to approve. My question is how many times do you think the owners have voted no on a move and made it stick? My guess is probably almost as often the Bills have a prime time game and no fan gets arrested.
Brown’s final positive vibe came from Commissioner Goodell’s roots. His father Charles was a U.S. senator and Roger was born in Jamestown so the theory goes he would do everything possible to keep the Bills in Western New York.
I’d like to believe that. But Goodell works for the owners and can only do so much if a persuasive case is made to move the Bills.
Hey it’s a couple of days before Thanksgiving so I am all for positive vibes. We should all be thankful that the Bills have been around so long in one of the smallest markets in the league and hopeful that this optimistic report rings true in a few years.
But other than helping Demler sleep, the report really didn’t amount to much.
While I am on Channel 2, the newscast also included a story by Pete Gallivan about a woman who supposedly saw two sanitation workers urinate in a garbage truck. Oh, well, I did say it was a slow news day.
A Scott Norwood reference was made Monday by Tony Kornhesier on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” Talking about the difficulties of Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby, Kornhesier said you can’t have a struggling kicker in the playoffs and mentioned three kickers. Norwood was unfairly referenced as one of them. He wasn’t struggling before he went wide right on that 47-yard Super Bowl kick. By the way, the Norwood miss also was in Brown’s Channel 2 report.