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Pegula has Bills fans giddy with hope

Column as I see ’em:

• Terry Pegula hasn’t always displayed the sharpest PR sense as the Sabres owner, but he appealed to the hearts and minds of fretful Buffalo fans after selling off part of his fracking empire for $1.75 billion on Tuesday.

In a news release, Pegula declared, “We are not going away.” That’s what people wanted to hear, a bold assurance that Pegula has the financial wherewithal to play with the big boys and does not intend to be outbid for the Bills.

I don’t imagine Pegula was shaken by the news that Morgan Stanley will allow the beleaguered Jon Bon Jovi/Toronto group to regroup and put together a more respectable opening bid for the franchise, either.

Bills fans around the globe are understandably giddy about the situation, ready to embrace Pegula as a savior, the man who will keep their precious NFL franchise in town for the long term. I’ve had my differences with the man, but if he gets his way, they’ll build a statue to him some day.

Still, the cynic in me wonders if it’s all too good to be true. Oh, I trust Pegula means business, but it can’t be this simple, can it? It’s hard to believe that one of the treasured NFL franchises is up for sale and Pegula’s only serious competition is a Trump (Don) and a chump (Bon Jovi).

Remember, this is supposed to be a secret, confidential process. I agree with Marc Ganis, the sports business consultant who spoke with Jerry Zremski for a story in the Sunday edition of The News. Ganis said he didn’t believe there were only three bidders for the team.

I’ve suspected all along that there would be suitors lying in the weeds, secret bidders with deep pockets. Maybe such people have been scared off by language in the lease that guards against the team moving. But I worry about the $28.4 million “out” in the year 2020. It was put in there for a reason.

I hope I’m wrong. I’m a lot more optimistic about the team staying than I was five years ago, but something tells me the process will become more complicated than it now appears and that Pegula will have to reach even deeper.

• Say what you will about Tiger Woods, the TV ratings for major tournaments plunge when he’s not in the field or in contention. Ratings for this year’s Masters and U.S. Open were dreadful without Woods. Marginal viewers tuned out when he fell from contention at the British Open.

At least the drama about Tiger playing in the PGA ended Wednesday when he announced he will tee off at 8:35 a.m. today at Valhalla. Woods, who had back surgery on March 31, withdrew from the Bridgestone Invitational last week with severe back pain. His chances of making the Ryder Cup team are fading. But Woods hasn’t been much of a Ryder Cup presence in the best of times.

Even with Tiger in the field, I like Rickie Fowler this week. Fowler has finished in the top five of the three previous majors this year.

• There’s a lot of sentiment for Joe Girardi as AL manager of the year. True, Girardi has done a nice job keeping the Yanks afloat. But how about Baltimore’s Buck Showalter, whose O’s had a five-game lead in the AL East and were 16 games over .500 heading into Wednesday’s game at the struggling Blue Jays?

Chris Davis is hitting .196. J.J. Hardy has four homers. Matt Wieters has been hurt much of the season. But Showalter keeps the O’s focused and winning. They haven’t lost two in a row since June. They lead the AL in fielding. Their pinch-hitters are hitting .364.

The O’s are never a chic pick in April, but here they are again. Managing must have something to do with it.

• Derrick Rose was a revelation at the U.S. training camp last week in Las Vegas. Rose, who missed almost all of the last two NBA seasons with knee injuries, was attacking the basket and playing with his old verve. Mike Krzyzewski, the USA head coach, said Rose was again playing at an elite level.

That’s great news for the Bulls, who signed Pau Gasol as a free agent at Rose’s urging. Rookie Doug McDermott has looked great this summer. So if Rose is all the way back, Chicago should be the team to beat in the East, especially after Indiana’s Paul George suffered a devastating leg injury in Vegas.

• EJ Manuel felt he played “pretty good” in the Bills’ opening preseason game against the Giants on Saturday night. Someone should remind Manuel that the standard will be elevated in his second season as an NFL starting quarterback. If he thinks 2-for-7 with three knockdowns is good enough, he’s kidding himself.

• Kudos to Gregg Popovich and the Spurs for making Becky Hammon the first full-time, paid female NBA assistant coach. The Spurs did it because they wanted to be first – in the standings. They’re the smartest team in sports, so you know they hired Hammon because they felt she could make them better.

• Fran Riordan, a former baseball star at Canisius High, was inducted into the inaugural class of the independent Frontier League Hall of Fame last month in Illinois. Riordan, 39, a Clarence native, held several league records when he retired as a player. At 27, he became the youngest manager to win a league title.

• Former Bills safety Jim Leonhard signed with the Browns last week and is battling for a spot on Mike Pettine’s roster. Leonhard is looking to stick as a backup to another former Bill – Cleveland native Donte Whitner.

• Masahiro Tanaka threw a baseball Monday for the first time since suffering a partial elbow tear a month ago. Manager Joe Girardi said his rookie ace is a long way from recovery. The Yanks would be wise not to rush him back.


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