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Don’t Fill Out The Buffalo Bills’ Change of Address Cards Just Yet

Published: January 6, 2010

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There’s one phrase I’m sick to death of reading or hearing in the press, relative to the Buffalo Bills’ coaching search:

“The situation in Buffalo is too uncertain with the age of owner Ralph Wilson and the likelihood that the franchise will relocate after his death.”

I don’t know why it is assumed that the Bills are only biding time until Granddady dies so they can finally run away from home. There are several reasons, in fact, why I am convinced the Bills aren’t going anywhere, except perhaps to play an extra game in Toronto.

First of all, just because the Wilson family doesn’t appear willing or able to retain franchise ownership after the patriarch’s death, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t several potential suitors with local ties who could purchase the team and keep it right where it is.

Former Bills Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, Pro Football Hall of Famers from the Superbowl years, have continued to live in the area and stay involved in a consulting basis with the team, while also continuing their active involvement in civic life. It is obvious that both Kelly and Thomas, like many other former Bills, have established deep roots in the community.

It’s no secret that for the past few years, Kelly and Thomas have been exploring options for heading up an investors group with the objective of being in position to acquire a controlling interest in the franchise whenever Mr. Wilson or his heirs wish to unload the asset.  

Considering the sentimental status that Kelly has in the Buaffalo Niagara Region, and the success Kelly has had with fundraising for his charities, does anyone doubt he’ll succeed in raising the appropriate amount of mone?

But, lets assume for a moment, that when the time comes, local interests remain on the sidelines or are outbid by outsiders. There are still several reasons, strictly from a business perspective, why the NFL and any potential out-of-town owners will commit to keeping the Bills in the Buffalo area permanently.

First, of primary interest to the NFL, is the issue of branding, legacy, and continuity.

The Buffalo Bills are the AFC equivalent of the Green Bay Packers in NFC.  Perhaps more accurately, they are to the AFL’s legacy (which now belongs to the NFL) what the Packers are to the pre-merger NFL. They are an original franchise, storied and iconic, and an argument could be made that it’s essential to preserve the franchise in order for the league to maintain historical integrity.

No one would even suggest moving the Packers out of Green Bay, nor was it ever suggested, even before Brett Favre arrived and Lambeau Field was upgraded.  Nobody suggested it when the team suffered through decades of futility between Bart (Starr) and Brett.

You wouldn’t move the Packers out of Green Bay any more than you’d move the Gettysburg Museum off the Gettysburg battlefield. 

For the same reason, you wouldn’t move the Bills out of Buffalo. Like the Packers, and perhaps unlike any other franchise in the NFL, the Bills are a sort of living museum of what and where the AFL/NFL has been. Each team has made significant and unique contributions to league pathos, which make them uniquely geographically necessary. 

Putting the Bills franchise in a new stadium in L.A. would be just as disorienting as putting the Gettysburg museum in Philadelphia.

Regardless of what you build or where, the soul of the battle, its very reality—not only in historical context but in its timeless and ongoing reality—is one in the same with its physical place. A Gettysburg museum anywhere but Gettysburg is more than meaningless. It is spiritually and socially disruptive.  It is experientially dissonant.

The AFL Championships won in Buffalo by icons not only of the league, but of the nation— such as Jack Kemp, who went on to a political career of national impact but never apart from local heritage—become forever stripped of context if the Bills leave Buffalo. 

Even debunked heroes such as O.J. Simpson become shorn of context without the team in town.

What happens to rivalries? The Patriots vs. the Greenbacks (What happens to a Buffalo Bill in L.A.? It becomes a dollar bill) somehow isn’t as appealing.

Secondly, it doesn’t make economic sense for the NFL to leave Buffalo. There are several venues in the league that are weaker in terms of fan base, attendance, and media market than Buffalo.

Consider these little known facts:

-If you measure the actual viewership of the Buffalo TV market, including the Canadian suburbs and contiguous Canadian cities, Buffalo would be considered a large market team. In fact, the Toronto-Buffalo-Rochester mega-region is the fourth largest such region in North America, trailing only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. 

-Unlike many larger cities, Buffalo, due to its uniqueness, has a passionate contingent of expats all over the country. The Bills are among the top teams in terms of viewership of nationally televised games and also in terms of satellite viewership. (Similarly, the number of Bills fans nationally is among the top in the league).

-The Bills continue to sell out one of the largest stadiums in the league (Ralph Wilson Stadium) without a single playoff appearance in the last 10 years. 

Certainly if there is a franchise that could be moved to L.A. with minimal negative impact on the league it would be Jacksonville.  Of all the league’s existing franchises, this one, expanded concurrently with Carolina, has not been able to establish itself under NFL standards from the beginning.

So, although I would favor making former L.A. Chargers a regional team for all of Southern California, if any team has to move, it should be, and I’m quite certain it will be, the Jaguars.

So, Bills fans, press, and pundits alike: get over it. The Buffalo Bills are going to continue to be a local and regional institution (Hello, Toronto!) And that’s a good thing.

Now, can we get back, in earnest, to our coaching search?


John is available as a speaker for any organization or event on sports topics or a variety of other topics. For more information see The Speaker page on his website:

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Give Me Ten Minutes With Bill Cowher and He’ll Come To Buffalo

Published: January 5, 2010

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That’s right, give me 10 minutes with Coach Cowher. I don’t care where, as long as I have a monopoly on his attention and he can’t leave until I’ve had my say. Put me in the urinal next to him, on an elevator with him, in a shared cab—it doesn’t matter. Just give me the opportunity for a brief intervention.

That’s right, I said intervention. That’s what we call it when we corner someone we care about to slap some sense into their head before they continue down some ultimately self-destructive path.

In the coach’s case, if the information on the rumorcoaster is even 10 percent true, the man who’s steel jaw came to symbolize the steel-mill, hard-hat, failure-is-not-an-option outlook of the Pittsburgh Steelers, even when the steel mills themselves were long gone from Steeltown, is apparently addicted to something that is clouding his judgement.

What is the Cowher drug of choice? I don’t know, glamor maybe? Now that he’s won a Super Bowl and has enjoyed celebrity TV status as a pigskin pundit he may think he’s no longer in the same league with another former steeltown. Maybe the white on his collar from the broadcast booth is blinding him to the true blue that will undoubtedly bleed through the next time he breaks a sweat—if he breaks a sweat.

