Thank goodness for reality. The progress on our civic landscape is taking our minds off of the grim distraction of our pro sports teams.
Usually it is the other way around. Sports are entertainment, the diversion from the routine of daily life. When the Bills and Sabres are winning, it distracts us from the reality of a region that for years has bled jobs and people.
Welcome to role reversal.
A brightening civic picture is thankfully taking our minds off of the dim reality of the Bills and Sabres. The downtown waterfront is developing, Construction cranes abound at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Downtown is being repopulated. The outer harbor has, after half a century, been pried from the stranglehold of the Transportation Authority.
You know it makes me wanna shout. Which is more than I can say for the state of our sporting diversions.
I have lived here for more than 30 years. But I can’t remember the concurrent Bills/Sabres situation ever looking this dismal. The Bills have not won a playoff game in 17 seasons. The Sabres have not taken a playoff series since 2007, and they look awful this year.
There is no excuse in pro sports for prolonged failure. Although NFL and NHL teams are owned by capitalists, the leagues’ structures are decidedly socialist. A cap on player salaries largely prohibits bigger-city, deeper-pocketed owners from overspending for talent. The largest chunk of NFL revenue comes from TV broadcast rights, which are split equally among teams. Teams select incoming talent in reverse order of finish. All of it is designed to promote parity and to discourage long stretches of success or failure for individual teams.
Time and again, the Bills and Sabres buck those odds.
The buck of accountability always stops with the owner, who puts in place the management that shapes a team. The Bills have lacked inspired management since the remnants of the Bill Polian era left at the start of this millennium. The years since have been pockmarked with abysmal personnel decisions, notably a continuing failure to acquire an elite quarterback, the main ingredient for success. The Bills bypassed prime prospects in recent drafts because they overcommitted to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was cut this week. Let the vicious cycle continue.
Sabres owner Terry Pegula has deep pockets and a community commitment. But he is apparently putting the team’s reconstruction in the hands of the longtime general manager who is most clearly responsible for its decline. It will, in my view, only prolong our agony.
Welcome to Buffalo.
I have never seen a crowd cheer as shovelfuls of dirt are excavated at a construction site. Civic development is not a spectator sport. But what happens downtown, on the waterfront, at the Medical Campus and in our neighborhoods matters more than sports to our communal well-being. It is worth keeping in mind, as the Bills and Sabres wander in the wilderness.