Guest Blogger Maggie Zuffranieri On One Buffalo: Remembering the Past As We Cheer For Our Future

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Ralph Wilson Stadium Orchard Park, NY (Photo: Buffalo Bills)

Buffalo, New York: birthplace of the chicken wing; setting to a natural world wonder; and now, the permanent home of the Buffalo Bills.

As football fans recall, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. took a chance on the city of Buffalo in 1959. Mr. Wilson left his position, as a minority owner of the Detroit Lions, to establish the American Football League (AFL). The birth of the AFL paved way for the start of a new team, a team over which Mr. Wilson would have complete ownership, a team which represented our city – Buffalo, New York.

Through the significant contributions of Mr. Wilson and a small group of other owners, the AFL survived and thrived for about a decade, before merging with the NFL. For Bills fans, the day that Mr. Wilson founded the football franchise – he not only gave our city a sports team but he also gave Buffalo, a city with a rich history, the hope and possibility of a bright future.

Although Mr. Wilson was a Detroit native, he encompassed all the attributes of a true “Buffalonian” – a person who believes in Buffalo and all that Buffalo can be; a loyal individual, brave enough to take chances on this community and dedicate his work to making Buffalo a thriving city.

So, while Mr. Wilson may have only come to Buffalo to establish a football franchise, he dually succeeded in the creation of the ultimate family – The Bills family. In victory or defeat, we stand together – a dedicated and passionate fan base that rivals any other.

The strength of this ‘family’ was seriously tested after the passing of Mr. Wilson in early March. Fear that our treasured football franchise would become but a page in this city’s history just as Mr. Wilson has, struck this community hard. But with exuberant hearts and unwavering courage, the community dedicated itself to the public support of a new owner ensuring that their main objective would be a commitment to keep the Buffalo Bills franchise in the city of Buffalo.

The greatest testament to our unity came amidst adversity, at the reprimands of others. Individuals – uninformed, uneducated, and unfamiliar with our city – believed that they, somehow, knew what was best for our franchise. “Business men” with small minds and large pockets, discussed our team as nothing more than a business transaction. Many analysts, players, and deep pocket investors, deemed our city unworthy – a city with no room to grow.

Luckily, there was one family who knew better. A family with roots already invested in the life and growth of Buffalo, who already cared about the people in its community. A family who understood that losing this Bills franchise would mean squandering a significant part of our city’s identity. A family that made the history of Buffalo a possibility for the future. This family not only believes in Buffalo, but has also learned to “BILLieve.” They have become an important part of our family, of our community, and for that we will always be grateful for the Pegulas.

Sunday, October 12th marked the first game day of the Pegula’s ownership of the Buffalo Bills, and in no surprise, our community divulged ticket holders in Buffalo’s best: Starting with a heartfelt introduction of our new owners, the Pegula family, and finishing with our national anthem sung by Buffalo native and lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls, Johnny Rzeznik.

While the outcome of the game did not yield the fairy tale ending Bills fans had hoped for, we did not leave Ralph Wilson Stadium in vain. We left confident in the future of our team. We left knowing that we had a family “truly honored to represent a team and a city that [they] love.” And we left as Terry and Kim Pegula would have it – a part of “One Buffalo:” one city, one fan base, one family united together striving for growth and prosperity. A city, which we call home, filled with remarkable people, whom we call family.

This past Sunday (October 19th), watching our football team, fans truly witnessed the unwavering strength of “One Buffalo.” In a game where the Bills struggled to hold onto the ball, the team rallied together, during the final minutes of the game, to win. The Bills drove 80 yards downfield, and together, overcame adversity – including a 3rd and 12 and a 4th and 20 – to score a touchdown with one second remaining. Many individuals, including myself, viewed this game as a catalyst, a game that precipitates change from our losing culture. However, I cannot help but also recognize a parallel between this game and our growing city: No matter how long our “opponents” kept us down, our team – our city – discovered a way to prevail in triumph, because together we are “One Buffalo.”

Terry and Kim Pegula expressed they do not wish to be praised for their recent actions, nor for the lengths they went through to keep a historic piece of Buffalo in its rightful home. Despite this request, I do hope they will accept our city’s sincerest thank you.

Thank you for taking a chance on a Buffalo hockey team four years ago and on a Buffalo football team three years later. Thank you for investing in our wonderful city – and for believing in the people who live and work here. But, most importantly, thank you for seeing Buffalo through my eyes. For witnessing and imagining this city’s potential the way I do.

So Terry and Kim please know that you – like Mr. Wilson – are honorary “Buffalonian” in every sense of the word.

About the Author: Maggie Zuffranieri is a football enthusiast, Bills junkie, Buffalo aficionada, and college senior. She enjoys a good meal, ample amounts of coffee, and an open dance floor. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @moogie_zoof.

Congratulations, Peyton!

Peyton Manning (AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post)

Peyton Manning
(Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post)

Dear Peyton,

Everyone and their mother (including my mother) has asked me if I’m writing about you and your big moment this week. I said yes, but in all honesty…I don’t really know what to say.

Does no one make a card for the guy who breaks an NFL record who used to be your quarterback but isn’t anymore?

The truth of the matter is, I’m happy for you. You’re right where you belong, at the top of your game and at the top of the NFL. As both a former and current fan, I couldn’t be prouder.