Anyway, pretend with me that I’ve got him where I want him and eavesdrop on my conversation.

“Hey, Coach Cowher! Wow! Imagine sharing this restroom with you! Here I am little old John Howell, nobody from nowhere taking a leak in the urinal next to the great Bill Cowher! Man! How did I get so lucky?”

He gives me that signature Cowher sneer/scowl. That’s a good sign—I think. Hope.

“Hey, Bill. Can I call you Bill?”

Still sneering/scowling, not even a grunt of an answer, I decide I’d better ixnay the first name basis.

“Sorry. Forgive my familiarity. Coach Cowher.”

Still sneer/scowling.

I know I have to make my move fast because he’s starting to do the little dance we men do when such activities are almost completed.

“Ok, Coach, listen to me. You don’t know me. You probably don’t give a rodent’s posterior what a polywog like me thinks, but you need to hear me out. Two minutes.”

Still silent, he stops the sneer/scowl and gives me a look that says, I’m listening, against my better judgment, but if I don’t like what I hear, I may kill you with my bare hands at any moment. Shoot your trap at your own risk.

Ok, Bill. Oops. I mean Coach. Here’s the thing. You really have the itch to get back into coaching, but those fancy-ass jobs in Carolina or Tampa Bay aren’t open. It’s gotta be a big letdown. And yeah, you let yourself consider Buffalo for what—a half second—while Wilson and Brandon played footsie with you until your so-called better judgment snapped you out of it?

And then you decided you’ll just have to settle for another year of punditry because after all, everyone has standards and, my God, Buffalo? BUFFALO? (Read, PLAYOFFS? ala Jim Mora in beer commercial.)

Buffalo? What were you thinking?

“Exactly, Coach Cowher! What WERE you thinking when you slammed the door on the one opportunity that will make you an NFL legend the likes of Halas, Lombardi, or your Pittsburgh predecessor, Chuck Noll, perhaps? (Because as much as you achieved thus far, you’re still not on the level of these guys yet, and you won’t get there wearing a blazer with a network logo on the pocket. Trust me.)”

Finally he looks half interested with one eye while continuing to glare with the other.

“You don’t get it, do you, Coach?”

The one eye that had a glint of interest is slipping quickly back into glare mode with a bit of a seethe blended in, so I realize I’d better get to the point.

“Okay, here it is. Ready? Buffalo is the new Pittsburgh. Think about it. Rust belt town, built on heavy industry, but its manufacturing prowess and its sense of collective identity gradually slipped quickly away from the seventies on, just like Pittsburgh.  But at least there’s football.”

“Pittsburgh had the great Knoll years in the 70’s when steel production started taking the fast lane to Japan. But then, after that, the Steelers and their hometown wallowed in mediocrity for years, wandering like the Israelites in the wilderness until you showed up. By then, the only hard hats worn in the Three Rivers area were Steelers helmets. Helmets, yes, but the Steel Curtain they once represented was long gone.”

He’s giving me that, “I kind of know where you’re going with this, but can you boil down the sociology lesson?” look, so I try my best to be concise.

“That’s right, Coach, things were drifting big time, like a rogue barge on the Monongahela, till you arrived. Then, right away, you helped the town and their beloved team find themselves again. Sure, you weren’t absolutely perfect. There was that thing with Cordell Stewart, after all, but basically, other than that “Slash” and burn issue, you did what only Bill Cowher could do for a Rust Belt town with an identity crisis

“You put the iron ore back into the Steelers. You heated up the old blast furnaces. And if there was any red to be found at Heinz Field it was blood, not ketchup. It took a few years of more or less continuous progress but eventually, you put all the pieces together, and got the old steel town another piece of hardware in the likeness of Saint Lombardi.

“And let’s face it. What you did was great. What you did was uniquely your doing, as no other coach could have done. But I know Vince Lombardi, and he was a friend of mine (not really on either count, but you get the allusion) and Coach, you’re no Vince Lombardi—yet.”

At this point Cowher’s standing there, still in his stall but staring straight at me as if he had just seen a vision of—I don’t know, Terry Bradshaw with hair? Anyway, I could tell I was getting through to him. I was on a roll. But who knew how long I’d have him like that, so I started sprinting for the wire.

“Which is why Buffalo is critical to your NFL legacy.

“Where did Lombardi ascend to gridiron sainthood? It wasn’t in Washington. It was in the most unlikely of places. Green Bay. Population 75,000 including domestic animals. Not exactly a garden spot, right Coach? Not Carolina, that’s for damn sure. Certainly not Tampa Bay.

“I mean really, Coach, are you getting soft? What is it with you? The Bill Cowher I know doesn’t want to be in shirtsleeves in Carolina in November or Florida without even a sweater after New Year’s.  And what’s the big challenge in either town? Tampa Bay has won it all. No ground to break there. So explain it to me, Coach? Why NOT Buffalo?

“Buffalo is still stinging from four consecutive near-misses, from “Wide Right,” and after the four frustrations, the so-called Music City Miracle. Buffalo has lost a fifth of its population since Pittsburgh won their last Super Bowl under Chuck Noll. Buffalo’s weather is worse than its economy—though it could be said that both are better than perceived—but still.

“Coach, Buffalo is the only place Bill Cowher goes to become a legend. There are a lot of coaches who managed to win one Super Bowl in some panty-ass town where half the population didn’t even bother to turn on the TV when the team was in the big one. My God, you don’t want to be confused with Jon Gruden for Chrissakes!

“Coach, Buffalo is your Green Bay! If you were an airline pilot, it would be your Hudson River. How can you not see this! Sure, Buffalo needs you in the worst way, but you need Buffalo even more.”

“Okay, okay,” he shouts. And just as quickly he’s on his cell phone. Is that his wife, he’s talking to?

“Hey Hon, it’s Vince—I mean Bill. Yeah. No. Never mind. You wouldn’t understand. Listen, I need you to do something for me. Can you find that message from—yeah, from Ralph Wilson. Is it still there on my desk—no probably in the can. Yeah. Do you mind? I need his number. Hey, hold on, Hon! I’m sure they have nice houses in Buffalo.”

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Another Opportunity For Jim Kelly to Bring Buffalo Bills a Lombardi

Published: December 27, 2009

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Remember when Head Coach Dick Jauron was fired and Bills owner Ralph Wilson pledged to spend $10 million per year to get an A-List coach and GM? Remember when Mr. Wilson interviewed Mike Shanahan and contacted Bill Cowher? It appeared he was determined to do whatever it took to get good football minds in the top positions of the franchise.

