Thursday, December 23, 2010

Some thoughts

        To say that all Patriot fans are bandwagon fans is not true.  They used to be a blue collar team.  They used to have reasonable ticket prices and a working class family could afford to attend games.  They used to be a fanbase more similar to Buffalo than to NYC.  The problem with the Patriots (and this is not unique to New England) is that their ownership was not happy with the revenue a blue collar fanbase provided.  The Patriots were the first team to cash in on the gentrification of football and in doing so, priced out many fans from their stadium.  Kraft took a risk and built (at the time) one of the most expensive sports complexes in the country.  The story today is all about what a genius Kraft was, what vision he had, what a smart businessman he is- but Kraft was EXTREMELY lucky. 
        Gillette opened in 2002 after which the Patriots only missed the playoffs once, went to 3 Super Bowls and won 2 (their first victory was the Super Bowl of 2002/season of 2001, which was played in the old Foxboro stadium).  In conjunction with the Patriots incredible success, the American economy woke up from its post 9/11 hangover and the stock market shot up to record levels.  Is this business savvy or luck?  If you bet your life savings on 1 hand in blackjack and flop a 21 are you a genius or a fool?
        Now, it would be unfair and un-American to hate someone for taking a risk and being successful.   What I can and will take issue with is that other owners in the NFL saw the Patriots' football and financial success and decided they would copy this business model.  The next batch of “New Era NFL venues” decided to go bigger, “better” and more expensive.  They completely ignored all the external factors outside of Kraft’s control that came together and allowed for the Patriots success.
        Gillette was completed in 2002 at a cost 350 million and the rest of Patriot place was completed in 2006 at a cost of 380 million.  Along with various parking and infrastructure upgrades, the total cost of the venue is roughly 800 million.  Cowboys Stadium: 1.2 billion.  The New Meadowlands: 1.6 billion.  These new venues are so expensive and required an incredible amount of funding, all of which was secured between 2005-2006 when the economy was booming , the stock market was trading at an all time high and tax rates on the wealthiest Americans were at 30 year lows.  Everyone knows what happens next: economy nearly collapses, the stock market tanks and this handful of NFL owners is sitting on a mountain of debt.  All of a sudden, a league of owners that was awarding untested 21-year old rookies 50 million dollar signing bonuses can no longer afford to pay players at the going rate.  All of a sudden, the most popular and profitable sport in the richest country in the world is headed towards a lockout.
        We should not marvel at these stadiums built upon vanity and greed.  These venues are a threat: they are a threat to the league, they are a threat to the average fan and they are a threat the Bills staying in Buffalo.  Bigger is not always better.  Luxury boxes are not always better business than bleacher seats.  For example, luxury boxes are almost always paid for by corporations.  Corporations depend on profits.  Profits go down when the economy is bad and then corporations do not pay for luxury boxes.  Luxury boxes are vacant.  Owners saddled with self inflicted debt cry poverty and blame high players salaries (salaries they created).  Owners threaten lockout.  We all lose.
        The Buffalo Bills make money.  The Minnesota Vikings make money.  No one is starving.  Yet, we are constantly reminded that we are a likely candidate to be relocated to a larger/wealthier venue.  Why?  Greed.  Why make money when you can make MORE money?
        I apologize for the diatribe; I am coming to a Bills centric point - I promise.    
        Now, if you are like me, you feel a bit powerless.  You see all these factors at play and can do nothing.  That mentality is not entirely true.  The one and only thing we can do to help our hometown franchise is to attend as many home games as possible.  We enjoy the lowest average ticket price in the league.  We are one of the few venues where a middle class family of 4 can afford to attend games.  We can park almost anywhere around “The Ralph” for under $20.  Every game that does not sell out weakens the Bills financially.  If the Bills become financially weak and accumulate any debt, we are ripe to be bought and relocated.    
        For those of us who no longer live in WNY: join your local Bills Backers Club.  If none exists, start one.  Meet other Bills fans and convince them to return to Buffalo for 1 home game a season.  Buy tickets for the least popular game.  Help sell out as many games as possible.  
        For our region this is not just a football team and this is not just a game.  A sold-out Bills game would represent the 4th largest city in all of upstate NY.  The Bills are an economic bright spot in a region that rarely sees sunlight.  The industry that brought our ancestors to WNY/CNY now mostly stands vacant and rusting.  We cannot afford to continue to lose jobs, population and relevancy.  The Bills leaving WNY cannot be another bulletpoint in the timeline of WNY’s decay.
        Help keep the Bills in Buffalo.   This is important.
        If you made it this far – I appreciate you reading. Thanks.