Like you, I don’t really get excited about records. Because even though 509 NFL touchdowns is a huge milestone and a big number, all records will eventually be broken. 510? As I was saying…

To me, it was never about the number of touchdowns. It was always about your next touchdown. Because I always knew you had it in you. When others gave up, lost hope, left the game, or went to bed, I knew better. I knew that if you had the ball, my team always had a chance. And a good chance at that.

Numbers will be surpassed, records will be broken, but some things stand the test of time. How you made people feel is one of them. And you always made me feel hopeful. For that, I will always be grateful.

You’re more than a number, Peyton. You’re a legend.

Even if the numbers got you there, it’s the stories that go with them that will keep you here. In my heart. Forever. Long after the numbers (and your number) is retired.

Thanks for the memories.

I didn’t need you to break another record to know you’re the best.

But…

Congratulations anyway!

XO

Why I Stayed

(Photo: Pigskin 'N Pearls/Mili Tepavac)

(Photo: Pigskin ‘N Pearls/Mili Tepavac)

Last week, I got an interesting text message from a friend of mine.

“What would it take for you to boycott the NFL?”

It was a good question. I thought about it for a while and texted back.

“I guess turning a continued blind eye. But they don’t have that option.”

I thought about it some more and continued to think about it as new allegations of violence unfolded against another player, this time involving a child.

Was I wrong? Was I part of the problem? Was I enabling the bad behavior of the sport I love?

It’s now Sunday. And I’m watching football. Just like I do every Sunday.

I’m not boycotting the National Football League. Because I love football. Football is a big part of my life. Football is a big part of me. For the same reason that many women choose to stay in relationships, I’m choosing to continue my relationship with the NFL…simply because I have too much invested in it. And I care too much to walk away.

The NFL is not just another sport. It’s our sport. America’s sport. America’s game.

And it’s not just about the game. It’s about the players. It’s about the fans. It’s about the kids. It’s about bringing us together. Football crosses the barriers of age, sex, and race. So many things in life tear us apart, but football brings us together.

After a certain age, not many things give you goosebumps. Football still gives me goosebumps.

The NFL is at a crossroads. It has tough decisions to make. But it doesn’t have to do it alone. The owners carry part of the burden. As do the players. And the fans.

Together we make football.

And together we can change it.

And that’s why I stayed.

XO

Dear Adrian Peterson, You’re No Hero

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Dear Adrian Peterson,

This is a letter I never thought I would have to write. I’m just so sad, disappointed, and mad.

Maybe this one hits closer to home because I grew up a Vikings fan in Minnesota. I have family there. I have nieces and nephews who’ve been running around in your jersey since they were old enough to walk, and whose proudest moment in life was the day they got to meet you and shake your hand.

Now someone has to tell those kids that you won’t be playing on Sunday. Because you went to jail for beating a child. A child not much younger than they are.

Yes Adrian, I’m sad for the kids I love. But not nearly as sad as I am for the kids you love. They have a star football player as their daddy. The guy they look up to, the guy everyone looks up to, the guy they see on TV, the guy who all their friends want to meet…and the guy who beats them with belts and tree branches when no one else is around.

And yet, they still love you. And they still idolize you. Because you’re their daddy. And they don’t know any better.

But you, Adrian, you know better. I don’t care how you were raised in East Texas. I don’t care if your daddy “whooped” you growing up. Physical abuse of a child is not an “act of love.” And no one should know that better than you. You lost a child (a son you had never met) at the hands of another man, who delivered a beating so severe his poor little body couldn’t recover.

And you know what? While people were defending you, calling for your privacy, asking us not to judge, I was judging you, Adrian. I judged you for having a two-year-old son you never met. I’m still judging you for it. And the fact that you did the same thing to your other kids, only to a lesser degree, well…I’ll judge you for that for the rest of my life. And yours.

We’ve been talking all week about the damage a football player can do to a woman. But anyone can harm a child. It’s just that most of us choose not to.

I think it’s time we redefine what makes someone a hero. It’s not throwing a ball, catching a ball, or running fast while holding a ball.

A hero is someone who protects.

You’re no hero, Adrian.

Now, someone’s got to tell the kids that.

Letter From a Female NFL Fan

Dear Commissioner Goodell and DeMaurice Smith,

Before you file the Ray Rice incident away as a cautionary tale for the NFL Rookie Symposium, I want to take the opportunity to speak to you as a member of the female fan base.

First, I want to credit all the players, current and former, who stood up, spoke up, and manned up when the disturbing video of one of their peers was released to the public. It wasn’t all of them, but it didn’t need to be. The players who came forward: Terrance Knighton, Scott Fujita, LeCharles Bentley, Brady Quinn, Jason Taylor, Chris Harris, and others made an impact that will stay with us long after the news cycle of this story.

More so than anything else (and maybe despite anything else), it is the players of the National Football League who have the ability and the responsibility to change the culture of violence that exists within it. Fines, suspensions, and litigation withstanding, the disrespect and shame of one’s peers may be the one and only thing that causes players to think twice about allowing the brutal nature of the sport they play to spill out and into their off-the-field lives.

I don’t know if athletes should be held to a higher standard. I just know that they are. And whether that’s a burden or a blessing is up to each and every individual player.

It only takes one guy to be a problem. But it only takes one man to be a solution. It’s time for the players to start policing themselves and hold each other accountable for what happens on and off the field.

By embracing the spotlight shined on this dark corner of society and redirecting it to awareness and prevention, the NFL and the NFL Players Association has the ability to not only better the lives of its family, but the families of its large, passionate, and proud fan base.

And that is the good that I hope will come from this sad chapter in our sport.

Signed,

A Female Fan