Do you remember, even barely? It was only a month ago, but seems like an eternity. Since word of the snub from Bill Cowher, nothing else has happened; unless it has been so far under the radar that even press rumor hounds haven’t got the scent.

Meanwhile, Mike Holmgren has signed with Cleveland, and all the rumors point to Shanahan going to Washington. Today ESPN’s pundits have Cowher playing Carolina and Tampa Bay against each other, with Ron Wolf (the brains behind the Favre era success at Green Bay) likely to reunite with Holmgren in Cleveland.

We have to wonder, did Wilson at least attempt to contact Holmgren or Wolf? Has he been doing anything to lure anyone of merit to Buffalo?

There was no mention whatsoever of Buffalo in any of the head coach or general manager speculation on the NFL pre-game shows this morning. Not even baseless rumors. 

Does this mean there is no activity on the part of ownership to fill these vacancies? Has Ralph Wilson decided to play musical chairs with the available top tier candidates and make an offer to the last one standing when all the other slots have been filled, hoping at least one of the big boys is still out in the cold?

Or is it something more ominous? Is all the talk about top money for top talent a bone to the fans; the overtures to Shanahan and Cowher, just bones to the fans? So that Wilson can say he made an effort but Buffalo just can’t command that kind of talent, even with competitive money on the table?

Whether it’s what Ralph is saying or not, that seems to be the general impression he is giving to the media and most Bills fans.

I reject that assumption. Cleveland is no garden spot. Buffalo is Cleveland on a slightly smaller scale. If Cleveland can catch Holmgren, then Buffalo could have had him. With the right price and the right amount of control, Holmgren could be sitting in a corner office at One Bills Drive right now.

As could Ron Wolf. And Bill Cowher, Mike Shanahan, or Brian Billick. Or any number of other former head coaches who have not only seen the promised land from the mountaintop but have been there and back. Any one of them could already be at work in Buffalo with the right combination of money, control, and compatible personnel.

In fact, most of the Super Bowl champions have come from less than A-list cities. Sure, Buffalo is no Boston; but Boston is no New York or Miami either. And other than the Patriots and the Giants, most of the recent Superbowl winners have hailed from the likes of Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Indianapolis.

Call me naive, but I highly doubt any NFL coach worth having consults his glamour meter before he rules a particular city in or out of his career search. What decent coaches do consider is tradition, fan support, compensation, control, and what resources they will inherit when they arrive. Some have more of a stomach for rebuilding than others; but in a league where last-to-first transformations are more of a norm than an aberration, there are few teams that, with the right coaching and management, wouldn’t have a shot at the Lombardi trophy in any given year.

So when the media ignores Buffalo as a potential destination for the big names, are they assuming that Ralph Wilson may be willing to part with the money but not with the reigns? Or are they simply dismissing the city in the way that Buffalo is so often treated in the minds and headlines of all places beyond its borders? I suspect it is the latter.

But what is even more frustrating for die-hard Buffalo fans is that many of our own people dismiss Buffalo in a similar way. There is the conscious or unconscous, spoken or unspoken assumption on the part of many that if Buffalo has a good run, it will be more by accident than design.

So how do we fight this perception? I call upon Jim Kelly to do for his former team what he was unable to do as a quarterback. Fill the leadership void, even if unofficially.

It was reported that only after Kelly and former teammate Thurman Thomas appealed to Wilson did Wilson proclaim his intention to seek top football talent for the front office and the sidelines. Whether or not that is true, it seems that Kelly could offer himself to Wilson as an emissary for potential general manager and head coach candidates.

We know Kelly is committed both to Buffalo and the Bills. He has made his home in Buffalo since retiring, and has been active in civic and community life, as well as a recent fixture on the Bills sidelines. He writes a column for the Bills website. He is considered a potential future owner (heading up a cartel of pooled resources). He has the respect and the ear of Ralph Wilson, and as a Hall of Famer, he has the respect of all in the football world.

Jim Kelly could approach a Bill Cowher, Brian Billick, or Ron Wolf and sell them on Buffalo. Kelly could sell Wilson on the terms needed to enlist one or more of these proven champions. If successful, Buffalo could finally, next year or the following, win its first Superbowl. I have no doubt Jim Kelly feels the weight of unfinished business of his efforts in uniform. I have no doubt he would jump at the opportunity to heal that wound for himself and a million plus Buffalo fans who still hope, more than they believe, that anything is still possible.

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Buffalo Bills’ Resurgence Will be Built on Superbowl Winners, No Excuses, No Exceptions

Published: November 29, 2009

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Bill Polian is responsible for assembling the best NFL teams of the past two decades. As General Manager of the Indianapolis Colts, Polian created the alchemy of team chemistry and individual talent involving players and coaches that resulted in the Colts two 10-0 starts in the 00’s, and culminated in their ’07 Superbowl victory.

No doubt Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning had a lot to do with the team’s overall win percentage and their crowning moment, but the man who hired them is perhaps the one who deserves the lion’s share of the credit.

While the Buffalo Bills of the ’90’s never won a Superbowl, their unprecedented 4 consecutive Conference championships and complete dominance of their opponents throughout those four years (90-93) could be argued to exceed any other cumulative achievement, even though they barely missed the ultimate achievement on their first attempt, and seemed to go downhill from there in subsequent Superbowl appearances.

Just as Marv Levy and the Hall of Fame quality talent on both sides of the ball during those years get their share of credit for Buffalo’s achievements, again, one must give the lion’s share to the man who hired the talent and who understood the intangibles that were necessary to cause the kind of chemical reaction to make the sum equal even more than the very impressive total of the parts.

Therefore, with all the talk about getting one of the many A-List (meaning Superbowl winning) former head coaches currently available, perhaps the conversation should begin with the General Manager’s position.

Given that Polian left Buffalo under less than happy circumstances, largely due to (Hall of Fame) owner, Ralph Wilson’s shortsightedness, it might seem beyond ludicrous to propose that the two of them kiss and make up but I am going to propose just that. Polian has already done his job in Indianapolis. I think a sincere apology and a significant raise, all guaranteed, plus the opportunity to return to Buffalo and finish the job he came so close to finishing the last time could be enough to lure Polian back.

