In contrast to a past essayist's long-suffering and "eternal optimism" as a fan of the Buffalo Bills, I cannot share that same world-view anymore in good conscience.
Now that Bills owner Ralph Wilson has opted for "continuity" by keeping perennial loser Dick Jauron as head coach, rather than going after a tried and proven winner who could motivate the players to perform better, he has assured himself of two things: a massive loss of fan support and the poorest reputation in the National Football League.
At season's end, Wilson expressed his "awareness" of the fans' frustration with the team's epic 2008 collapse after starting with a 5-1 record. However, such "awareness" demands a matching response, and Wilson could not be troubled to give the right one.
Perhaps searching for a new head coach was too much work, even though such news would have been received joyfully by fans looking forward to 2009. Translated, Wilson's own interests outweighed the desires of the customers. This is a sure-fire recipe for disaster in any business dealing.
Some time ago, Wilson mentioned he was in the insurance business before buying the Buffalo Bills. I wonder if the training he went through in his day was akin to mine just a few short years ago.
When I started working for a well-known insurer, part of my training included a video presentation called, "Remember Me." In it, a traveling businessman recounted poor customer service by airline, car-rental and lodging companies -- so much so that he used different providers on his next trip.
The difference was amazing, as the presentation showed. The latter companies were more helpful and attentive with his needs, and even the hotel people gave him brochures as he was leaving, inviting him and his company to hold a conference with them on a future visit.
The check-out scene had a cameo appearance, I believe, by former Miami Dolphin Dan Marino, whose character was pondering what airline to fly home with. The hero advised against the unnamed airline, recounting rudeness instead of service. Marino's character took that advice to heart.
At the end of the presentation, the businessman looked into the camera and said, "You know, those other companies could've enjoyed my support even today. All they had to do was just remember me."
As the training continued beyond this, we learned that we have to give great service and a quality product in order for us to keep our customers, and to gain new ones. To start going slipshod with the quality means losing not just customers, but also a good name.
Wilson has said that he couldn't stomach the idea of starting fresh with a new coach. I wonder if he recalls the Kay Stephenson/Hank Bullough years of lackluster on-field performance, with corresponding fan attendance?
Furthermore, Wilson should consider how the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens did with new coaches: last-place finishes in 2007; playoff participants this year.
Similar to the traveling businessman, I have this message for Wilson: Ralph, you could have still had me rooting for the Bills, purchasing items with the colors and logo, and otherwise offering moral support for your franchise. All you had to do was just remember the fans. Then again, you only had to remember me.
I haven't forgotten Sabres owner Tom Golisano, who can expect a similar missive from me soon.