Rarely does a result go from one inevitable conclusion to an opposite yet still inevitable conclusion. One minute I was penning a post preaching the ultimate palatability of the CFL as a replacement for the Bills and the next minute the very idea was laughable. One minute the Bills were gone, the next minute they weren’t. To be a man so powerful that your mere presence tips the scales of a billion-dollar entity firmly from one column to another, rendering the presence of the other billionaires and media conglomerates impotent in your wake, is a power that I simply cannot fathom. To have the ability, the determination, and more importantly the closing speed to shape the future of a metropolitan area in a way that politicians are unable and entrepreneurs ultimately lack the vision, the benevolence, or as one of the Toronto columnists put it last week, the craziness to do themselves for so many years. Terry Pegula is a force of nature that, if drawn up in a hypothetical five years ago would have been the only way for both teams to have long term security in Buffalo and would have dismissed out of hand as being too absurd, to pie-in-the-sky, too batshit insane to ever actually emerge.
What strikes me most at a time the guy is about to plop around a billion and a half to participate in a crooked, malicious league, is that Terry Pegula is ultimately a bigger person than most of us. I don’t mean his spending power - this is unrelated to how he accumulated that wealth over the years - but the ultimate decision that this was how he wanted to use his money. In the three years since solidifying the Sabres' future and redefining the parameters of success (“just break even,” anyone?), as well as the dedication to win at all costs, he has received an almost constant deluge of tar and feather from the boobs who work a couple buildings down on Washington Street and who demanded he answer about the Penn State scandal as if he was an accessory; who turned his folksy demeanor against him as if he were campaigning for office; who used the hesitancy to clean house to paint him as out of his element, as Mr. Magoo, as incompetent and star-struck; and who convinced a not-insignificant amount (mostly those decrepit enough to prefer their morning paper to turning on a computer) to feel the same way. Despite the most talent-rich prospect pipeline in the league, the losses by the parent club made things like “hockey heaven” something to be used ironically only.
Why I disregarded Pegula for the Bills was simple; I could not fathom a man who would not be so overcome with resentment, regret and anger at those involved that they would even consider doing something like that again. I couldn’t believe that he would get tossed in boiling water for three years and then say “is that burner up all the way?” I found it inexplicable that he would invite more criticism, take more control, that this guy would spend his fortune to make himself the head honcho of one of the most cursed sports cities on the Continent. That is a coolness, an inner calm, a confidence and ultimately a set of stones of a size that I cannot fathom. Western New York is Terrytown, Pegulaville, whatever you want to call it, aand what makes me happy is to know the man wants it just like that. He really would rather be nowhere else but right here, right now.
In the end, the only people who said this wasn’t inevitable were those who get paid by reporting drama. In the end all the noise was coming from only those who could advance their career, pump their byline, attempt to cry and scream just enough to keep enough people tuned in, enough people clicking their links. This was the 2012 Presidential Election; it was never close but until the results were in you could bet your ass everyone paid to write or talk about it was going to make it seem close. The only mistake Tim Graham made throughout this process was what he would probably peg as his finest hour, when he “broke” the “news” that the Bon Jovi had contacted Jim Kelly to form some sort of supergroup. It’s laughable in hindsight and unprofessional in ways that should probably be laid out. First, he used Kelly’s frailty to paint a narrative where the MLSE group was going to use Buffalo’s hero to facilitate moving the team, which was a pretty dick move to Kelly and his family, and then he reported it without confirming- or disclosing- the result of the “meeting.” He managed to make everyone crazy and then the following day reported “just kidding, the meeting didn’t go anywhere.” Either he 1) didn’t know what was said and reported a story without knowing its full scope, or 2) knew what was said and chose to report half of it in order to get clicks. So is he dumb or unprofessional? Well, his writing is too good to be the former so let’s assume the latter.
In the end though, the unprofessional antics of The Buffalo News have simply served to marginalize them further. In a world where relevant Sabres news is broken by TSN, The Hockey News or even a newspaper in Ottawa, TBN can be ensured their relegation to minor outlet for sports news is complete. Sure, the hit pieces will continue but when your swings barely reach the ankles of your target, exactly what kind of damage can you expect to inflict? They can continue to cry about the owner’s availability because quite simply Pegula has shown he doesn’t need them, he can create his goodwill with actions, not words. They can lament that the new owner refuses to play ball like the previous one considering the previous one created the bidding circus that allowed them to act relevant for a few months longer. In the end though, the ultimate end of The Buffalo News as a viable sports reporting entity makes the rest of Western New York media stronger.
It’s been said that 1968 was saved by Apollo 8, the first manned flight to orbit the moon. It came at Christmas that year and allowed everyone to celebrate something, to remember that sometimes good things happen. The purchase of a silly football team cannot replicate that on the same scale, but regardless of our thoughts about Israel’s role, or what to do about ISIS, or whether police have too much power, what we have today is something we can all get behind, celebrate, support, something none of us could have imagined only several short years ago. We deserve it, and while the rest of the world may continue to come apart at the seams, this is our time to forget about all that shit and dance.
What now? Well there will be more than enough time for that because the Bills future is in perpetuity, it is not defined as six years of us sadly sipping blue lights outside trash can fires at the Ralph as our team inches closer to departure. The future is defined in whatever fashion we wish to do so and there will be plenty of time to call for Russ Brandon’s firing into Venus, where he will be flattened into nothing by its heavy atmosphere (I, for one, am eager to know exactly what role Brandon had in this sale, specifically to determine whether my suspicion - that he was the MLSE/Rogers man on the inside, setting the dominoes up just so in exchange for running Toronto’s NFL franchise, deciding to jump aboard what he felt was the winning team once Ralph’s health began to decline - is accurate). There will be plenty of debate as to the fates of the other lame ducks wandering the halls at One Bills Drive, of how best to end the playoff drought, of how best to move the franchise forward. That’s the fun part, though; no more “I just want them to stay,” no more fretting about whether or not the population drain means we can’t be “big time,” no more using sports to drive our regional insecurities. They are staying, and now we can just be fans, which is something we haven't been allowed to be in, well, arguably ever in this town.
Now comes the fun part, just wanting them to win. Thank you Terry. Thank you Kim. Let’s go Bills.