I love Andre Reed. I’m delighted he was inducted last week into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I’m glad he’s worked up about keeping the Bills here. Quoted in a New York magazine article last week, he fired a pre-emptive strike against the Bills-covetous Toronto group fronted by rocker Jon Bon Jovi, which presumably would take the team and run with it.
Unfortunately, while straight-arming Bon Jovi with an anatomically impossible suggestion, Reed chop-blocked Buffalo. Contemplating the scenario of our Bills-less burg, Reed blurted: “You might as well just take this city, throw it in the river, and let it go down Niagara Falls.”
Flag him 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct and tack on a two-game suspension.
Note to Andre: This region has plenty more going for it than a chronically substandard football team that, over the past half-century, has brought us more heartache than happiness.
In the unfortunate event of the Bills leaving, Buffalo – despite what Reed may believe – will not ride into insignificance over the falls. Yes, there will be – if need be – life after the Bills.
I can understand how Reed, who lives in San Diego, might spontaneously utter a thoughtless remark – particularly one that he believed, as he later contended, was off the record. But the “we’re nothing without the Bills” notion could use some disabusing. Look, I get it. Losing the Bills would be a blow. They are perhaps our biggest connection to the national stage. Even as consistent losers this millennium, they are a conversation piece, a rallying point and a large part of the civic fabric.
But suggesting that Buffalo isn’t worth much without the Bills is uninformed at best, insulting at worst. And I’m not speaking for just the silent but sizable legion of people who don’t much care for football.
On the list of reasons why people left here, came here or stay here, Nos. 1-10 are jobs.
The Bills? Unless you’re wearing the uniform or otherwise on the payroll, they’re not a big piece of anyone’s stay-or-go picture.
Much of the lure of Buffalo has little to do with the Bills. I think that’s especially true lately, for numerous reasons: The long-overdue revival of downtown. The reclaiming of the waterfront. The resurrection of city neighborhoods. The slow but perceptible reversal of a half-century of city-to-suburb migration. The transfusion of critical health care mass at the Medical Campus. The common-sense growth of Canalside.
Add all of it to the greater Buffalo bedrock: Four seasons. Affordable neighborhoods of classic houses. The low cost of our exceptional quality of life. The architectural museum of downtown. A wealth of cultural riches. First-class higher education. A lakefront location. A great sense of community. Big-city attractions wrapped in a small-town vibe.
All of it is what makes people fall in love with this place. Following, analyzing and – for the most part – agonizing over our football team is just one piece of the seduction. That’s no disrespect to the Bills, whose presence – albeit at a high cost in tax dollars – is part of the picture. But we’ve got plenty of other things going on.
We’ve got a lot more going for us than a football team that has broken our hearts more often than it has lifted them.