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Bills fans tailgate Sunday in honor of Ralph Wilson

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On the first Sunday since the team was founded that Ralph Wilson Jr. didn’t own the Buffalo Bills, fans arrived by the hundreds to tailgate in his honor.

Jonathan D. Epstein of the Buffalo News explains that fans showed up despite snow to convene in a muddy parking lot to remember the franchise’s only owner, who died last week at 95.

“This was a great way to come out and celebrate the man who brought us the Bills,” Katheryn Lanigan of Buffalo said.  “He’d want us to be out here celebrating, and not mourning him.”

Team CEO Russ Brandon unexpectedly showed up at the gathering to thank the fans.

“I never get to tailgate,” he said.  “I love this.”

Brandon also had an Adrian Balboa-style message for the crowd.

“I worked for Mr. Wilson for 18 years, and what he loved the most was the fans and their passion,” Brandon said   “Many people have asked how they can honor him.  How can we honor him?  One word.  Win!

That also could be the best way to keep the team in town.  Which hopefully will happen.  At a time when business considerations loom over every decision made in the NFL, a very wise business decision for the NFL will be to keep a franchise in Buffalo for as long as the NFL exists.

Even if a new owner wants to move the team, a move can only happen if 24 total owners allow it to happen.  For Buffalo and for the memory of Ralph Wilson, here’s hoping at least nine owners will always be willing to vote no to a move.

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42 Responses to “Bills fans tailgate Sunday in honor of Ralph Wilson”
  1. rhcpvikings says: Mar 31, 2014 8:58 AM

    Awesome! The Bills need to stay in Buffalo

  2. stevenray72 says: Mar 31, 2014 9:03 AM

    Great move by the Bills fans! I think sometimes the NFL forgets it is the fans who make the sport what it is.

  3. realnflmaster says: Mar 31, 2014 9:04 AM

    They should tailgate for every losing seasons they’ve had since inception. They’ll have a tailgate every week until the start of the season!

  4. seabreezes51 says: Mar 31, 2014 9:05 AM

    Cheers to Ralph Wilson, his family and the Bills fans.
    A classy thing to do.

  5. crush22 says: Mar 31, 2014 9:06 AM

    Cool

  6. bvolke says: Mar 31, 2014 9:10 AM

    Best fans in the NFL

  7. irishinyourface says: Mar 31, 2014 9:10 AM

    any excuse to drink beer in Buffalo

  8. george1859 says: Mar 31, 2014 9:11 AM

    Buffalo may get a bad rap for losing, weather, etc.
    The one thing that this area represents is loyalty. Loyalty to our town, our neighbors and to the Bills.
    We support our teams 100% during any situation. Winning, losing, and losing four straight. We know they are trying to do their best.

    No other city consistently supports their NFL franchise with such determined loyalty as Buffalo.
    Thank you Ralph for believing in us.

  9. titansbro says: Mar 31, 2014 9:16 AM

    The Bills belong in Buffalo. Point blank, period at the end. I have a couple buddies from Buffalo & they LOVE that team despite a long run of bad teams. I understand there aren’t many corporations there to buy luxury seating & all that garbage, but the fans will keep them there. No doubt. There are at least 4 franchises that should move before the Bills.

  10. drdoom82 says: Mar 31, 2014 9:18 AM

    very cool

  11. rutchaser says: Mar 31, 2014 9:19 AM

    Nice gesture but these people must not have much to do on the weekends.

  12. dublindemonszfl says: Mar 31, 2014 9:22 AM

    Cool things, RIP Mr. Wilson.
    From MN

  13. iloveagoodnap says: Mar 31, 2014 9:27 AM

    I owe Mr Florio an apology. It seemed to me like he was really hoping for the Bills to move. Doesnt seem so much like it in this article.

    As someone who has family and many friends in Buffalo, and who called it home for over 4 years, I hope they never leave. Even in my hometown of Cinci and my beloved Bengals, I still never have and probably never will come across fans (except maybe Green Bay) who have the connection these fans do. For Buffalo residents the Bills are so much more than just their favorite NFL team- it’s really their team.

    Do the right thing and keep them there.

  14. luther6 says: Mar 31, 2014 9:30 AM

    Great piece, Mike Florio.

