Nothing surprises me anymore.
We watch sports with the hope that something incredible will happen, something we’ve never seen before that justifies the hours and hours we put into watching. It’s a system that very rarely yields fruit here in Buffalo, but that only makes many put that much more time and feeling into it. Now I’m still pretty young compared to others, but today I feel like I’ve seen pretty much all there is to see. Why? Because when I heard about this I didn’t bat an eye.
I mean, why should I? After that monstrosity in Toronto I’m done having any faith in owners and loyalty and all that wishful thinking nonsense. It’s clear that for fans sports are a hobby, and for owners and players sports are a business. There is no such thing as a “hometown discount” or charity cases in sports, the business is defined through dollar signs and stadium deals and signing bonuses.
Do I think Larry Quinn is lying? Of course I do, but that doesn’t mean I think Tom Golisano is wrong. Selling the team at this point would be a smart business move. He said it himself, buying the Sabres was not a charity case. If he was going to purchase the team it would be with the intent to make money, and that’s exactly what he did.
Golisano is a Rochester boy who did Western New York a favor and kept the Sabres in Buffalo. From that point on he didn’t owe us jack squat. He isn’t a hockey mind, he isn’t a native son, he’s a businessman. Businessman make money, and if you can’t make money with this team or deem it too much effort, you cut your losses and move on. His involvement with the franchise is minimal to begin with; who was the one releasing statements for the team when the questions came?
When you think about it a change in ownership could be a good thing. What has Tom Golisano done to help the Sabres since he bought the team? Here’s my running list:
– The Sabres stayed in Buffalo
That’s about it from my point of view. He lowered ticket prices initially, which was a smart business move. They invested some money in the Arena, and gave the organization a level of stability. But other than that what has he personally contributed to the franchise? Has he put in the money to make a big playoff push? Sort of. Has he gone out and obtained a big name free agent? Has he made a splash in any way that shows a commitment to winning in the long term? Has he answered the questions posed by the local media, or even pretended to be involved with the day to day operations of this team?
In that regard, Tom Golisano’s usefulness to this organization has come and gone. He was the savior, he swooped in and saved a lowly franchise from outsourcing and the evils of Paul Allen. But that window has come and gone. He will do nothing in his tenure but maintain a profit margin and continue to remain hockey illiterate. His visits will be infrequent, his influence minimal, and the team’s performance will continue to be mediocre. Worst of all, this will be seen as okay because he doesn’t care. He doesn’t have to. He has a company to run, a political spectrum to influence, and a pet project in a hockey franchise that lets him watch Ronan Tynan one a year for free.
After what I saw yesterday, I have zero expectations of any sports franchise remaining in this city. Perhaps this is a good thing; Ralph can die so the Bills can move, and Tom can cut and run so the Sabres can go north as well. Both teams will flourish and perhaps we all can move away and do the same. I am so disillusioned by it all I can’t even describe what I’m feeling. All I know is that it hurts a lot more than any missed field goal or skate in the crease can or ever will.
If I have learned anything over the past few years it is this: no matter how badly you wish it would, sports will not love you back. You can give them everything: money, idol worship, and every spare second of your time and effort; none of it will change anything. Ralph Wilson does not love you back. Chris Drury does not love you back. The logos and jerseys and hockey sticks will not love you back. All those hours of watching and playing will only leave you with stories and bumps and bruises. The amount you put in is never equal to what you receive, and lately all we’ve gotten back is another kick in the teeth.
Maybe having nothing left to love will be for the best.