Week 16: New England Patriots

The Greatest Gift of All
(Bills Backers of Fenway Tailgate Information below)

        Maybe it is the holiday season or the fact that we have not beaten the Patriots since I was a junior in college, but this past week I have not experienced any of the New England hostility that usually proceeds Bills/Patriots games.  Instead, that hostility has been replaced with the deepest of insults: pity and indifference.  Conversations with my co-workers used to be combative:
Coworker: "Hows that Aaron Maybin pick working out?"
Me: "How is that $150 average ticket price working out, you pink hat, yuppie douchebag, motherf_cker!?!?!" banter like that...
        This week, however, discussing the game has felt more like an exchange about stock options between a homeless man and Bernie Madoff (pre-prison).

Homeless Bills Fan: "So how do you think the recent high, but relatively stable, rate of unemployment will affect the dividend rates of blue chips in 2011?"
New England Bernie Madoff: "You likey stocks?  Awww, that is soo great to hear.  I really like your shirt, what is that unique color- dirt mixed with feces?  It looks really good on you.  Here is a whole 5 dollars.   Oops, I almost gave you a 500 Euro bill- I must have forgotten to exchange it after my dinner in Monte Carlo last night.  That is in Europe- I just got back, I am soo tired.  You know what?  Here is $20 American.  Merry Christmas- I mean, Happy Holidays, hahaha."

        To quote a friend's timeless drunken words: "I am not your charity case!"  Do you hear that New England?  I do not care if you are impressed by how hard the Bills have been playing.  Stop acting like you are the only people who watch Sportscenter.  Do you think we missed the 15-second segment on how Ryan Fitzpatrick has emerged as a leader in the 2nd half of the season?  Of course we watched it - recorded it - replayed it - rewrote it - transcribed it on golden tablets - buried those tablets - dug them up - and then used those tablets to start a new religion.
        We do not want your pity.  We do not want your half-hearted compliments.  We do not want to hear your wacky memories about how in the 90s the Patriots always lost to the Bills.  All we want is a victory!  All we want is to be able to walk into our offices next week and pour Erie Canal water on all of your keyboards and leave a message that says: "You've just been BILLS'ED."  All we want is the chance to gloat, threaten, browbeat, mock, or stab our coworkers and NE friends.  That chance would be the greatest gift of all...

You will enjoy this song, it is good and I like it:

Bills vs Patriots - Bills Backers of Fenway Tailgate Information

I know many of you are going to the game in Buffalo this coming weekend.   If you are able, please join Justin Davies and Dave Frascogna at the Bills Backers of Fenway tailgate party.  

Who:   Dave Frascogna & Justin Davies:   585 737-4904,
Where:  Lot E - Ralph Wilson Stadium
When:  Early (Arriving 9 to 10 am) - Sunday - December 26th
Why (Female):  Both Dave and Justin are single - gainfully employed and enjoy serviceable personalities.
Why (Male):  In comparison to Justin and Dave you will appear better looking, more charming and well groomed.
Why (All):   Combining the Bills Backers of Fenway camaraderie with the WNY environment is guaranteed to create a wave of positive energy that will result in a regional economic boom - many successful marriages and a Bills win.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Week 15: Miami Dolphins

Back from Back to Buffalo

        Hello - It is with a great happiness that I write to you today.    As many of you  may know,  I joined members of the Bills Backers of Fenway for a trip back to Buffalo this past weekend.    This trip has left me  riding a wave of WNY driven emotion that few outsiders can grasp.    This emotional high is fueled by a number of factors:

1.)  Beer prices range:  $1.28 - $2.75
2.)  No traffic
3.)  Hugging strangers and them hugging back
4.)  Shaking hands with forearm touch, high arm touch, back touch and top of hand touch to let them know - "I get you" - "I am from here too".
5.)  Bills touchdown followed by  "Shout" song - followed by Kevin Rudolf:  "Let it Rock" - followed by me shouting:  "Kevin Rudolf finally!" - followed by many people in section 117 laughing - followed by me beaming with happiness for 3 days straight.  
6.)  Ingesting 40,000 calories in 33 hours but losing 4 pounds.  
7.) Bills win - 6:22 flight back to Boston - asleep in my own bed by 8:30.  

This Week at Bleacher Bar

The Bills win - we all have fun.
Tailgate Specials:  11 am to 1 pm - 1/2 priced Beef on Weck, $1 Sliders
Free Wings at Kickoff and Halftime
First 4 people to arrive wearing Bills gear get a free 22 oz mug of beer compliments of the Bills Backers of Fenway.
Buckets of Labatt Blue and Genny Cream Ale:  (6 for $20 & 6 for $15)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Week 14: Cleveland Browns

Always have a blanket in your car

             This week WNY/CNY has turned into a winter wonderland with some cities reporting over 60 inches of snow on the ground.    Notable facts from this week's snowfall include:

Buffalo has nearly 40 inches in some neighborhoods.  
 Rochester just moved to the top spot in the upstate snow race.  
Syracuse is going on 140 hours of consecutive snowfall.    
Albany has no snow because even snow realizes that Albany is disgusting.  