  15. Please Ban TheStrategyExpert From Posting says: Mar 31, 2014 9:33 AM

    realnflmaster says:
    Mar 31, 2014 9:04 AM
    They should tailgate for every losing seasons they’ve had since inception. They’ll have a tailgate every week until the start of the season!
    ………………
    The Jets should do the same, you know, cause they have pretty much the exact same all time winning percetage as the Bills. Bills might suck, historically though, so do the Jets.

    1 superbowl pre-merger when LBJ was in office and a couple mediocre seasons under Rex doesnt mean the Jets arent a joke.

  16. EJ says: Mar 31, 2014 9:34 AM

    Russ Brandon showing up to the event gives me confidence that this group that Ralph brought in to get the team back to the top are not showing up to work simply for the large paycheck, this front office has passion and love for the team they represent. Brandon was close to Ralph, so his passing has to hit him extra hard. Thank You Russ Brandon for stopping in and
    taking time to help us honor Mr Wilson, It was a big deal to us fans.

  17. m3dman3 says: Mar 31, 2014 9:45 AM

    Nice piece Florio. Russ Brandon didn’t just come say a couple words and leave, he stayed for a good amount of time too. Real nice gesture by the Bills and the fans. There is no doubt we love our city and we love our Bills even though we don’t get the praise of other cities. It’s the combination of big cities and small market cities that make this league so great.

  18. mortwannabe says: Mar 31, 2014 9:48 AM

    Way to stay classy Buffalo. RIP Mr. Wilson.

  19. jpaq68 says: Mar 31, 2014 9:50 AM

    realnflmaster says:
    Mar 31, 2014 9:04 AM
    They should tailgate for every losing seasons they’ve had since inception. They’ll have a tailgate every week until the start of the season!

    There isn’t enough liquor in Western – no, ALL of New York for that.

  20. djshnooks says: Mar 31, 2014 9:52 AM

    I too would like to extend a heartfelt apology to Mr. Florio…it has seemed his agenda was to give Buffalo and our Bills any negative press he could give…

    Thank you for noticing us and giving us some appreciation and a vote of confidence. I’ve been a fan of this team since 1982, when I was born…maybe a few year later when I actually started understanding the game and what being a “fan” really was all about.

    I’ve had two heroes in my life…my Father, who died of cancer in 2008…and Jim Kelly who is battling it right now.

    I’ve had two favorite sports teams my entire life…the Buffalo Sabres and the Buffalo Bills…and we’ve been struggling.

    Needless to say…this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in sports…it destroys losing 4 straight Super Bowls, or Brett Hull’s skate being in the crease.

    This is what we live for. This is who we are.

    I’m sorry some of you in other states/cities don’t understand this or why we do it. There’s no need for YOU to understand…we fully, whole-heartedly get “it” and we’re proud to show it. #Family

    Thank you, Mr. Wilson…for everything.

    Fight on, Buffalo! <3 #BuffaloStrong

  21. grantsbuds says: Mar 31, 2014 10:08 AM

    Now that’s tremendous!

  22. mistrezzrachael says: Mar 31, 2014 10:17 AM

    Bills fans…along w/fans of the Browns, Chiefs, Packers,,small town America…are what made the NFL.

    Hoping Goodell remembers this, as do other owners when approving any type move or expansion.

    Bills fans may not like teams like the Patriots…but can assure them that guys like the Krafts, Rooneys, Hunts…will never allow a move out of Buffalo.

    Fans in cities like Miami should be worried…Worst fan base in NFL,,zero loyalty & that combined w/poor personnel decisions and horrible ownership, lead to franchises moving.

  23. cubano76 says: Mar 31, 2014 10:53 AM

    I can’t stand those bastards, but tip of the hat to all Bills fans for this.

  24. crazycane says: Mar 31, 2014 11:03 AM

    From a Bears fan, well done Buffalo

  25. uberMensch() says: Mar 31, 2014 11:05 AM

    Packer fan here.

    One of the things that keeps me an NFL fan is it’s tradition. It was sad to watch the Colts leave Baltimore, the Browns leave Cleveland, and I can’t imagine Buffalo without the Bills, or the NFL without the Bills in Buffalo. That franchise has brought a lot of great football tradition to that city, and I hope they will be around to bring them a lot more.

    #BuffaloStrong

  26. scoonie97 says: Mar 31, 2014 11:09 AM

    Dan Snyder loves the idea of tailgating in the offseason. Just think of the revenue he could pull in from the parking fees.

