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Bills Raise Prices; Sabres Come Unhinged

By Tony Farina

Terry Pagula, worst owner in hockey?

Yes sir, sport fans, the Buffalo Bills are raising season ticket prices after another awe-inspiring 6-10 record, and bringing back the Toronto game to the Ralph after it was clear the money-making venture-at least the football part-just wasn't working, in part because the Bills are not a big draw.

The fact is the Bills have been one of the worst teams in the NFL for a very long time. They have gone 14 straight years without making the playoffs and have had only one winning season since 2000, going 9-7 in 2004 in what can only be characterized an aberration.

The state even had trouble giving away suite seats last season, as part of a plan to promote the city to try and attract entrepreneurs, with only 54 people showing up for the 112 seats available in the 16-seat luxury New York suite, with not a single guest showing up for the last two games. How bad is that?

But hardy Buffalo fans have stayed loyal despite the embarrassing play, and the bean counters know that fans will pay a bigger number for season tickets on the chance that this will be the year it all changes, the hype that comes with every new preseason, with the balloon bursting soon after the real games begin.

Now it's true the Bills haven't raised prices since 2010, but let's face it, even the Bills know it is hard to sell out a cold-weather team when losing seasons are the norm. But I guess the front office feels last season's 6-10 record was better than all the other 6-10 seasons the team has enjoyed, and they needed to put some more money into the coffers even though state and county taxpayers did most of the heavy financial lifting to keep the Ralph from falling as part of the much-hyped new lease deal to somehow keep the team in Buffalo.

The front office says the price increase is "modest," and well it should be given the disappointing play on the field. The 10-game package, including two "exciting" preseason games, will have a price range for club seats from $1,470 to $3,100 compared to $1,278 to $2,790 last year. You might call it "modest," but it adds up if you are springing for a few tickets for family and friends.

The Bills will also introduce variable ticket pricing this year, although details have not been announced. Variable pricing means the team will have higher prices for more attractive games and lower prices for what should be cold-weather duds. An attractive game for this franchise should mean a game they might be able to win. But let's face it, there are not too many of those games on the home schedule but I'm sure the bean counters will have a few in the package.

No matter the price, Bills fans will likely pay it and have already indicated they are okay with being charged a little more through chatter on social media. But the front office knew that would be the case because for all these years, fans have turned out to watch bad teams in lousy weather and come back for more. You can beat the Bills the field, but the fans are champions when it comes to loving their team, even if they can't make the playoffs.

The Bills have a lot of cap space to sign new talent this year, but the front office has to figure out who to sign, and that always seems to be a problem with this team, finding players who can help and finding somebody who can coach them.

But the Bills are not the only losing team in town, and the strange goings-on with the Buffalo Sabres (19 -37 -8) makes one wonder what's in the Lake Erie water? Pat LaFontaine came, and then he went, without saying much. Sabres owner Terry Pegula was given the red carpet by hockey fans and the city when he rode into town on the heels of his fracking windfall, and now he's nowhere to be seen.

The Toronto Globe and Mail's David Shoalts wrote--after LaFontaine's sudden departure--that "if there were a trophy for worst owner in professional sports, Terry Pegula would have that thing locked down tighter than the Buffalo Sabres' grip on last place in the NHL."

The Bills have a losing tradition second to none in the NFL, and the Sabres are a commodity on the brink of collapse with an owner regarded as the worst in the league by a top hockey writer. That's what one-way loyalty produces, greedy franchises that prey on the poor fans while returning only brief moments of excitement for all the sports dollars that are spent making their owners richer.

The media and fans must demand more and stop being apologists for these bad franchises or things will probably get worse, if that's possible.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Mar 11, 2014