        While Western New Yorkers might not be good at football, retaining jobs or successfully treating alcoholism;  we are quite talented at mocking outsider's sensitivity to winter weather.     When our co-workers complain about forgetting their mittens for the 5 minute walk to the train - we pause - we wait - we smile .... and ... then .... BOOM ... we lay out a detailed account about how our parents used to commute using Tom Toms (Footnote 1) and on a number of occasions had to cut one open and hide inside for survival.
 [ Footnote 1 - Tom Toms:  A horse like creature made famous for their role in the opening scene of "The Empire Strikes Back"]
        When our New England friends bring up that one insanely wacky snow storm where all the pizza places stop delivering and all they ate for entire afternoon was peanut butter.    We sit silently until their story comes to an end.  Look them dead in the eye.   Belt out a loud or derisive stretch of laughter and then launch into a passionate diatribe about how the movie - "Alive" - was not about the plane crash of the Uruguayan rugby team in the Andes mountains.   Rather it was a semi accurate account of the 1997 Corning East JV basketball  bus crash that occurred while en-route to the JV Jamboree in Wayland NY.    I survived.    Mike Tunney's forgotten twin brother and 1/3rd of the population of Kanona NY - did not.  

This Week at Bleacher Bar

Justin Davies and Nicole Lehman-Britton are in charge.    
Tailgate Specials:  11 am to 1 pm - 1/2 priced Beef on Weck, $1 Sliders
Free Wings at Kickoff and Halftime
First 4 people to arrive wearing Bills gear get a free 22 oz mug of beer compliments of the Bills Backers of Fenway.
Buckets of Labatt Blue and Genny Cream Ale:  (6 for $20 & 6 for $15)

Week 13: Minnesota Vikings

A Special Kind of Torture

        This past Sunday when the game was over - I was laughing.     It was not a good laughter.    It was the type of laughter that makes children nervous and their parents uncomfortable.    The type of laughter only possible when your mind reaches a point of such bewilderment that you can no longer organize an appropriate emotional response.    
        We should be used to the heartbreak by now.    Our hope should have become tempered, jaded or muted.    Our light should have been blown out long ago.    However - we remain steadfast.   Our loyalty is strong and we continue to hold onto the common belief:  "it will all be worth it - one day .........".
* If you have any pictures of Sunday's at Bleacher Bar please send them along - Bleacher Bar is looking to add to the "Bills Backers of Fenway" picture gallery located on their website.
**  Bleacher Bar has a bunch of Labatt Blue / Bills t-shirts they are giving away.   If you would like one please show up early this Sunday as they are in limited supply.

This Week at Bleacher Bar

WNY / Bills Waterboarding - Lets make torture official!  Winners get $50 and a copy of the Geneva Convention.
Tailgate Specials:  11 am to 1 pm - 1/2 priced Beef on Weck, $1 Sliders
Free Wings at Kickoff and Halftime
First 4 people to arrive wearing Bills gear get a free 22 oz mug of beer compliments of the Bills Backers of Fenway.
Buckets of Labatt Blue / Labatt Blue light and Genny Cream Ale:  (6 for $20 & 6 for $15)

** The Silver lining to this last loss - we did get Binghamton back and pushed our eastern front all the way to Springfield MA **

Week 12: Pittsburgh Steelers

 The Long Road Home

        Right now - I am excited and terrified.    I am excited because in little over 4 hours I will be on the road heading back to the loving arms of Western New York for Thanksgiving.    I am terrified because there is a 100% chance that I am going to roll past Newton, Framingham, Natick, and Worcester at  5 miles per hour.    However, once past the I-84 exit the Thruway  (Yes: "The Thruway" you Pike bastard) is empty and the only thing standing between us and the Wednesday night WNY bar scene is our vehicles pesky requirement for fuel and the 10 minute snow squall we are guaranteed to hit around Syracuse or Oneonta.  
        Last week's win over the Bengals was a blast.    If you are not heading out of town for Thanksgiving or returning early enough on Sunday to catch the Bills game - stop down to Bleacher Bar.     Nicole and I will be heading back from Corning - "The Jewel of the Southern Tier",  "The Hollywood of the East Coast", "The Glass Capital of the World" -  New York - late Saturday night and will be at Bleacher for the game.    Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

This Week at Bleacher Bar:
Labatt Blue / Bills T-shirts available - (Labatt Logo on the front - Bills Logo on the back - white - free)
Tailgate Specials:  11 am to 1 pm - 1/2 priced Beef on Weck, $1 Sliders
Free Wings at Kickoff and Halftime
First 4 people to arrive wearing Bills gear get a free 22 oz mug of beer compliments of the Bills Backers of Fenway.
Buckets of Labatt Blue and Genny Cream Ale:  (6 for $20 & 6 for $15)

In positive news, we now have full control of the Susquehanna river and ports on Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and The Atlantic Ocean.