The man who has made millions working crowds all around the world by simply mentioning repeatedly the name of the city on the sheet of paper taped to the floor of the stage has failed to date to engage in similar pandering to Buffalo. So Jon Bon Jovi has taken a sheet of paper and tried — perhaps too little perhaps too late — to persuade Bills fans that, if he buys the team, it won’t move.
In a letter provided exclusively to the Buffalo News (which Bon Jovi surely hopes will get the publication to be help persuade the masses of his message), Bon Jovi attempts on behalf of the rest of his proposed ownership group to “clarify our intentions to the fans of the team and the people of Buffalo.”
Bon Jovi writes that his group is “committed to working with the State, City, County and business community to identify the best possible site in the Buffalo area for a new stadium and to then develop and implement a plan to finance and build a state-of-the-art NFL stadium for the loyal Bills fans.”
He explains that he has been “working toward” being “part of the NFL” for a long time, a goal that began with his purchase of the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul a decade ago.
“My family and I are prepared to make this life-changing commitment to be part of the Bills,” Bon Jovi writes. “This is not a hobby or an acquisition. Building a winner on and off the field will be job one and I intend to spend as much time on the ground in Buffalo as needed to accomplish that goal.”
His use of the term “on the ground” makes being there seem like an obligation, not something he genuinely wants to do. Instead, he genuinely wants to own an NFL team, and the Bills are the only one currently available.
Because he most likely lacks the ability to buy the franchise on his own, Bon Jovi has aligned with a group based in Toronto, which in recent weeks and months has resulted in the widespread impression that the group will try to find a stadium solution in Buffalo, eventually declaring defeat at or about the time that he can pull up the stakes, take the team to Toronto, and not really feel too guilty about it because the team will still be within driving distance for those loyal fans.
With Bon Jovi, by virtue of his membership in a broader group, unable or unwilling to buy the team on his own, it’s still unknown whether he’d be the majority, controlling owner or simply the front man of a band funded by someone else’s cash. As explained by Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, Bon Jovi will have to come up with 30 percent of the purchase price to have his face on the bus and his hands on the wheel of it.
Indeed, Bon Jovi may have simply been given a seat at the table by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment executive Larry Tanenbaum and Edward Rogers of Rogers Communications to help legitimize what otherwise would be an obvious effort to buy the team and eventually take it to Toronto. Without control of the team, nothing Bon Jovi says really matters.
And even if Bon Jovi’s letter is true and accurate, “intentions” can change. Likewise, a commitment to working with the powers-that-be to build a new stadium could fail. Bon Jovi stopped short of saying what the fans want to hear — that the Bills will not leave.
Even if Bon Jovi had said that, Bills fans wouldn’t have believed it. After an extended, inexplicable silence, Bon Jovi’s letter comes off as an effort to stop the bleeding before it’s too late. For Bills fans, especially those wearing the “No Bon Jovi” T-shirts in Canton last night, it’s probably too late.