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When It Comes to Wilson, Listen to Your Conscience

by on August 17, 2009

If you’ve ever watched a Buffalo Bills game, chances are they lost. The team is 36 games under .500 over its regular-season history. But that general failure didn’t prevent owner Ralph Wilson from being immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame last weekend. He accepted the invitation, perhaps because he got a free dinner and blazer out of it. But Buffalonians may have been ambivalent about celebrating.

The media cliché is that he’s the game’s “conscience.” But anyone fitting that description would work to better the area where his team is based. Specifically, Wilson could immerse himself in politics and advocate lower tax rates for the state and county. Lessening the notorious burdens upon this area would increase the funds available to current local fans, not to mention that a better business climate would draw potential backers.

But that might mean Wilson could lose his welfare checks. He is getting over $7 million dollars this season from the government to subsidize operations at the arrogantly-named Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Of course, he also got the stadium built in the early 70’s and basically rebuilt in the late 90’s on the taxpayers’ dime. He’s not into investing his own money.

On top of that, if he’s not going to make the easiest money possible by selling the aforementioned stadium name to a corporation, he could have the decency to name it after a hero like Bob Kalsu, a Bill who lost his life in Vietnam. Instead, Wilson prefers having his ego stroked every time he enters the subsidized grounds.

And his teams don’t compete even though the field’s been leveled for them. The salary cap was supposed to make alleged little guys like the Bills viable. However, this franchise will go at least a decade between playoff appearances despite the artificial limit on compensating employees. How many more restraints on competition does he need?

Nostalgia is only worth so much. He coasted into the Hall on the Bills’ back-to-back AFL championships, the reign of Slasher Simpson during which the team appeared in one playoff game, the consecutive postseason appearances following the 1980 and ’81 seasons, and the Super Bowl losses. If they break that tendency this year, it will come via a deal with the Devil; Wilson should have landed a better prize from the ruler of the underworld than Terrell Owens. It’s too bad Wilson won’t hire an actual general manager instead of simply letting marketing guru Russ Brandon take that role.

No matter what, a certain segment of the team’s followers will always worship and praise Wilson for keeping the team here. But he could be working to make here better. Namely, he could try to make his market big. Instead, Wilson is fine with seeing teams in larger cities being forced to engage in behavior such as sharing their revenue. Wouldn’t it be better to work toward being one of the places envied for its economic activity?

Meanwhile, he’ll continue to provoke nervousness by, say, possibly toying with making Toronto the team’s future home base. Worries like that are a rotten thing to constantly dread, and fans should be willing to challenge such questionable moves even if they worship the Bills.

Too often, it seems Wilson thinks small. It’s a tendency which has long plagued too many people connected to this area, one that needs to change if we want to grow beyond having a tiny economy and huge government. He can be most aggravating when he’s not displaying pride in his squad or giving generously to charities; as with the team itself, it’s understandable if fans want to employ a love/hate relationship with its Hall of Fame owner.

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