With Polian back in the front office, most fans would finally let out a huge sigh of relief and wouldn’t care who Polian hires as Head Coach, trusting him fully to find the right person. But in case Polian doesn’t come back, fans need to know that when Mr. Wilson says he is determined to get top level talent in all aspects of Bills leadership, he truly means it. Other than Polian there are several other great football minds that have won Superbowls from the front office. And as we know, there are even more former Head Coaches with the same credentials.

But, Mr. Wilson, we as Buffalonians, as Bills Nation around the world, expect you to do whatever is necessary to have Polian or his equivalent back in the Front Office. Saying you tried but you were rejected, is not acceptable. Everyone has their price. Everyone has their terms. Find out what that price, what those terms are, and get us a General Manager and Head Coach who have climbed the mountain and come down with the tablets.

We do not have time, nor do you, Mr. Wilson, have time for experimentation. We need and we expect you to get it right with these two key hires, and have them in place before the end of the season in order not to lose them to other competitors.

As for the coaching position, there are at least ten former Head Coaches who have won at least one Lombardi trophy. The Buffalo search MUST be limited to these ten people.

It should be noted that one who has publically indicated his interest in the position does not qualify. Mike Martz took St. Louis to a Superbowl victory as offensive coordinator, and to a loss as head coach. The failure to win as head coach is operative here. He should not be contacted.

Apparently the Bills have also contacted former Bill Jim Haslett. Haslett has not come close to winning a Superbowl. Sentiment must be put aside here. He does not qualify. Listen, Mr. Wilson. The qualifications must, MUST be absolute. Superbowl champions only need apply.

Now that we’ve set the bar and eliminated the unqualified, who should be considered?

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Buffalo Bills Fans Patience Runs Thin in Wait for Messiah This Holiday Season

Published: November 29, 2009

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I would venture that a higher percentage of the population of Buffalo, NY actively follows their professional sports teams than any major league city in North America. This is especially true of Buffalo’s women, who may be more knowledgeable and fanatical about football and hockey than any women in the world.

Perhaps this is because Buffalo isn’t just a place, it’s a state of mind, a religion, a cultural overlay that works like ethnicity even though it isn’t exactly. It isn’t but it is.
Being Buffalonian is like being Jewish in a way. Being Buffalonian outside of Buffalo is like being Jewish in Tehran.
And therein lies the bulk of my experience. The ex-pat. The diaspora. If there is a Jewish bar in Tehran, I can imagine the comraderie there. Pretty much like what you’d find at the Nickel Bar in Tampa or the Buffalo bars in a hundred other cities that get less snow. It’s instant kinship.

Run into someone with a Bills or Sabres cap or jacket—in the airport, on the beach, in some other city’s stadium when the Buffalo teams are not even playing—and it’s always the same. It’s like meeting the twin you never knew you had. All you have to do is say, “Wide Right,” or “In the Crease” and you’ll keep buying each other drinks until you both need a designated driver. 

I wear my throwback logo Bills cap because it reminds me of the Kemp-Dubenion era when the Bills were the class of the AFL. But not just because of that.
The old grazing buffalo is pure (as opposed to the flashy, charging one with speedlines). I wish they’d go back to the old uni’s permanently, like the Jets did. That retro look fits Buffalo, in the way Buffalo is eternally retro, always was retro before retro was retro, sort of iconic in a way that’s both quaint and a little musty. Of course, the speeding Buffalo reminds us of the K-gun. Like I said, I like the retro look.
Back when those were our uniforms, we had dreams of making the Super Bowl without the accompanying nightmares, without the creeping, nagging suspicion that the Bills may have morphed into the Cubs of the NFL. God, must we wait a 101 years?
And the Sabres seem equally cursed. From Kate Smith, the Aud in the fog, to a non-goal in the crease, things don’t go better in the HSBC (Arena) any more than they do in the Ralph (Ralph Wilson Stadium).

I’ve spent all this time talking sports, mainly, but it isn’t really about sports at all. Sports are the metaphor, the religious rite. It’s what makes the Buffalo sort-of-but-not-but-sort-of ethnicity so similar to being Jewish. We are bonded not only by our common roots, but to the ritual. Watching the Bills or the Sabres is like going to Temple for Yom Kippur. We have this common ritual of atonement.
Atonement for what? In a way, for being Buffalonians!

We’re like Rodney. We don’t get no respect. Our homeland is often reviled as Cleveland’s ugly stepsister. Queen City? Not unless it’s Drag Queen. And we’ve done a lot of this to ourselves. Especially in the past.

Buffalonians who’re old enough, remember Stan Roberts (who is Jewish) on WKBW Radio giving the weather report on “Lake D-reeeear-y.”

Like the Jews, we’ve wandered in the wilderness for generations awaiting deliverance. We await the coming Messiah, having endured many false prophets. We thought it would be O.J., then Kelly and company, then Dominick Hasek for the Sabres. We thought the second coming of the Mighty Marv might finally lead the Bills, with us, to the promised land.

People who have not lived elsewhere for an extended period of time might not be aware of this—that once one leaves Buffalo, one realizes that there is something unique about the experience of growing up here, being from here, and then going elsewhere, that is not the same as if we were from someplace like Miami or Denver or Columbus, for instance. It may be similar coming from certain other Rustbelt towns.

Cleveland, for instance. I’m not sure. But the point is that there is a sense in which being Buffalonian has more meaning than where someone lives or lived once, or grew up.

And I say this from a theological and a theologian’s perspective.

In the theological sense, being Jewish is being a people who have experienced/endured a common history, whose identity is in a significant sense tied to a geographical location who were once slaves, delivered together from bondage, wandering in exile, and finally taking possession of the promised land, thinking they had finally arrived, that it was the end of history, only to learn that history repeats itself.

And still, repeating.

So, like the Jews we wander. We hope. We have our hopes dashed. We hope again. And we go to Temple. The Ralph. The HSBC. We fast. We sacrifice. We sob. We celebrate.
We wait. We celebrate. We curse! But we do it together. As one. We are the chosen people. We still don’t know what exactly we’re chosen for, but we’re chosen.

Waiting is part of it, most of it really. Waiting ’til next year. Waiting for the next good quarterback. Waiting for the next good coach.

At least now the coaching question appears due for an answer. We’ve got half the answer. Dick Jauron is gone. So until his replacement is named we have that almost giddy hope, that kid before Christmas hope that one of the biggest wishes on our list will be fulfilled.

