“Ugh, can you change the station? It’s Bon Jovi.”
So began my pilgrimage to see the induction of Andre Reed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Flanked by my Bills’ game cohort of friends and fellow fans, I was ready to spend the weekend reliving the glory days when the Buffalo Bills reached four consecutive Super Bowls from 1991 to 1994. More than 20 years after the last of four straight Super Bowl defeats, the heartache, the post-game tears, the awkward endings to four straight Super Bowl parties (where guests were convinced that the host was perhaps the jinx), most Buffalo Bills fans would be thrilled to lose a fifth Super Bowl. The past 20 years have been difficult — after the last Super Bowl run, the team started to peter out, with the staggered retirements and trades of the stars of the glory days, culminating in a 14 year absence from the playoffs — the longest active playoff drought in the NFL.
Just as the Bills’ fortunes waned over the past twenty years, the city of Buffalo has seen steady growth. Recent years have brought significant urban revitilization projects to the long-neglected waterfront, and an influx of young people to the trendy downtown lofts springing up in industrial buildings that had been abandoned for decades. The Canalside development has helped Buffalo reclaim its one-time meal ticket — the Erie Canal, and the emergence of food trucks and numerous articles about Buffalo’s revitalization showed that Buffalo was, indeed looking good (and maybe even talking proud).
But, for many sports-loving Buffalonians, the true crowning achievement of Buffalo’s comeback would be a Super Bowl win, or, at least, a playoff appearance to start. But, most agree that Jon Bon Jovi is determined to take away Buffalo’s dearest possession — its Buffalo Bills. Needless to say, Bon Jovi’s alliance with a Toronto-based group of businessmen to bid for the Buffalo Bills has not sat well with the blue collar fans who identified with his songs. For months, Jon Bon Jovi has become a persona non grata in Western New York, with local radio stations banning Bon Jovi songs, and a spike in sales of anti-Bon Jovi shirts.