The Chris Nolan Batman series will probably go down as the greatest movie trilogy of all time. By now, we know how the story starts and takes so many twists and turns. The biggest story arc that continued from The Dark Knight into The Dark Knight Rises dealt with Batman taking the rap for what Harvey Dent did as Two-Face. Batman didn't want to break the spirit of Gotham. Gotham believed in Harvey Dent. Batman's guilt was a complete lie told in order to maintain stability in the city. If you do not have hope, you will not find what is beyond your hopes. Harvey Dent was that extension of hope.
At the start of the 3rd film, Gotham was happy. Crime was at an all-time low. It was all because Gotham believed in Harvey Dent for taking out the Joker and arresting crime lords. People had rallied around one man's vision for what Gotham could look like. For the first time in many years, the city felt safe and the people were optimistic and at peace. Of course it could not last. It was an illusion, predicated on a lie. Evil hung out waiting..waiting... for the perfect time to take out the city's soul and infrastructure. Game over. Gotham was in ashes because the evil was still there, just waiting to strike at the heart.
What does this have to do with the Bills and Mario Williams?
We are in a strange place when it comes to the future of the Bills. When our Senator wasted our time and tax money on a flight and hotel so he could announce some stupid suggestion about stadium loans in Buffalo, we did not really seem to get worried. When the NYS Governor hired some attorney to help them out in keeping the club, it did not really scare us. How many times in the past have we flipped out after hearing some sort of rumor - any sort of rumor -- about the Bills future? It happened constantly. Chad Kelly Tweets or some Wall Street guy, it didn't matter, we were crazed. Since 2006, there have been multiple stories, posts, and talk show topics about the future of the team. Since January, I haven't heard a peep. Nothing. No panic. Not even Ralph Wilson appearing with a walker -and let's be honest here, looking not exactly chipper- brought up any sort of apprehension about what the future of the team will bring.
Why? That's easy. Mario Williams. In the same way the idea of Harvey Dent was the savior of Gotham, the idea of Mario has given Buffalo a sense of optimism. His signing has been a distraction from the topic of relocation. If you have some sort of inspiration for what you want to achieve in life, you feel better about doing that. It is like someone telling you that you are using Jack Nicklaus' lucky clubs. Are you suddenly a better golfer? Probably not. But in your mind, you feel like you might be. There's a magic mojo there. Mario gives us the inspiration to live out a football dream. We can actually talk about maybe winning 10 games without being laughed out of the room. "Finally! Ralph Wilson opens his wallet! He's spent something like 200 million in contracts in a year. We are rich! Maybe we aren't trying to cut payroll like the girl owner in Major League!"
Mario's signing moved the same old story about the future of the team to the back burner. I'll admit though, it is still on mind. Seeing Ralph Wilson looking so fragile that he needs assistance to stand and then hearing how they are only at 43,000 season tickets sold keeps it in the back of my mind. Yes, Russ Brandon tweeted that season tickets are up 15% from last year, but we are talking about a franchise that in 2009, had 55,000 seats sold. Yeah, I know, the economy stinks, but 12,000 more fans with Dick Jauron/Terrell Owens as your selling points? 56,000 with Marcus Stroud and Kawika Mitchell leading the charge in 2008? What is wrong with this picture? Well, it is a picture that in my cynical, conspiracy-ridden mind, Roger Goodell can use to say, "Sorry, but a team in LA would sell out and so would its luxury boxes."
Goodell keeps talking about how he wants the team to stay put in Buffalo... but... he always adds "as long as they are economically viable." Does a 13,000 season ticket drop in 4 years sound economically viable? I know, it goes beyond season tickets and to luxury boxes and all that jazz. But that sounds awful. Can you imagine what the figure would be at if the Bills hadn't signed Mario? Russ Brandon would be promoting to buy tickets in NYC for when the Jets come to town. So, what happens if the Bills struggle this year? Say goodbye to sellouts in December and unless we trade for Phillip Rivers, say goodbye to that 15% rise in season tickets.
Stop for a second and imagine what happens if this year is like last year. Could it finally break the spirit of Gotham..err...the Buffalo Bills fan base?
In the last 12 months or so, NYS politicians, the NFL Commish, and the Bills have positioned themselves to save face when the future of the team is determined, no matter what the outcome. "Hey, we tried." In my mind, maybe L.A. is waiting in the weeds just like Bane was. Not a peep. Not a sound. Is there any point in speculating when, as long as the blood flows through Ralph's heart, the team won't move? Mix in another losing season, Ralph's um, life expectancy, season tickets falling, the lease, and the Commish constantly saying that the team has to be economically viable, and well, we might have a problem. That, to me, is why this season is important. Timing is everything in life. Yes, Bills fans have been through worst and have come back, but are we on a time limit now? It could end up being the smoking gun that says Buffalo cannot support an NFL team.
So, do you believe that Mario Williams is the idea of Harvey Dent, a hero who will bring us hope and peace? Or is he the illusion of Harvey Dent, a happy distraction until L.A. comes knocking on our door and takes our football team? Or in the end, will Mario Williams end up being Batman, saving Gotham the franchise while taking the team to 11-5? To me that's why this year may end up being the most important in team history. Football spirits have been fooled before, but this is the biggest knight in shining armour they have had in a long time, and another bad year might finally break them. There's only so many times you can believe in the Harvey Dents of the world.