But if we’re using the Jewish metaphor we have to change the Christmas imagery to Chanukah. And if you think about it, that actually works better. Chanukah’s all about the miracle of the lights. It’s about a small amount of oil burning night after night, vanquishing the cold, overwhelming the darkness, without being used up. It’s about eight consecutive nights of surprise.

It may not be coincidental, then, that there are eight unattached coaches who have ascended the mountain and brought back the tablets, who have parted the waters and led their people to the other side: Dungy, Cowher, Holmgren, Shanahan, Billick, Gruden, Johnson, and Gibbs. With that many available, who as head coaches have won it all, the Buffalo fans will accept nothing less.

“Ride a painted pony, let the spinning (spinnaker) spin.”

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Jerry Jones and The Temple of Doom: Dallas vs. Buffalo for America’s Team

Published: September 18, 2009

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Are the Dallas Cowboys still America’s team, or are they America’s bad dream?

I watched Jerry Jones show off the monument he has built to American excess, on the Today Show this morning.

It struck me as hauntingly ironic that Dallas, one of the demographic icons of the excesses and extravagance of the recent bubble, is opening a billion dollar stadium, in the middle of the debris of the bubble burst, and that Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is chatting it up with Matt and Al on what is supposed to be a morning news program.

It is news of course, but not in the way it is being covered.  NBC is just whoring their Sunday Night Football coverage in an infomercial disguised as news. And to think the Today Show used to be serious about journalism. But that’s another topic.

Perhaps I wouldn’t be angry enough to write about it, however, if it wasn’t for the fact that this new stadium represents everything the NFL has not been, it appears poised to become. If my worst fears are realized, and Jerry Jones has his way, it will be the end of the NFL world as we know it.

From the day he bought the Dallas franchise in 1989, Jerry Jones let it be known he was a new breed of NFL owner. He was—and is—a shark. He is out to get all he can for himself and his team at the expense of the weaker members and the league. He is determined to bring social Darwinism to what has been a cooperative.

No one was surprised, then, when shortly after taking over the Cowboys, Jones attempted and partially succeeded at making individual licensing agreements for Cowboys merchandise.

It was the first chink in the armor of revenue sharing that is now more at risk than any time in history, as the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) nears its end.

Jerry Jones has made it known from day one that he opposes the revenue sharing plan. He has done what he can to undermine it. And now that the CBA is about to term out, he has an opening big enough for any fullback to charge through, to kill it.

What does Jerry Jones want?

If each franchise is allowed to keep all revenues it generates from TV rights to logo merchandising, then Dallas will be among the big winners. They have established themselves as a national brand (“America’s team”).

Smaller and less prosperous markets will be left to survive on their own gate revenues and whatever merchandising and media deals they can make on their own.

That may not sound so bad. After all, they do that in baseball. But the NFL is different. Its TV exposure is huge. Watching the NFL on Sundays, Monday nights, and now even Thursday nights, is the true national pastime, much more than baseball ever was (on television at least).

A franchise’s equal share in TV revenue and merchandising is also huge.  

For a small market team, to lose an equal share of that revenue puts the first several nails in their coffins, even if they sell 80,000 seats till the cows come home. The gate alone is not enough to pay the players. (And when the cows come home, it will be the Cowboys driving them.)

Why should we care, unless we live in a small market town? The same reason Jerry Jones should be careful what he wishes for.  If the Dallas Cowboys become “America’s bullies” or “America’s spoiled rich guys,” he’s out of business. The NFL’s stock in trade is parity. And you can’t have parity without revenue sharing.

Parity is what has made the NFL great as an institution as well as a business, a sports league, and a key source of entertainment, civic pride, and regional cohesion in the United States. Parity is the reality behind the truth of the expression, “on any given day, in any given stadium, any given team can defeat any other team.” 

We know this is true, and we also know that on any given day not only will one or two heavy underdogs win, but many more teams will give a royal scare to highly favored teams before they finally succumb.  That’s what makes the NFL worth watching.

If odds makers can comfortably pick winners by looking at a team’s balance sheets rather than their scouting reports, they might as well just cancel the games and hold a giant celebrity party.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just a matter of keeping the smaller market teams competitive; it is a matter of keeping the small market teams in the league.

Forget about storied 50+ year old franchises like Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Yes, even Pittsburgh, the NFL’s most successful team (on the field) of all time will be at risk of becoming the Los Angeles Platinums, without a continuation of revenue sharing.

If you don’t believe me, look at baseball. Look at the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Same town as the Steelers.  Same fans.  Same market.  But the Pirates haven’t made the playoffs in 17 years.

Theirs is one of the smallest payrolls in Major League Baseball. Any player that rises to marquis level on their roster is quickly lost to free agency. It’s only a matter of time when tradition and fan loyalty will not be enough to keep the Pirates from being pirated by a baseball version of Jerry Jones.

Again, if you’re not from there, why should you care?

Parity is important not only because it makes the league more competitive and thus makes the action on the field, as opposed to the action in the sky boxes and sidelines, more interesting, but because it creates great moral conflict scenarios that benefit the sport in general as well as each individual franchise including the richest.  

If all the teams were concentrated in the glitziest, largest, and wealthiest markets, what has until now been a subliminal subplot in the game, the moral and mortal combat pitting David versus Goliath will devolve into a cat fight between Paris Hilton and the Olsen Twins—just a couple of rich bitches ruining each other’s makeup.  

On the other hand, when you’ve got Buffalo versus Dallas, Cleveland versus New York, Detroit versus anybody, you’ve got a primeval archetypal morality play.

So if Jerry Jones has his way, get ready for the L.A. Bills, with a greenback logo instead of a prairie animal on their helmets, because the move to LA gives the term “Bills” a whole new meaning.  The Jacksonville Jaguars might become L.A.’s second team, but again their cat logo is replaced by an image of the luxury car of the same name. 

Then the dominoes start to fall. The Browns, Vikings, Steelers, and Lions might be the next to go. I can envision the 15 or 20 largest markets with 32 teams. Or maybe we’d be down to the top 10 US markets with the rest of the franchises playing in foreign venues.

How about the Singapore Saints, the Shanghai Seahawks, the Dubai Dolphins, Abu Dabi Bengals, and the London Lions?

Teams would no longer have any tradition or historical connection to their new markets.