  27. 1rockyracoon says: Mar 31, 2014 11:09 AM

    Wilson sounds like a nice guy and I understand his importance to the league, but he has been responsible for turning the Bills into an awful team. 1 winning season (9-7) over the previous 14 years. As the owner he is ultimately responsible for turning the Bills into a forgotten team.

  28. nowillrepeat says: Mar 31, 2014 11:13 AM

    Nobody circles the Wagons….

  29. skleech22 says: Mar 31, 2014 11:14 AM

    As a Dolphin fan,This is why I have always respected Bills fans because they are diehards! PATS AND JETS FANS NEVER!

  30. nytroutdog says: Mar 31, 2014 11:14 AM

    While the passion of a fan base can’t trump millions of dollars available available in a larger market, no one can take away the loyalty and culture that is WNY. Abandoning this fan base would effectively abandon two small markets (Buffalo and Rochester) and one large (Toronto).

    With creative thought between the state, a municipality and the Bills organization, a new stadium should be able to be put together in the time the current lease agreement affords us (6 years). If it is put into a spot (such as Niagara Falls) then all three of these markets are better served (distance-wise) and the business metrics start to make more sense.

    Long live the Buffalo Bills and thank you (again) to Ralph Wilson for the ride! #prayersforJK

  31. indyzown says: Mar 31, 2014 11:35 AM

    Kudos. .seems he was well respected !!!
    Same as we respect our owner , for bringing us the Colts 30 years ago… regardless of his off field personal business! !! Get well soon Irsay!!!
    #Colts
    # Nation

  32. dasmol says: Mar 31, 2014 11:41 AM

    That’s awesome. I sincerely hope they can hold onto their team.

  33. hound32 says: Mar 31, 2014 12:04 PM

    RIP MR Wilson .

    As a lifelong Browns fan I would like to take a moment to give Bills fans my condolences . I also know first hand what it feels like to lose a franchise . the Browns & Bills are somewhat similar . both Lake Erie teams with passionate blue collar fan bases .

    The Bills belong in Buffalo ….

  34. raiderfan77 says: Mar 31, 2014 12:28 PM

    Buffalo has great fans who have endured quite a bit recently, and certainly could use some good news.

    Condolences from Raider Nation to the family of Mr. Wilson and best wishes to Jim Kelly and his family.

  35. cheapglazers says: Mar 31, 2014 12:59 PM

    Bucs fan here. #respect to loyal fans and a great owner. We may have the worst owners in the nfl here in Tampa!

  36. rcampore says: Mar 31, 2014 1:09 PM

    I am a Giants fan, but I went to a Buffalo/Eagles game with friends of mine that live in Rochester. It was one of the most lively fun games I had ever been to. It felt like going to a college game with cars parked on lawns and tailgating all around. Buffalo fans were great and are very loyal. I give them a lot of props!!

  37. turkdaddy429 says: Mar 31, 2014 1:44 PM

    Good luck keeping your team in Buffalo. You guys have gone through so much and the NFL would never let this team move. So much history.

    Signed,
    The Cleveland Browns

    P.s. Seriously, good luck.

  38. granadafan says: Mar 31, 2014 1:44 PM

    LA resident here. Keep the Bills in Buffalo and any other team in their city . Moving teams just stinks. Give us an expansion team instead.

  39. thraiderskin says: Mar 31, 2014 2:06 PM

    That’s a great way to send Mr Wilson out, doubt he’d want it any other way.

  40. darkneptune73 says: Mar 31, 2014 2:44 PM

    God bless those fans.

  41. Smash-Mouth.com says: Mar 31, 2014 2:54 PM

    Not a Bills fan, but I gotta take my hat off to those fans. They’re a hardcore group that are very knowledgeable and passionate about the game. They’ve continued to support that team even through some very difficult years.

    I would really hate to see the Bills taken from Buffalo, should it come to that at some point. Hopefully, they can find a way to keep the team in town.

    RIP to Mr. Wilson and thoughts and prayers to his family.

  42. joeinoh says: Mar 31, 2014 2:57 PM

    I wish I knew this tailgate party was going to happen.

    This Browns fan would have driven there to show my support for the Bills/Bills fans.

    Just like the way the Bills did for the Browns fan back in 1996-99. Mr. Wilson was a class act.

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