The day after a Bills game is usually reserved for combing through problems that become clearer through time and video review. But, really, there wasn't much left to say Monday after yet another defeat. Dragging them through the muck feels dirty and unnecessary on Christmas, even for a petulant crank like me.
Let's gloss over the details against Miami and say the performance was unacceptable. It's fair to say serious changes are in order. Look at the bright side. They moved a step closer to replacing their coach and quarterback. They improved their draft position, which can be further upgraded with a loss to the Jets in the finale.
Thurman Thomas sent out a cryptic tweet after the game Sunday that suggested big changes were coming: “Can't share the news I just got,” Thomas said, “but it is ON … And yes, it involves the #Bills.” I'm not sure what it meant, if anything, but it sounded like good news, whatever that means.
The most inspiring message that came out of One Bills Drive last week wasn't the players' mission to save Chan Gailey's job or even the lease agreement that will keep the franchise in Orchard Park for at least another seven years. It was a clear push from lawmakers that the Bills need a new stadium.
Yeah, I know it's just an idea, and ideas rarely come to fruition in this town. I can still remember leaving Memorial Auditorium with the late, great hockey columnist Jim Kelley after the last Sabres game and discussing how it would take a decade for the city to tear down the decrepit old building. We were wrong.
It took 12 years.
Need we revisit all the sketches for the Peace Bridge and the waterfront? If there were championships for planning, Buffalo wouldn't need a Super Bowl or Stanley Cup. This is the only region where the federal government could set aside $6.1 million to move toll barriers and see $5.3 million flushed down in a drain of studies.
Note to lawmakers: All you need is a few construction workers, a few sheet pizzas and a few cases of beer.
In this case, it's not some half-baked pipe dream. The words “new stadium” wouldn't have been uttered without Gov. Andrew Cuomo's approval during the news conference last week. The Ralph will be 50 years old if the lease reaches its full term. Clearly, some big hitters on board were looking to stir the masses.
OK, gentlemen, you have me.
What's waiting in the next decade or less, assuming lawmakers get on the stick sooner than yesterday, is an opportunity. Taxpayers wonder how professional sports can boost an economy. Buffalo could ride the Bills toward revitalization if its leaders are creative enough and get enough government money and investors involved.
Yes, they are big IFs. But it can be done. A new stadium would come with a new long-term lease, complete with relocation penalties that make the current $400 million provision look like pocket change. It would all but guarantee their place in Buffalo — and that's Buffalo, not Orchard Park.
If it's uncomfortable and impolite to discuss life after Ralph Wilson passes, I'll discuss life in Western New York after my own death. The area has changed little in my 45 years. I would find peace knowing that the region was going in the right direction, particularly with the waterfront, long after I'm gone.
Pardon me for getting carried away, but allow me to think big and dream of a stadium along the lake, the Skyway torn down, the rail system extended, hotels and restaurants, shopping areas, recreational facilities and a new home for the Bills and for UB. Imagine a hot spot that would help resuscitate a region that has suffered for far too long.
The City of Buffalo controls the land. Poof, it's available. Local, state and federal government should want to get involved. Pittsburgh has thrived in the last 20 years. Cleveland came back from the dead. New stadiums alone didn't turn around either city, but they certainly helped the resurgence of both. They are two examples.
Why not Buffalo?
We get testy when people criticize Buffalo for the same reasons we don't like people picking on our brothers and sisters. Outsiders can't say anything negative about our town without severe backlash, but we sure can. It's our responsibility to acknowledge the truth. And the truth is that our downtown is embarrassing.
It's sleepy because people can get almost everything they need — pro football, good hockey, Division I sports, a great meal, shopping — in the suburbs. The stadium never belonged in Orchard Park. It certainly shouldn't be named after the team's owner when corporate sponsorship money is available.
How much would it cost for a new stadium? How long would it take to build? I have no idea, but we're not sending a man to Jupiter. Investors can be found in Buffalo and beyond. The math can't be that difficult. It can be done.
Some will want a dome along the waterfront. More will want an open-air facility. I want a retractable dome that can provide comfort and still embrace our climate, as it relates to football. Keep it closed on snowy days during the week, for practice and concerts and other events, but open the roof for football games and the Winter Classic.
Rep. Brian Higgins has pushed for tearing down the Skyway, among other things. Amen, brother. There's been talk of expanding the public rail system — if that what it's called — to UB's Amherst Campus. How about going in the other direction, too? There are miles of railroad tracks that extend through the old Bethlehem Steel plant and beyond.
UB for years has been looking to grow its sports programs. One drawback is UB Stadium, which looks like an oversized high school venue with the track surrounding the field. Temple, for example, played in the Mid-American Conference before getting back into the Big East. It now plays its games at Lincoln Financial Field.
We don't need Cowboys Stadium, either. We don't need the biggest or the best. We need what's best for Buffalo, the town and the team. And what's best for Buffalo is a modern jewel that can reinvigorate the region and help the product on the field. By the time it would be completed, much of the current Bills hierarchy will be gone.
The Bills are entering a new age with a new lease and new possibilities. Buddy Nix talks about the importance of continuity, but that only counts when it works. His is the kind of archaic thinking we could do without. In Buffalo, it has been a continuation of the same things that lacked success on all levels.
Is a new stadium the answer? No. It's part of the answer. It would be a victory for the Bills and a victory for Buffalo. It's time we face the facts. There hasn't been enough winning from either.