As most of you already know, the lifelong owner of the Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson Jr, passed away yesterday at the age of 95. Russ Brandon, team CEO, said Wilson went peacefully, and for a man like Wilson, that's what he deserved.
Ralph Wilson was the only owner the Buffalo Bills ever knew, heck, he was the only owner the team could have asked for.
Wilson's legacy will be determined in the coming days, but as a long time fan of the team, it will be known for one thing. When he had the opportunity to move the team from the blue-collar city of Buffalo, Wilson always had the same answer, no. Wilson realized what this team meant to the city of Buffalo. It's become a sunday ritual in the city, revolving around three ideas: Bills football, wings, and beer. The fans live vicariously through the team, and the players do the same. Ralph had every chance to move the team to a bigger market, but Ralph Wilson was not in the business of football for the money. No, he was in it for a common reason, the love of the game.
Wilson was a man of many things. He was a World War II veteran, a philanthropist, and most importantly, a visionary.
Wilson was a minority owner of the Detroit Lions during the 1950's. His dream was to one day own a team of his own, but he knew the Lions would always belong to the Ford family. Never giving up on his dream, Wilson looked elsewhere. He could have had a team in Miami, but decided on the city of Buffalo. Yes, probably the first time someone picked Buffalo over Miami. Jokes aside, Wilson saw the future of a team in Buffalo being successful. Once again, Wilson was not in football for the money, he was in it for his love of the game.
After Wilson had his team in tact, they became apart of the A.F.L. The group of owners that involved Wilson, Lamar Hunt, and others, became known as the "Foolish Club". Against all the adversity that the league faced, it succeeded and eventually merged with the N.F.L. Most people don't know how close teams in the league were to never making it to the N.F.L. When the Raiders and Patriots needed money, guess who came to their aid. You guessed it right, Ralph Wilson Jr.Wilson, and other members of the "Foolish Club" (Standing 3rd from left).
Wilson was always a man who did the right thing. When teams were relocated in the 90's, such as the Browns, and Oilers, Wilson was against it. He never believed in moving teams, because he realized how much they meant to the fans, and Wilson knew this to be most true about his Bills.
Last year, Wilson was able to secure a new lease for the stadium named after him, and a pretty hefty fee if a new owner were to buy the team and have a desire to move them. That fee by-the-way, is right around 400 Million dollars. He taught current team CEO Russ Brandon all he knows about the Bills. Wilson wanted to make sure that before he left, his most precious possession was in good hands.
Ralph Wilson is the reason behind so many great memories for Bills fans. The greatest comeback ever, four straight SuperBowls, and two straight A.F.L. championships in 1964-65.
Ralph Wilson has given so much, and never asked for anything in return. He was set in his believes, and always did things for the good of others, and not with himself in mind.
No matter what, Wilson will always be Buffalo Bill.
Then, now, forever
R.I.P Mr. Ralph Wilson Jr.