Niagara Gazette

March 27, 2014

OUR VIEW: Wilson's legacy includes Bills in Buffalo

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Western New Yorkers and football fans everywhere should take a moment to reflect on the impressive legacy left by Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. His death Tuesday was a gut punch for the region and while we’ve known of his failing health for many years, his death at 95 still somehow seems shocking.

A true icon in our community is gone.

Wilson had a mercurial relationship with Bills fans in these parts. His steadfast loyalty to them cost him a pretty penny when, time and again, he resisted offers to lure the Bills to bigger cities where he would make more money. He voted against every relocation effort since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 and believed strongly teams owed it to fans to make it work rather than cut and run.

We all owe Mr. Wilson a debt of gratitude for demonstrating such fierce loyalty to Buffalo and to the fans of his team.

The Bills have been a middling team for a generation now and the arguments persist that a change of leadership has been needed. Now on the other side of Mr. Wilson’s death, it strikes us: Be careful what you wish for. For all our groaning about the losses, 14 seasons without a playoff berth, busted draft picks and inept decisions both on the field and off, they’re still our team. We still pack the stadium bearing Wilson’s name, talk about them endlessly. If there’s one thing Bills fans have proven over the years, it’s that Mr. Wilson’s loyalty was not misplaced. Fans here truly care about this team.

Now, with Mr. Wilson gone, it’s time for all the stakeholders to pay a fitting tribute to his legacy. State and county leaders, the NFL, the Bills front office along with those who will be tasked with overseeing the estate owe it to the late owner to show the same loyalty he did.

These are nervous times for Buffalo sports fans. In the coming months someone — probably several groups of people — will express an interest in taking control of our team. NFL leaders and the Wilson estate would be well-served to keep the late owner’s dedication to this region’s passionate fans top of mind as they determine who owns the team moving forward.

There’s no simpler way to put it: We owe it to Ralph Wilson to keep his Bills in Buffalo.