Opinion: Watson’s column ignores the positives

By Josh Svetz

It’s been over 17 years since the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs and most people, whether they root for the Bills or not, are happy.

Well, most people.

Just three days after the Bills clinched their first playoff birth since 1999, Rod Watson, a political columnist for the Buffalo News, wrote a controversial column essentially telling fans to “get a life,” specifically to focus on the real issues and stop obsessing about a football team’s accomplishments.

While we can all understand the importance of real issues and taking the time to pay attention to them, that doesn’t need to bleed into simple enjoyment of entertainment.

Carole McNall, an assistant professor at Saint Bonaventure University, said the article fell into the trap of the “either/or mentality.”

“Increasingly today, we set things up as either/or: either you like this thing or that, either you care about this thing or you care about that one,” McNall said. “The excitement I feel over the success of a team I’ve cheered for most of my life doesn’t erase the concern I feel about the issues Watson cites.”

McNall, a diehard Bills fan, brings up an interesting point.

Just because a fan base is excited about an athletic achievement doesn’t mean they’re ignoring the issues 24/7.

In fact, some philanthropic good came from the Bills making the playoffs.

After the Bills beat the Miami Dolphins, they still needed the Baltimore Ravens to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals.

That’s exactly what happened when the Bengals won off a miracle touchdown pass from Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd.

Hours after the win, Bills fans thanked Dalton by flooding donations to his and his wife’s foundation, which provides support to seriously-ill and physically challenged children and their families in Cincinnati, Ohio and Fort Worth, Texas.

The output was enough for Dalton and his wife, J.J., to personally thank the fans for the over $315,000 in donations, ironically being published in the Buffalo News.

Yet, Watson failed to mention such in his column, something that bothered St. Bonaventure senior and Bills fanatic, Emmy Kolbe.

I’m not sure what Watson defines as ‘a little perspective,’ but I’d say that’s a huge, beautiful success.” Kolbe said. “It’s a great snapshot of the good Bills Mafia can do for surrounding communities.”

Good deeds aside, another conversation arises from the idea of escapism.

In our world, where media dominates our lives and we can access news within seconds, sometimes it’s nice to just shut off for awhile and enjoy a beloved sports team achieving a great feat, especially when it ties into the culture of the city itself.

Nate Discavage, a graduate of Saint Bonaventure University, isn’t a Bills fan, but spending part of his life in Western New York has made him aware of the Bills’ cultural significance.

“I understand that not everybody is a sports fan,” Discavage said. “But, the Bills are so ingrained in the local culture that Watson has to be aware of the impact of everything around him.”

For Buffalo native Reid Okoniewski, he thought the column misrepresented the fans.

“The fans of the Bills know what the city [of Buffalo] has to offer, especially what we pride ourselves in,” Okoniewski said. “When he talks about taking pride in the history of Buffalo, he shoves aside a cornerstone of Buffalo pride, the sports.”

But maybe the largest blind spot Watson failed to address was family impact.

Mike Hogan, a freshman at Saint Bonaventure University, wasn’t even alive the last time the Bills made the playoffs.

He doesn’t remember Jim Kelly or Thurman Thomas, he remembers Drew Bledsoe, Trent Edwards and Kyle Orton.

His family are Bills fanatics, especially his dad.

His dad got to live in the time where the Bills went to four Super Bowls, but Mike didn’t.

He watched losing. So much losing that he wondered if he’d ever see winning.

“I can remember most of the drought and asking my dad, ‘are we ever going to get to watch a playoff game together?’ Hogan said. “I’ll finally get to have that experience with my father that I’ve waited to have all of my life, watching a Buffalo Bills playoff game with the man who taught me the ups and downs of being a Bills fan.”

Watson’s column asks the reader to have “a little perspective.”

As a Pittsburgh Steelers fan from Northwest Pennsylvania, who’s in the past been annoyed by Bills’ fans over-hopefulness and over-emphasis on the team, similarly to Watson, here’s my perspective.

It’s brought a city together, raised money for charity, fostered community, made people happy and bonded families.

At the end of the day, there’s no harm in that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Buffalo Sports Buzz 12/2/15: Bills’ playoff hopes dwindling; Sabres looking competitive

By Anthony Sambrotto @asambrotto95

The Buffalo Bills’ season is on life support. After a crushing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday to send them to 5-6 on the season, the Bills need to win out to have a realistic chance at their first playoff berth in 15 years. The team is still in the hunt for an AFC wild card slot, but needs to leapfrog three other teams first.