Any “loyalty” they might attract from fans would be the fair-weather variety because it is roots, tradition, and historical connection between the franchise and the “home” city, that brings fans out as enthusiastically in the middle of a 10 year playoff drought (Buffalo sold a record 55,000 season tickets this year, for example).

The tradition of going to the Bills game with Dad, perpetuated from generation to generation would be erased.

And that can’t be good for the league. That can’t even be good for Jerry Jones.

He may want the Cowboys to win most of the time, but he wants the outcome to be at least slightly in doubt, and he wants at least some of the games to come down to the last play because suspense sells tickets, even if it is a cable TV ticket.

Unless the Harlem Globetrotters are the model, Dallas, Houston, New York, and L.A. need Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Detroit, and need them to be competitive.  

So is Dallas truly America’s team? The post boom Great Recession America’s Team? Or might the Buffalo Bills be a better candidate? How about a little comparison and contrast:

Dallas, especially with their new “house,” represents everyone who overbuilt, overbought, and over-financed. Buffalo, with their 36 year old Ralph Wilson (formerly known as Rich) Stadium has kept the starter house and put on a new coat of paint.

Dallas is the Big Dog. Buffalo is the underdog.

Dallas is Bentleys. Buffalo is beater cars.

Dallas is oil. Buffalo is the energy crisis.

Dallas is banker’s bonuses. Buffalo is unemployment checks.

Dallas is country clubs. Buffalo is block clubs.

Dallas is boom, Buffalo is bust.

Dallas is Glitz. Buffalo is rust.

Dallas is Botox. Buffalo is skin cream.

Dallas is working out at the gym. Buffalo is working outside with Jim.

Dallas is longhorns. Buffalo is long johns.

Dallas is sand. Buffalo is snow.

Dallas is the odds Buffalo beats more often than anyone would think.

Dallas is power. Buffalo is people.

Dallas is your mortgage company. Buffalo is your neighbor.

Debbie does Dallas but Bonnie loves Buffalo.

Dallas is in your face. Buffalo is in your heart.

So which one is America’s team now? You be the judge.

But more importantly, which one’s NFL will survive? Jerry Jones’ or Ralph Wilson’s?

Ralph Wilson is the only owner the Buffalo Bills have ever had. 90 year old Wilson is not what he used to be, but he is the embodiment of what a good NFL owner should be. As one of the founders of the old AFL, (American Football League, which merged with the NFL in 1966) Wilson loaned other owners money to keep the league afloat.

If you watched Wilson’s induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with one of his former employees, Bruce Smith, you know this. It is probably not a coincidence that Wilson has actually lived in Detroit all his life. The two cities share a lot more than Lake Erie.

Bills fans have been critical or even distrustful of Wilson at times because he doesn’t live in town, but he has embodied loyalty in a way that few local owners would have done. (Just ask fans of the NBA Buffalo Braves, who were sold out by a local owner.)

One other thing you learned about Wilson if you watched the induction is that he always voted NO to moving a franchise. Always. And sometimes, he was the only no vote. Jerry Jones could learn a thing or two from Ralph Wilson.

It’s only football, but it’s also so much more than football. It’s what bonds Buffalonians and small market fans in numerous towns to their city and to each other.

It’s what gives ghetto kids, immigrants, laid off construction workers, downsized middle managers and underemployed Ph.D’s the hope to believe that they can still compete in America, that they can not only get to whatever is the Super Bowl in their lives, but win it as well.

From a standpoint of vicarious empowerment, from a standpoint of a metaphor that brings the American Dream to life year after year and embodies it, the NFL as we know it must be saved.

May Ralph Wilson live forever. Let Jerry Jones buy a baseball team.  

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Buffalo Bills Fans: Why Toronto is Your Friend (Maybe)

Published: August 18, 2009

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The future of the Buffalo Bills is a constant topic of conversation in Bills Country, and when it’s not being discussed out loud, it is more often than not in the back of the minds of those who are thinking or discussing anything having to do with the NFL in Buffalo.

In the past couple of years, a fear and resentment of Toronto has begun to develop. As the team has scheduled one, and eventually two regular season games at Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto, Bills fans are becoming extremely anxious, that this may be the beginning of a transfer of the franchise to their Canadian neighbor.

But before anyone vilifies Toronto any further, there are some facts and circumstances that require in depth consideration.

First, as we cite in a related article, Buffalo may face a much more sinister and immediate threat to retaining the Bills franchise from Los Angeles than Toronto.

That being said, most of the focus of a possible move by the Bills is on Toronto, so let’s look at an opposite problem in the NHL. Everyone knows that Jim Balsille, principal owner of RIM, the company that makes the Blackberry, is determined to locate a second NHL franchise in or near the Toronto market.

Most recently he’s looked at Hamilton or nearby Kitchener. Hamilton’s new arena is within the Sabres’ sphere of influence, as designated by the NHL, and any franchise to play in that building would owe the Sabres huge compensation fees for infringement on the market. On the other hand, the proposed venue in Kitchener is outside of that protected zone, and Balsille could move the Phoenix Coyotes there with no obligation to the Sabres whatsoever.

Having another NHL team in the Golden Horseshoe or the Niagara Peninsula would undoubtedly siphon off a small but significant portion of regular Sabres’ attendees. Although many of the Canadians who attend Sabres’ games cheer against them, their money is just as good as those who root for the team. So if there is going to be another franchise between Toronto and Buffalo, it would almost be better for Buffalo to have them in Hamilton rather than Kitchener.

But what does this have to do with the Bills? The answer is simple.

There are many in Toronto and in the NFL front office who would like to see the NFL in Toronto. Most of those people also consider the Bills to be the most logical franchise to establish in Toronto. The Bills have a significant following in South Central Ontario, and it may be more in numbers and in enthusiasm than the Sabres’ Canadian supporters/attendees. Moving another franchise or expanding to Toronto would cut into the Bills market substantially and could result in the Bills being unable to sustain themselves in Buffalo.

Therefore, just as having the Coyotes locate in Hamilton or especially Kitchener could be a fatal blow to the Sabres, having another NFL franchise located in Toronto could cut off an essential lifeline to the Bills. But if Toronto doesn’t get their own franchise, will they be even more intent on getting a piece of the Bills?  

If the Bills leave Buffalo completely for Toronto, most Buffalo fans on the American side of the border will find little comfort in their geographic proximity, and will feel as if the team has abandoned them and their city.

