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Why the Buffalo Bills aren’t moving to L.A. or Toronto: A fan’s take
No, the Buffalo Bills will not become a Los Angeles football franchise, at least not if lifelong Bills fans like me have anything to say about it. As the fans of a team that's gone more than ten long years without a playoff appearance, we've either been pitied or ridiculed. Make no mistake, while those of us who grew up in Buffalo haven't hesitated to criticize the team after all the heartache, all but the most jaded Buffalonians are willing to let this franchise pack its bags for the other side of the country.
Despite the constant hand-wringing of critics and NFL observers, this isn't the first time Bills fans have heard rumblings of a possible move, and L.A. Isn't the first city to be touted as a potential destination. After all, with the much-hyped Bills Toronto Series currently unfolding, there's been speculation that the team might end up switching to Canada, becoming the first franchise in an international expansion for the NFL.
The Toronto Series, begun in 2008 and set to end in 2012, was essentially the result of a deal between team owner Ralph Wilson and late Canadian mogul Ted Rogers to have the Bills play one home game of the regular season in the Rogers Centre. If some fans have been worried about the possibility of a permanent move to Toronto, then the tone-deaf Wilson deserves much of the blame.
The terms of the deal will allow Rogers Communications to eventually bid on an NFL franchise and move It to Canada. Wilson initially did little to counter the notion that that franchise might be the Bills, saying "Hey, I can't speculate what's going to happen in the future."
Meanwhile, plans for an NFL stadium in Los Angeles will ultimately require an NFL franchise. A managing partner with the company didn't hesitate to put the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars at the top of the list of teams they're interested in relocating.
The good news is that those comments were made over a year ago, and things change. AEG (the company behind the stadium) has recently made it known that they're in talks with five teams about a purchase, and the Bills aren't one of them. Even if the Bills' are an unspoken sixth on AEG's shortlist, there's good reason to believe a deal won't happen.
In a recent interview on WGR550, Bills' CEO Russ Brandon said that the team is in talks with Eerie County to extend the lease on Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park. Besides, it's impossible to ignore fan-backed efforts like the one being promoted at Billieve.org, a "grassroots campaign to keep the Bills in Buffalo." Signing a petition isn't the same as making a multimillion dollar offer, but it's worth letting your opinion be known, and I encourage all Bills fans to spend a minute of their time on the site.
Speaking of multimillion dollar offers, it's worth remembering that some of the team's biggest fans aren't without resources of their own. As far back as 2007, Hall of Famer and hero quarterback Jim Kelly made it clear that he's rallying a group of a investors to buy the Bills if that's what it takes to keep them in Buffalo.
While I can't predict with absolute certainty what lies ahead for the team, it's a safe bet that they'll change owners soon. Ralph Wilson is fast approaching 100-years-old, and he won't be owning the Bills forever. Wilson hasn't had much confidence from fellow fans, and the team's cloudy future (let alone dismal performances on the field) have caused plenty of frustration.
Nevertheless, I'd argue that longtime Bills fans have a level of passion for this team that even losing seasons can't overturn. The only problem is that the youngest generation of Buffalonians haven't seen this franchise at its best, and unless the FO charts a new course, there's a real risk that they won't care where the team ends up.
Taurus Londono grew up in Buffalo, NY, where his childhood was spent watching the Buffalo Bills play in four consecutive Super Bowls. He is a lifelong fan of the team.
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