As week one of the NFL regular season came and went, much of the good football played on Sunday got overshadowed by the emergence of a graphic video showing the domestically abusive behavior that has since gotten Ravens running back Ray Rice kicked out of the league. A day later, many suspended NFL players (including Josh Gordon, Wes Welker, Orlando Scandrick, and Lane Johnson) awaited an exonerating new drug policy to be reached by the NFL and Players Association (NFLPA) that would reduce, or completely overturn their substance-related suspensions. A non-sports fan could look at these news items and make the totally understandable conclusion that the NFL is full of substance-abusing wife-beaters. Judging by Monday and Tuesday alone, it has not been a good PR week in the NFL.
But in Buffalo, the NFL’s second-smallest market, where some of the most dedicated fans in the NFL have endured four consecutive Super Bowl losses, followed by 15 years of playoff drought and team-relocation speculation, Tuesday was a day to celebrate.
For years, Buffalo had been the target of many NFL rumor-mongerers asserting that the Bills franchise was a prime candidate to relocate to Toronto, Los Angeles, or even London. In October of 2013, Bills owner and founder Ralph Wilson passed away, creating even more doubt over the team’s future in Buffalo. But as of Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills are safe at home; there will be no move.
On Tuesday morning, as ESPN and CNN harped on and on about the Ray Rice situation, the sale of the Buffalo Bills to new ownership was agreed upon, making Terry and Kim Pegula the NFL’s newest franchise owners (pending a vote by the NFL’s 31 other owners). The Pegulas already own Buffalo’s other professional sports team, the Sabres of the National Hockey League.
The Pegulas buying the team is the best thing that could have happened for Bills fans. The sale guarantees that the Bills are going nowhere. Furthermore, despite being valued by Forbes at around $935 million (second-lowest value of any NFL team), the Bills sold for a record $1.4 billion.
The good news for Bills fans did not end there either. Later in the day, legendary Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, who has been fighting a highly publicized battle with cancer for years now, was declared entirely free of the deadly disease. Appearing at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction of teammate Andre Reed, Kelly’s worn and sickly image did nothing to dispel the notion that the disease would eventually take his life, but miracles happen: in one day, Bills fans are told they get to keep their team, and their living legend. On top of it all, the Bills have begun the season 1-0 by beating the Bears in Chicago for the first time ever.
It might be a bit soon to say that the Bills’ hard times are over, but after all the turmoil—the constant losing and uncertainty—that this franchise and its fans have endured since the beginning of the new millennium, Buffalo finally has reason to cheer.