If you were watching the Buffalo Sabres record their second straight win Saturday night on MSG, then you probably missed half of Channel 2’s special on Buffalo Bills Owner Ralph Wilson.
If so, you get a second chance at 11:30 tonight to catch “Wilson: The Life, Impact and Living Legacy of Ralph C. Wilson Jr.”
Anchored by Adam Benigni, the special met my expectations based on a brief preview clip Thursday.
It was a fair and balanced look at Wilson’s ownership of one of Western New York’s most prized businesses that was highlighted by some unusual candor by former Bills General Manager Bill Polian and former Bills great Steve Tasker.
Polian essentially took the blame for his ouster as general manager, telling Benigni his dispute with the business side of the team led to a rift that cost him his job in 1992. He added he probably could “have handled it a heckuva lot better.” I just wish Benigni would have pursued some specifics with Polian about what the arguments were about. I also wish he had asked Polian if he would ever come back and work for the Bills in some capacity.
Tasker, who is now a CBS broadcaster and still works for the Bills, was unusually candid in assessing the dysfunction of the Tom Donahoe era as team president. He said people in the organization were essentially rooting for colleagues to fail. I also wish he had been asked to give specifics.
While Bills quarterback Jim Kelly optimistically expects the team to stay here after Wilson is gone, Tasker also acknowledged that the $1 billon-$2 billion the new owner would have to pay for the Bills could make moving “a real possibility.”
Wilson’s loyalty to fans, players and the community as well as his ability to hold a grudge were well documented, as was the claim from some fans and sportswriters that he is “cheap” when it comes to paying for players, coaches and general managers. The kinder and gentler Wilson critics would say he just spends his money unwisely.
The special could have done without the conclusion from Channel 2 reporter Scott Brown that Bills Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon’s umbrage when asked a question at a press conference about succession plans should Mr. Wilson “pass” meant the Bills were basically “saying it’s none of your business.”
That was a little harsh. Brandon didn’t say that. He said Wilson’s loyalty was “unmatched” by any professional team owner, which could have been painted as basically saying Wilson hopes the team stays here and the community supports it so it can happen. Brandon didn’t like being asked to speculate on his boss’ eventual death. It was a legitimate question, but who could blame Brandon for not liking it?
Brown also later told Benigni “that fans say why haven’t you made succession plans for the community?”
I love the fans. I am one of them. I understand why they think Wilson has an “obligation” to the fans to tell them his plans. In a fair world, I’d agree with them because Wilson has gotten his share of public money over the years.
But puh-lease. Wilson owns a business and he can run it the way he wants. He also is in the insurance business. He knows finance, wills and estates. He undoubtedly has made some kind of succession plan. He just isn’t telling what the plan is and he probably has his reasons. I mean what public figure who is living wants to talk publicly about what happens after he dies?
Those minor complaints aside, Channel 2’s special was as special as expected and probably will even win an award someday.
Speaking of Tasker, he also was on “Saturday Night Live” a few hours after Channel 2’s special.
Well, actually Taran Killam played Tasker in the opening “SNL” skit about CBS’ efforts to kill time during the 34-minute blackout during the Super Bowl a week ago.
Tasker got some praise on Twitter a week ago for his calmness during the blackout, but the “SNL” skit made fun of how little he or anyone else at CBS knew about it.
“Not much new to report,” the fake Tasker told Kenan Thompson, who was playing CBS host James Brown. “The lights are out, they’re trying to get them on. Some players are stretching, some are not. As a favor, I’d like you not to come back to me because I have nothing to add.”
Of course, Brown went back to Tasker, who was upset about it and said “I have no new information.”
When Brown became desperate to fill time, the sketch got good, cracking laugh out-loud jokes at the expense of Dan Marino, Baltimore Ravens’ star Ray Lewis and the CBS comedy being promoted throughout the game, “Two Broke Girls.”
I hope Tasker takes the skit the right way. He should realize that it’s an honor to be made fun of on “SNL.”
By the way, I bet you didn’t know that Killam is married to Cobie Smulders of “How I Met Your Mother.” I didn’t know it until I googled him after seeing the Tasker skit.