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FROM THE HEART OF A LOYAL BISONS FAN: 'WHY, BOB, WHY?'

IT WAS a "Twin Peaks" kind of night. A loyal Bisons fan came to me in a dream. He wanted me to deliver a plea from him to Bob Rich. Amazingly, when I awoke, I recalled every word of what he said. Here it is:

Say it ain't so, Bob.

Maybe you've heard the talk. People are saying you're trying to let us down easy on the Major League Baseball thing. They say you've already made up your mind, that it just can't be done. Not in this town, not at that price.

They say your letter in the newspaper last week -- why then, Bob, just a few days before the lords of baseball ruled on expansion finalists? -- was the first step backward.

Say it ain't so, Bob.

Bob, you've cooled our throats with your excellent Fresh 'n' Frosty artificial dessert product. Now warm our hearts by bringing home a big-league squad.

Unless you come up with the cream -- er, sorry, Coffee Rich -- it will indeed be a dark, bitter cup of joe we'll have to swallow.

Bob, we know it won't be easy. Some of these utility infielders make a million a year. The going price on washed-up veterans is 500 thou. Seems like even the darn clubhouse boy pulls down a hundred grand.

Still, nobody ever said this would be a snap. You can't let us down now.

For eight years, Bob, we've kept the dream alive.

We've come to Pilot Field. Eaten at Pettibone's. Held our tongues when the Butcher vanished. Gone to expansion meetings with placards in hand. Resisted the urge to mutilate Buster Bison. Endured so-called commentators mouthing the party line for every home team on your radio station. Bought beer from
Conehead.

We got our hopes up.

Don't let our quest be in vain.

Bob, I read the numbers in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago. I was a little disappointed. I thought you'd be going deep on this. Taking a man-size bite of that $95 million enchilada. Instead, it's only a $10 million nibble -- plus all of the perks and protections of a majority partner.

It's hard to put a price on a dream. Still, one figured the down payment would be a bit more than 10 mil.

If you buy it, we will come.

Maybe not season tickets for everybody. But at least a few games a year. Even at 12 bucks a bleacher seat. Five bucks a parking space. Three bills a hot dog. Promise.

We'll even go to Saki's and eat your fusion food, whatever that is.

The lords of baseball, wise and kind and generous men all, will soon come to town.

Forget about taking in a Bills game. Forget about cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in the Rich Products atrium. Just give these oh-so-reasonable gentlemen what they want. Reach back and, with the game on the line, throw the high hard one.

That's right, Bob. Reach into the back pocket and pull out the checkbook. The one you waved at the expansion meetings in Cleveland last June. Where you said the price would separate the pretenders from the contenders.

It's up to you, Bob. Or maybe (how are we to know?) it's up to your dad. The wealthiest of the wealthy. No. 268 on the Forbes list. The $300 million man.

If it's Dad, and he won't come around, maybe you can have a chat with No. 89, Jeremy Jacobs (net worth: $600 million). Sounds like a cleanup hitter to me. He's in already, in return for concession rights. Throw in a share of the gate and, who knows, maybe he'll toss another 20 or 30 mil in the pot.

You've done it before, Bob. You're the savior of baseball in Buffalo. The man who brought us Double A and the Food Court, Triple A and char-broiled hot dogs. You made a little money along the way. Nobody is sure quite how much. But we're not begrudging a man his profit.

Now, though, things seem a little shaky.

You asked local government for a safety net. Local government no can do. They've got potholes to fill, bridges to build, orchestras to fund. They can't wait with arms outstretched, Holden Caulfield-like, to catch you if you fall.

Take a walk on the high wire, Bob. Do the act without a net. Win or lose, prosper or go broke (OK, maybe just a significant downturn). If worse comes to worst, you can always sell the thing. Whatever happens, we'll never forget you.

Bob, scratch the measly $10 million. If that's what it takes, throw 40 or 50 mil on the table and let fate take you by the hand. Put caution on the waiver wire. Call chance in from the bullpen.

Bob, reach deep into those cavernous pockets and do whatever it takes to bring Major League Baseball to Buffalo.

We're talking about a dream here, aren't we? Bob?

Are you there, Bob? Bob? BOB?!

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