The Bills head back to Ralph Wilson Stadium this Sunday, but will have the 6-5 Houston Texans waiting for them. The Texans defense, led by two-time Defensive Player of the Week J.J Watt, leads the league in least points allowed per game and sacks since week eight. They have held the high-powered New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals to six points each in recent games and will pose a tough task for Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is coming off one of the best games of his short starting career, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions for 291 yards against the Chiefs.

The Bills were forced to perform a slew of transactions this week on the defensive side of the ball. Pro bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury, and his backup Alex Carrington is also done for the 2015 campaign with a torn quad. The Bills also released linebacker A.J Tarpley, who missed several key assignments on Sunday. Replacements for the Bills include the newly-signed DE Lavar Edwards, DT T.J. Barnes and LB Kevin Riddick. Also receiving a promotion is rookie linebacker Tony Steward, who will start for Nigel Bradham this week.

After Sunday’s game, the Bills hit the road for two straight against Philadelphia and Washington.

The other professional team in Buffalo has been playing much better over the past week. After losing six straight, the Sabres have points in three consecutive games.

Buffalo lost a thrilling 5-4 shootout decision to the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night. Buffalo fell behind 2-0 early, but battled back behind two goals from Evander Kane and three assists from defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres had a great chance to end the game in overtime with a power play that saw Kane rip a shot off the post, but ultimately the game went to a shootout, where Detroit’s Brad Richards scored the only goal.

The Sabres get a few days off before hosting the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.

Despite this being termed a “rebuilding” year from the Sabres’ brass, they sit at 23 points through 25 games, better than three other teams in the Eastern Conference.

Center Ryan O’Reilly leads the Sabres in scoring with 20 points, but Ristolainen, who has four points over his last five games, is close behind with 17 on the season.

 

NFL: Soon-to-be Hall of Famer Polian looks back at the early ’90s Bills

By Joshua Svetz

Six-time NFL executive of the year Bill Polian is finally getting the credit he deserves, as he will soon be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

As the former general manager of the Buffalo Bills from 1985-1993, Polian helped build a team that appeared in four straight Super Bowls.

In an NFL media conference call, Polian offered his take on what he considers to be one of his best accomplishments in his career. When asked by Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 radio about the great 1990s Bills, he said he never thought we would see a team like that in the NFL again.

“(Those Bills were) an incredible array of talent. I was very fortunate to have been surrounded by them,” Polian said. “I said at the time I left to cherish them, because you won’t see their like again.”

Polian opened up a bit about the landscape of the NFL at the time when he left the Bills in 1993.

“I wasn’t pressured (out), but I just realized that with the new landscape that was coming in professional football, with the advent of free agency and the salary cap, that it was unlikely that there would ever be another team that was as good top to bottom as our team was, as the Cowboys of that era were, and (as) the 49ers, who kind of bridged both eras, (80s and 90s) who Bill Walsh really put together before the salary cap.”

Polian described some of the best teams in NFL history. The Cowboys won three Super Bowls in that era, beating the Bills in back-to-back championship games. Walsh’s 49ers won three Super Bowls in the eighties before head coach George Seifert took over and guided them to two more championships in the 1989 and 1994 seasons.

Of course, the 1990s Bills are the team Polian helped build, and he won’t soon forget them.

“That’s a very unique team in football history, because it’ll be very difficult unless there is a major change in the labor situation and the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to put together a complete team like (that team was).”

Due to the restrictions of the CBA and labor situations it is extremely unlikely that we will see a team like the 90s Bills again.

Despite that, fans can take solace in knowing that even after Polian’s successful stints with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

 

 

 

New ownership dilemma over

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By Nathan Moser

For more than two decades, there has been questions dealing with the future of the Buffalo Bills. Consider that the franchise’s only owner, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. was in his 90s. Wilson had founded and owned the team since 1960. There was the idea that once Wilson passed away, his daughters would have possession of the franchise, and they would sell the team to the highest bidder — whether that new owner or owners were planning on keeping the Bills in Buffalo or not.

