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Mike Schopp's Blog

Schopp: Anyone else smell a sale?

Same thing happens every summer.

The outlook for the upcoming Bills season is on the bleak side. Many fans read it the same way, but others, usually lacking for substance but riding high on emotion, step up to defend the team and argue. I shrug my shoulders, chalk it up to undying loyalty, and move on. Some loyalists go further than just a call-in, sending an email to express how disappointed they are in the "negativity" of the host(s).

Same thing happens every summer.

While my sentiment was similar this summer I encountered less resistance this year than ever before. Fatigued fans, desperate to see the Bills just be competitive some year, either stayed quiet or joined the chorus of angry birds.

This summer's fashionable complaint? That the team has stopped trying to win. In the past we've had shaky (being nice) draft picks and other assorted questionable (also nice) moves. This year, a feeling piqued by the Lee Evans trade, fans have asked if Ralph Wilson even cares anymore.

As I've said on the air often of late, I am starting to wonder if a sale is in the works. For years I read into Wilson's occasional remarks that he intends for the team to stay here until he dies but after that all bets are off, something I've dubbed a "compromise with his legacy". This way, you can never exactly blame him if they move, for they won't have done so on his watch.

But a few things smell different to me now. The earlier point about indifference that fans are sensing. Not only are moves like the Evans trade and the lack of improvements to the offensive line a part of this, there was no bellyaching from Wilson about the direction of the league in recent collective bargaining talks, something we've gotten used to him from. 

And one more thing: Wilson will be 93 on October 17. Wilson has always been known to enjoy not just owning the Bills but operating them. Over time, the extent of this has declined. Where are we now? Wilson is rarely seen at a practice and has cut down the number of games he attends. He failed to appear at the owners meetings, the Bills being represented by other executives.

Perhaps franchise value would be a factor too, with estimates of the Bills being worth something north of a crazy $800 million. We all have our price.

Is owning the Bills fun for him anymore? One wonders if declining health, the natural progression of time, has reduced Wilson's interest in the operation of the team and in turn whether it would compel him to sell it.

Wilson owning the team and running it this way has fan morale at an all-time low. I was at a Bisons game last night that might have had more fans in attendance than the Bills' preseason finale -- and that's with tens of thousands of Bills tickets paid for not being used. Think about that. Moreover, people at the ballpark actually seemed happy. Who would have felt good leaving the stadium last night?

If you're one of those people that has fought with me in the past about writing the playoffs off at 0-0, I ask this time that you root for me to be right. You don't have to tell anyone, it's ok.

Because whether you expect it or not, with the Bills the same thing seems to happen every fall too.

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