But what if it’s not an either/or situation? What if Buffalo and Toronto could join forces somehow?

We alluded to this superficially in a humor piece recently entitled, “Buffalo is the New Toronto” published at B/R. Now let’s take a more serious look at what may be the best scenario for saving the Bills for Buffalo in part if not completely.

First, a little lesson in demographics. There’s a former UB professor, Richard Florida, who now lives in Toronto and writes about demographic trends. He is one of the first to identify the mega-regions, what have previously been called megalopolises, as being the most relevant demographic category to study in terms of trends and economic activity.

Florida would say that mega-regions are more relevant than nations, states, provinces, or traditionally defined metropolitan statistical areas (MSA’s) as measured by the U.S. Department of the Census.

One of the ways Florida defines mega-regions is with the use of nighttime satellite photos. The configuration and density of lights is superior to any other criteria in mapping true economic regions.

This is important because in the same way that we shifted from defining, identifying and ranking U.S. cities according to the population and commerce that existed inside city limits, to Metropolitan Statistical Areas, in the 60’s and 70’s (since we learned then that core cities combined with their contiguous suburbs were the true measure of a “city’s” size and prosperity) we must now adjust to a new paradigm shift that focuses on clusters of contiguous and semi-contiguous metropolitan areas.

Yes, I am fully aware that this is a sports article, not a sociology or demographics dissertation, but this is important information to understand as we consider the potential risks and benefits of Buffalo’s relationship to Toronto relative to the future of the Buffalo Bills.

Florida has defined a mega-region that includes both Buffalo and Toronto and has labeled it Tor-Buff-Chester. According to Florida this mega region extends from the easternmost suburbs of Rochester to Buffalo, across the border along the Niagara Peninsula (Fort Erie to St. Catherines extending to Hamilton),  encompassing the Golden Horseshoe (the area from Toronto to Hamilton and beyond) and the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).

According to Florida, Tor-Buff-Chester is the fourth largest mega-region in North America, following New York-New Jersey, Southern California (San Diego-LA), and Chicago-Milwaukee.

Think about the significance of this. While Buffalo and its citizens tend to have an inferiority complex about the Buffalo Niagara Region relative to other larger and more glitzy metro areas in the country, if Buffalo can see itself as part of this mega-region, they suddenly become part of the fourth largest “city” on the continent.  

Florida says that Tor-Buff-Chester’s economy is equal to 60% of Canada, and if the region were a nation, would rank 16th in the world.

The bottom line for Buffalonians is that Buffalo’s best hope for economic revitalization is to maximize its relationship to Toronto (as well as Rochester), in other words to become a whole-hearted, fully participating member of Tor-Buff-Chester.

Florida recommends that an inter-city infrastructure be constructed including high speed rail, expedited border crossing, high speed ferries on Lake Ontario, and extensive, intentional economic, cultural, and governmental integration of the entire region. The result would be increased opportunity and prosperity for the entire region, but especially for Buffalo.

So, what if instead of seeing Toronto as competition for the Bills we see them as partners toward the goal of keeping the franchise in the region. Sure, there would be some sacrifices required in both towns, but why couldn’t we invite Toronto into Bills Country in the same way that Green Bay linked up with Milwaukee to help maintain the franchise in what is by far the NFL’s smallest market?

Would the Packers still be in Green Bay without Milwaukee? Most likely not. Most likely, Milwaukee is the primary if not solitary reason The Green Bay Packers didn’t go the way of the Decatur Staleys, why they are the only franchise from the era of Decatur, Canton, Akron, Rock Island, Evansville (and, did you know—the Buffalo All-Americans?) and the like.

So what would a Tor-Buff-Chester NFL franchise look like?

It would retain the name the Buffalo Bills or else would become the Toronto-Buffalo Bills, in order to preserve the “Bills” name, as well as for other obvious reasons. As the NFL moves to an 18 game schedule, Buffalo would retain the majority of the home dates, but as many as four regular season games and perhaps a majority of preseason games would be played at Rogers Centre. Buffalo’s season ticket rates would be available for games in Toronto as well as Buffalo. In other words a full-season two-venue package would cost no more than it costs in Buffalo, and would be available to fans all over the mega-region. There could also be Buffalo only and Toronto only packages for those who want them.

For the long term, a state of the art stadium could be constructed in Canada but closer to Buffalo than Toronto—perhaps in St. Catherines, in order to keep the venue within a reasonable drive for Rochester fans, and fans from the Southern Tier who are also a significant contingent.

Certainly, from a Buffalo fan’s perspective at least, the ideal future would be for the Bills to play all their games in Western New York, either in the Ralph or a new stadium to be constructed downtown, perhaps, as part of the waterfront renaissance. That should still be plan A. But Buffalo would benefit from having a serious Plan B as well, to preserve the Bills for the region more broadly defined, if not for Greater Buffalo alone.


Re Michael Vick: Lose the Hypocrisy and Double Standards!

Published: July 30, 2009

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A few days ago, a member of the Buffalo Bills Fans group at the social networking site, Linked In, proposed on the discussion page, that Buffalo sign Michael Vick.

The overwhelming majority of comments received was enthusiastically positive. The essence of comments, as a composite, was that Buffalo would be a good place for Vick to rehabilitate. As long as T.O. is there, why not Vick also? He would add another dimension to an improving offense. He would bring Buffalo four consecutive Super Bowl Rings.

Within hours a second discussion went up at the Bills Fans page, citing a comment by Bills GM Russ Brandon that Buffalo sees no need for Vick at this time. 

Even then, the comments continued to come in advocating for Vick in a Bills uniform.

So, how should we interpret these comments? Is Buffalo an anti-canine city? Is Buffalo shamelessly desperate for any talent they can get no matter how morally depraved he may be? Is Buffalo management afraid of protests and boycotts by the animal lobby?

The latter may be true, but not the former. In fact, I would suggest that Buffalo (as measured by responses to this discussion) has the appropriate attitude toward Mr. Vick. The man paid his debt to society. He has matured, seen the error of his ways. He deserves an opportunity for redemption. All have sinned and come short.

So the question in my mind is not why a sampling of Buffalo fans was so willing to accept this man who is generally considered a pariah, but why an apparent majority of the general population, including football fans, in our society are so unwilling to forgive animal cruelty when murderers, gangsters, spouse batterers, deadbeat dads and more play in NFL stadiums every week, having served nothing more than a two week suspension and not a day in jail?

