Niagara Gazette — It is something that Buffalo Bills fans knew would come someday. But now that it has happened, the passing of Ralph Wilson, it’s something that still seems most surreal.
He’s the only owner the team has ever had. It’s very uncertain who will be the next owner, and whether he or she will commit the team to a long-term stay in Western New York as Wilson did.
It’s the question that needs to be asked: what next?
It’s a question that must be addressed but first, let’s allow an appropriate time to simply mourn the loss of the man who gave Buffalo and Western New York one of the assets that has kept us feeling a part of the big leagues, even as the local industries and population have shrunk.
Ralph Wilson was once known as a member of the “Foolish Club,” the group of investors who had the crazy idea of starting a second professional football league in America.
It wouldn’t be the first time his business moves were called into question. Yet he stuck to his guns and turned out to prove himself a wise businessman.
You may recall he was one of two NFL owners who went against the vast majority of peers eight years ago when the latter group approved a new collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing plan. Wilson, who opposed the deal saying it would harm small-market franchises, was sharply criticized by the self-believing experts. One national sports talk show host, I recall from listening to the show, essentially dismissed Wilson as perhaps senile and trying to continue in a game that had passed him by.
Then in 2011, the owners locked out the players for four months until a new deal was worked out. Ironically, Wilson and Mike Brown, the Cincinnati Bengals owner who also voted down the previous CBA, were praised for having the vision to vote down a deal that the other owners would later realize was not in their best business interests.