Many Bills fans wanted Wilson to sell the team to someone who was going to keep the team in Buffalo while he was still alive, but he always kept the idea that while he was alive, he always wanted to own the Buffalo Bills.

The fears of many Bills fans finally came true when Wilson passed away on March 25, 2014 at the age of 95. This left many fans wondering: What would happen to the football team that has been playing in Buffalo for more than 50 years?

Once the Wilsons decided to sell the team instead of keep it, there were many candidates that wanted to place their bids in. There was Terry Pegula, owner of Buffalo’s National Hockey League team the Sabres; Tom Golisano, who was owner of the Sabres before selling the team to Pegula; a group that consisted of singer Jon Bon Jovi, who eventually got kicked out of the group, as well as Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Edward Rogers III, who is the deputy chairman of Rogers Communications; and Donald Trump among others.

The top three bidders for the franchise were Pegula, who bid $1.4 billion, setting an NFL record; followed by the Toronto group, and Trump. The Wilsons, in the end, decided that the Pegulas were the right fit to be the second owner in franchise history. The NFL finance committee agreed to the sale to the Pegulas, and the next step in the process is to get the owners’ approval, which is expected to come when the owners meet in October.

mosernr14@bonaventure.edu

Aime Mukendi talks to former Buffalo Bill Butch Rolle

By Aime Mukendi

Butch Rolle is a former tight end that played eight seasons in the National Football League. Rolle was a seventh-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1986 and finished his career as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. He played in the Bills’ first two Super Bowl appearances.

“It was very exciting,” Rolle said. “It’s something that every player who plays in the National Football League wants to get a chance to do. I was fortunate. It was fun watching the media. That’s the most fun part. That whole week is just a different vibe with the media and all the attention surrounding it. That’s the most memorable part.”

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Rolle played alongside Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly for five years. Although the Bills used Rolle more for his blocking, he held a streak of 10 consecutive receptions for touchdowns in 1991. He finished his career with 11 total touchdowns, but given how offenses use tight ends now his numbers would be different if he played in the league today.

“It’s bigger and faster for sure. The game has grown as far as speed and size. I think it depends on the coach, ” Rolle said. “Today tight ends are definitely a big part of the offense they’re more receivers.  I was a big strong guy and strong blocker so I would be able to use that to my advantage. I think I would have been in a better position to catch more passes in this era.”

Buffalo has not made the postseason since the 1999 season, and fans are hoping rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel can change that.

Former players like Rolle also hope Manuel can change that.

“I always look to see who they’re going to draft,” Rolle said. “A good quarterback is always well deserved and well needed. I’ll go on the record and say they haven’t had a good quarterback since my boy Jim Kelly was there. It’s hard to replace a Hall of Fame guy like that.”

Manuel is expected to start the season opener against the New England Patriots after undergoing a minor procedure on his knee for an injury suffered against the Minnesota Vikings in the third week of the preseason.

“I hope E.J. becomes healthy, so he can contribute,” Rolle said. “Quarterback is a tough position. As long as he can stay healthy and he can learn the game quick enough where he’s not making mistakes, he should be fine.”

Rolle’s favorite moment in his football career was when he received the call on draft day from the Bills.

“That was my favorite moment in sports,” Rolle said. “That’s what I worked for all my life.”

Rolle also played in the Arena Football League for a couple of years. He now coaches football at his old high school, works as a real estate agent and recently became a professional in IFBB men’s physique. Although he has kept himself busy in life after football, Rolle admits he misses the game.

“I miss the excitement of the game,” Rolle said. ” I miss the locker room, the guys joking around having fun, the crowd and going out on Sunday. I wish we could play this game until we were 50.”

mukendas11@bonaventure.edu

This Day in Bonaventure History

By Joe Pinter, News Editor, @JPinter93

November 5, 1993

The Jim Kelly Football Camp was started by the famous Buffalo Bills’ quarterback of the same name. Its purpose was to host a non-contact camp and help instruct young athletes on the game of football.

Besides Kelly, numerous Bills and other NFL players have worked with kids at the camp. Many celebrities have also made appearances over the years. 

When the camp started at St. Bonaventure University in 1988, it had 325 campers. It has grown to over 500 campers from all across the country.

It was on this day that the camp would be moved from Bonaventure to its current location at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.

pinterjo11@bonaventure.edu