Buffalo matters more than the Bills

Bills officials pleas for help in clearing out the stadium an insult to those truly in need

As dozens of people sat stranded, trapped and freezing in their cars all over Buffalo, buried under masses of snow and contemplating their odds of survival, the Buffalo Bills cried out for help.

Still in the midst of the storm Bills officials reached out across Twitter and the media to plea for help from Buffalo’s residents.

The stadium, filled with about 220,000 tons of snow, needed to be dug out.

Because even as the National Guard rolled into Buffalo, even as residents sat trapped in their homes and their cars, as roofs collapsed and food ran out – the Bills worried about their 1 o’clock game.

More problematically, they expected Buffalo to care, too.

It’s understandable the Doug Marrone and company would look past the storm and focus on football. That’s their job. But for the team to expect its fans – as devoted and loyal as they may be – to prioritize football over all else was shortsighted and selfish.

As early as Wednesday, as the snow continued to blanket the city and threaten lives, the Bills were offering fans $10 an hour and free game tickets in exchange for their assistance in shoveling snow out of the stadium.

Officials also noted that plows were coming from Rochester and Syracuse to help with the project – the parking lot and stands needed to be emptied out, but, of course the stadium was “the priority.”

Clearly, the Bills needed to step back and look at the bigger picture. Because as local governments shut down and county after county declared states of emergency, priorities piled up more quickly than the snow outside.

To anyone but the Bills officials, the Ralph was never a priority. Football was never a priority.

Every single plow needed to go to people who needed it – not a football stadium.

Roads needed to be cleared so residents could get medical assistance, buy food or simply leave their house. The thruway needed to be reopened, so residents could begin returning to their jobs – and their everyday lives.

Moreover, the shoveling skills of Buffalo residents were sorely needed throughout the area – distracting them from simply being neighborly with the promise of an hourly wage and free tickets was a cheap move.

Not only was that proposition selfish, but it also contradicted the orders of city officials, who encouraged individuals not to drive unless absolutely necessary – driving bans were in place in many areas throughout the week.

It’s rarely popular to speak out against football, especially against a city’s beloved, battered team. But it’s necessary – when no one on the Bills administration considered an outside perspective, someone needed to offer up their voice.

Accordingly, County Executive Mark Poloncarz deserves praise for his willingness to risk criticism and voice an unpopular opinion, as he critiqued the Bills’ offer to fans and reminded the team – and the city – that there was more at stake than a football game.

Now that the NFL has admitted defeat in the face of thousands of tons of snow, it’s easy to look back and say that the Bills were wrong. But Poloncarz had the guts to speak out without knowing the outcome, and that’s commendable.

Though the decisions made by Bills officials lacked perspective and foresight, their dedication to their team is unquestionable.

And Marrone, who was seen several times helping push stranded cars out of the snow, in a demonstration of classic Buffalo good-neighborliness that helped mitigate, but not eliminate, the sting of his poor short-sighted choices.

Many of us at The Spectrum love football, and the Bills. But ultimately, football is a game, Buffalo is our home, snow and all.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com