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NOV 11- NOV 19, 2014

Bills, Sabres Continue Their Losing Ways Under Pegulas

By Tony Farina

November 11, 2014

Billionaire fracker Terry Pegula's $1.4 billion purchase of the Buffalo Bills beat out groups led by Jon Bon Jovi and Donald Trump. Shown with wife Kim.

When it comes to professional sports teams in the Buffalo region, the common thread, unfortunately, is losing.

Both local professional sports franchises, the Bills and the Sabres, are owned by Terry and Kim Pegula, the fracking billionaires who have been anointed as the saviors of the local sports teams by just about everybody, including the mainstream media and local, state, and federal elected officials who for the time being don’t have to worry about losing either franchise to another community.

Let’s not forget the investment by the Pegulas on Buffalo’s waterfront with a $170-million plus hockey-themed building and a sports bar second to none in Harbor Center.

But here’s the problem as we see it: the anointed saviors have not transferred their big dollars and ownership success into producing winning sports teams.

The Sabres are a dreadful hockey team, winning only 21 of 82 games last season, and they are the worst team in the NHL to date this season with only three wins in 16 starts, good for last place in the Eastern Conference.

As for the Bills, this is the team’s first year under the Pegulas so we have to cut them a little slack. But hopefully the new owners won’t wait as long as they did after buying the Sabres in 2011 and will soon realize it takes more than good will and a strong fan base to win in the NFL.

The front office team under the late Ralph Wilson has produced the longest playoff drought in the NFL, an unbelievable 14 years. That’s 14 as in no playoff team this century. And the brain trust has mortgaged the team’s future on bad draft choices and trades (see E J Manuel among others), and is now going into battle with a journeyman quarterback picked up as insurance for another anointed one, Manuel, who has been one of the biggest busts in this sorry franchise’s history.

The Bills have some pieces in place but without a first rate quarterback, they are going nowhere. They lost a must-win game last week to Kansas City despite having the home field advantage, and that’s quite an advantage in the Ralph. The fans would have blown the walls off the old stadium if the team had won but alas, it was another missed opportunity in a legacy of big-game flops.

Now they have to come back after that terrible loss to the Chiefs to face the much-improved Miami Dolphins on Thursday night in Florida, a team with the same record (5 – 4) and same desperate (i. e. slim) playoff hopes as the Bills.

Only die-hard Bills’ fans can really expect a win in Miami after Sunday’s brutal loss at the hands of the Chiefs when everything was there for the taking. But journeyman Kyle Orton, while a big improvement over Manuel, couldn’t close the deal. There were other mistakes but Orton could have saved the day but he didn’t have it in him.

The Bills will likely miss the playoffs again for the 15th straight year given the tough schedule they face over the next several weeks. The fans are loyal but losing drains even the most loyal fans after all these years.

Terry Pegula made billions but there is no sign just yet he knows what he’s doing as a professional sports team owner. The Sabres are skating into oblivion and the Bills brain trust has had 14 years to field a winner and hasn’t gotten it done. The future hardly looks bright without a facelift for both franchises. Hopefully the Pegulas will realize that it takes more than wanting a winner to produce a winner.

It’s too early to give up on the Pegulas just yet, but they need to do something to end the losing culture that inhabits both franchises, mostly because of poor decisions by the front offices of both teams. Let’s hope the Pegulas see the gold that can come their way with a winner as quickly as they found gold in the fracking fields of Pennsylvania.





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