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Nothing Wrong with Being a Businessman

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Bon Jovi may be a bit overrated as a rock star/musician and as we know he is persona non grata in Western New York, but fans of the Buffalo Bills should remember one thing and that is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with him being a businessperson. Bon Jovi and his group want to buy the Buffalo Bills and despite his letter to the Buffalo News and the News’ terribly misleading headline, wants to move the team to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 100 miles to the north.

Bon Jovi is a businessman as is Terry Pegula, Tom Golisano, Donald Trump and every other person who has shown both real and token interest in buying the Buffalo Bills. And, guess what? There is nothing wrong with being a businessperson, and those who are, are in this to make the most money that they can. As our country’s leaders attempt to socialize our great land, buying and selling still remains the fundamental principal of capitalism.

Like the others, Bon Jovi submitted a purchase offer for the club, something that theoretically, anybody with a couple of billion dollars could do. Of course, when news leaked out that Bon Jovi and the Rogers group intends to move the team to Toronto, the outrage began. Booing Bon Jovi tribute bands, message boards at bowling alleys declaring a Bon Jovi Free Zone and so on and so forth. In some ways it makes Buffalo, a city that has always had an inferiority complex, look a bit redneckish.

Buffalo is a great city, a great place to live and raise a family. Outsiders may cringe when you mention Buffalo, but those who move here, tend to stay here. Jim Kelly, who the Bills still haven’t replaced since he retired in 1996, hated Buffalo so much that he jumped to the USFL in 1983 rather than come to dreaded WNY. Once the league folded and Kelly had no choice, he not only signed with the Bills, he spent 11 years here and still lives here. Buffalo grows on people, and Kelly’s story is not unique.

Buffalolonians and WNYers are fiercely loyal. They loathe Buffalo winters, yet when asked about them by out-of-towners, say that they’re really not that bad. In 1998, I was in Pompano Beach on a February vacation when I was asked about Buffalo’s harsh winters by a Georgia couple. Rather than complain, I defended the winters, saying that they make you tough; that there are many winter activities to keep you busy and that they’re not that bad. Some of this true. The Shamrock Run, held the first Saturday in March is usually contested in sub 30 degree temperatures and every year; they get 3,500 runners to participate in it.

This loyalty can make you jaded, too. What has Bon Jovi done wrong? Is he any different than the corporation who closes down the Buffalo factory to move to Mexico? Of course not, but tire factories are not the same as football teams and hockey teams, which provide a source of civic pride no matter what level of allegiance you have to them. The Bon Jovi group thinks they can make money, more profit by moving the Bills to Toronto and that, on the surface is not a bad business model. The others think they can keep the team in Buffalo and make enough money, so as a result they are lauded by those who call WNY home. And, because the "keep the Bills in Buffalo," groups appear to have offered the most money, it looks like the Bills will be awarded to them and all will be good. But, what if the Bon Jovi group offered $2 billion for the team and Pegula only $1.3 billion? What would happen then? If you were selling a business, would $700 million be something to walk away from? If you take the Buffalo bias out of the equation, you know what the right move would be.

Based on all the reports, most think that this is in the bag, that Terry Pegula has the most cash and that he will be the new owner of the Buffalo Bills when the smoke clears. But, as Lee Corso always says, "not so fast my friend." Pegula could in fact buy the team, but if a new stadium isn’t built, he could sell the team to someone who will move the team. Please, let’s not kid ourselves, the Bills need a new stadium. There is only so much refurbishing that can be done to Ralph Wilson Stadium. The concourses aren’t going to get bigger and the lines to get into the stadium will remain long. The good news for Buffalo fans is that Toronto’s current playpen, the Rogers Centre, is not suited for football either and in 2017, it will be reconfigured to be more baseball friendly for the main tenant; the Toronto Blue Jays.

Pegula could get the team, but mark my words, as soon as it happens, he will start the campaign to get a new stadium built somewhere in WNY, preferably with a dome on it so other things can be held there besides football. And, when that happens, the WNYers who are currently singing his praises are going to call him names and trot out "there’s nothing wrong with The Ralph," and "no stadium has better sight lines than The Ralph." The Aud had great sightlines, too, but eventually everybody dies, including buildings.

The Bon Jovi group just thinks Toronto is better than Buffalo and there’s nothing wrong with that. And, he’s probably right. Sports today is more about entertaining and distractions than it is about watching the games, and Bills fans are proudly old school. Most Bills fans, once they’re in the stadium, actually sit in their seats and WATCH the game. In the new playpens, people are up walking away, having a drink in the bar and watching on a TV, but not Buffalo. In Toronto, the owners could bring their guests in the night before, and then on game day, entertain them more with all the luxuries that the modern stadiums have to offer. With a new stadium, Buffalo could probably do that, but not to the extent that Toronto can. Let’s be honest, how many people choose Buffalo as a place to go on vacation? And, for the record, Niagara Falls doesn’t count.

If a Pegula can buy the Bills and get a stadium built, the future of the Buffalo Bills should be secure for many years to come; if not, he could move the team to a city that will build him one, even Toronto. The Bon Jovi group wants to buy a business and move it, and because of that, the WNY faithful are revolting against him. What they should have done was to appeal to his senses, a nice way of saying kiss his butt, and rather than ban his songs, they should have played Bon Jovi marathons in the attempt to prove that Buffalo is the place for the Bills.

Calvin Coolidge said that "the future of business is business," and that is the essential point here. A business is for sale and there are people who want to buy the business. Several say that the business can thrive in WNY, another says it will thrive somewhere else. To me, that’s fine. Let the process play out and see what happens.
In the meantime, relax and enjoy the 2014 season.