Sure, animals are helpless. They depend on the love and compassion of their owners. Animal abuse is egregious. No one is defending Michael Vick’s involvement in this travesty or arguing that he shouldn’t have had severe consequences.

But he’s paid his debt. He’s lost his good name. He spent meaningful time in a Federal prison. He’s lost his fortune. He lost his opportunity to play in the NFL during his peak years. He’s paid a steeper price than peers who have committed greater crimes, crimes against human beings, such as Ray Lewis for just one example.

So why the double standard? Why the hypocrisy?

Any team that takes a chance on Michael Vick may or may not enjoy something close to the level of talent he displayed before his arrest, but they will be a part of something much greater—a process of healing, redemption, and penance, which will not only restore the career of a great player but will restore his soul and the soul of the community that opens the door.

And since the secret ingredient in any championship is the psycho-spiritual intangibles, the karma, things that never show up on a depth chart, the team that welcomes Mr. Vick may be the team that receives the next Lombardi trophy.

That is something Buffalo would do well to reconsider, as well as any other team in need of an extra boost.      

Buffalo Bills: A Super Bowl Win Will Surprise Us All

Published: July 19, 2009

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Is it possible we all knew at some deep level that the K-Gun would not bring the Lombardi trophy to Buffalo?

It would have been too predictable, especially the first year. The Bills dominated the league throughout the season, beat the Raiders by a half century in the Conference Championship. It only stood to reason that things had been too easy.

It might work for Pittsburgh, Miami, San Francisco, or Dallas, but in Buffalo, where two pleasant winter days in a row make everyone assume they will pay dearly for it later, things just can’t go that well forever.

The more dominant the team is leading up to the postseason, the quicker and harder they can expect to fall.

If they also dominate the postseason, then expect it all to unravel in the final game.

That’s not to say that Buffalo will never win the big one. It’s to say that it’s highly likely the team we expect to win will eventually self-destruct, and just as likely that a team from which we expect little will surprise.

If you accept that premise, then this could be the year. Any year could be the year.

Remember the Sabres of ’96? They were just a motley crew, really—a team of no-names, at least at the onset of the season.

Next thing you know they’re winning as if they’re the Red Wings. Next thing you know, they’re in game six of the Finals and almost pull it off.

Aha! You say, almost!

Yes, but my point is that Buffalo tends to love the teams that come from nowhere, from the ashes, gems gleaned from the league scrapheap, if (and that’s a big if) they are able to coalesce and overachieve.

But it really does make sense from a cosmic perspective. An underdog town should be redeemed by an underdog team. A sleeper. An overachiever.

The Bills were too good to be from Buffalo in the Kelly era. Everyone knew it. And that’s why it didn’t work.

Flutie could have—I’m convinced, would have—led us to a Superbowl victory if Wade Phillips hadn’t ditched the one who got us to the dance in favor of the Surfer. It is that kind of team, the team Flutie led, that will get us there, if we ever do win the whole enchilada.

Now don’t accuse me of being down on Buffalo. If you’ve read the body of my work you know that there is no greater Buffalo booster than I. But part of self-love is an honest self-appraisal. Buffalo is not a flashy high-rolling town, so we shouldn’t expect to win when we have a flashy high-rolling team.

So what does that say about T.O.? You could say he’s more Hollywood than Hamburg. More South Beach than South Park. Well, yes and no.

He’s a reject from the Hollywoods of the world. And even the Philadelphias.

He may come with self-applied glitz and glitter but in every real sense, at least in his chosen profession, he’s fighting for his life. So yes, T.O. fits the Buffalo mold, or at least he can fit in, if he chooses to accept his lot and his last best chance.

But will it be this year? That depends more on the coaching than anything. With the right coaching—with someone with a mentality like Bill Cowher, for instance, maybe even Turner Gill—the team we have today is just good enough to play over their heads and long enough to surprise everyone all the way to a Super Bowl victory.

But can Jauron pull it off?

One thing is certain—either he will, or he’ll be gone and we can hope to God the next coach is an alchemist.

If The NFL Were A Playlist…

Published: July 18, 2009

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If the NFL were a playlist and each team were a song, here are the titles…

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” Rolling Stones

New England Patriots:  “Cheater, Cheater” Joey and Rorey

New York Jets: “There’s a New Kid in Town” The Eagles

Miami Dolphins: “Back Again” Boy Kill Boy

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: “My Little Runaway” (says Cleveland) Del Shannon

Cincinatti Bengals: “Paper Tiger” Spoon

Cleveland Browns: “The Imposter” Elvis Costello

Pittsburgh Steelers: “We Are the Champions” Queen

AFC South

Houston Texans:  “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas, You’ve Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band,”  Alabama

Indianapolis Colts: “Baltimore”  Randy Newman

Jacksonville Jaguars: “Cat’s in the Cradle” Harry Chapin

Tennessee Titans: “Nashville Cats” Lovin Spoonful

AFC West

Denver Broncos: “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa My Hair” South Pacific

Kansas City Cheifs  “Cassels in the Air” Don McClean (“Castles in..)

Oakland Raiders: “Those Days are Gone”  dc3

San Diego Chargers: “Cry Me a River(s)” Justin Timberlake

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” George Strait

New York Giants: “Eli’s Comin” Three Dog Night

Philadelphia Eagles: “Time for me to Fly”  REO Speedwagon

Washington Redskins: “Indian Reservation”  Paul Revere and the Raiders

NFC North

Chicago Bears: “Bare Necessities”  Jungle Book

Detroit Lions: “If I Were the King of the Forest”  Wizard of Oz

Green Bay Packers: anything by The String Cheese Incident

Minnestoa Vikings: “My New Boyfriend”  Carly Simon

NFC South: 

Atlanta Falcons:  “Who Let the Dogs Out?”  Baha Men

Carolina Panthers: “Carolina in My Mind”  James Taylor

New Orleans Saints: “I’m a Loser”  The Beatles

Tampa Bay Bucs:  “Going Downhill Fast”  Divine Comedy

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: “I’m Like a Bird”  Nelly Furtado

San Francisco Forty-Niners:  “Just Like Starting Over”  John Lennon

Seattle Seahawks:  “The Day Seattle Died”  Cold

St. Louis Rams: “Good in the Beginning”  12minds 


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