Buffalo Fan Alliance Advisory Board finalists

Back on May 21st, we announced the Buffalo FAMbase, Inc. partnership with Buffalo Fan Alliance to assist them in the selection of two fans to sit on their advisory board.

The Buffalo Fan Alliance is a non-profit organization working to create policy to secure the long-term future of the Bills in Buffalo. In addition to me (Del), their advisory board includes Andre Reed, Steve Christie, Luke Russert and other prominent members of the business and political community dedicated to keeping the Bills in Buffalo.

We received a ton of responses to that original blog post. A TON. You all are awesome.

The online Bills fan community is a close-knit, everyone knows everyone community… and Bre, Leslie, and I wanted to do our best to remain impartial; so to that end, we did a blinded review. When we read each submission, we were — as much as the respective content allowed — not aware of whose it was. Had to be fair!

Below the 10 alphabetically ordered finalists’ names, you’ll see a web poll that will allow you to cast your vote. We’ll have this poll available for the next two weeks; at which point, the top two will be recommended to the Buffalo Fan Alliance for inclusion on the Advisory Board.

So, without further adieu, here are the ten finalists!

1. Celeste Albone
[expand]The Bills being in Buffalo means everything to me. I was born and raised a Bills fan and to think they would be moved elsewhere (and possibly have their name changed) is complete blasphemy. This community has supported the Buffalo Bills the best we can and we aren’t called the best fan base in the NFL for no reason. It’s a pretty committed marriage between the Bills and its fans. For better or worse, in sickness and health and til death do us part.

I am prepared to volunteer my time in any efforts to actively help keep the Bills in Buffalo. The first step is to be a part of the Fan Advisory Board. To know that I’m doing everything I can and therefore help others do everything they can so we can all be a part of this effort would mean a lot. Between being able to write articles for the website I write for (buffalobillievers.com) and talking about the efforts and the Advisory Board on my podcast (The XO Factor) I have a couple of outlets to continue to get the word out there. Since I moved back to the area (what a mistake to move away) it has always been my goal to get more involved in things with the Buffalo Bills. I purchased season tickets (to help support the team and my excitement!). I’m helping out and volunteering for Billsmafia events as well as the upcoming Sammy Watkins Pro Camp. What better way to really feel like I’m doing something than being a part of the Board.

I also think having a female member of the board will help with drawing in more of the female Bills fans and it will help make them feel represented. If the Bills were moved out of Buffalo I think it would be completely devastating to the fan base. I think it would make everything in the past seem pointless. All that struggle and everything that Ralph Wilson built would just be taken away with the blink of an eye. I want to be a part of making sure that doesn’t happen. We can’t let someone take away our past memories and we certainly can’t let them take our future.[/expand]

2. Kristin Bailey
[expand]Parties every Sunday filled with family and friends, food, drinks, laughter, yelling, even tears now and again. The reason social media is so fun for so many of us. My favorite place on Earth from my first visit as a child and still now… all centered around one love, football and our Buffalo Bills.

I am a displaced Bills fan (Eastern NY) but My blood and My heart, like many other fans, is 100% Western New York, reading and willing to do whatever is necessary to keep our team at home where they belong. Being born and raised a Bills fans I am wanting my children to experience the awesomeness that is attending a home game and being part of this fambase for years to come.

Opinions about what is best… we, as fans all have them (I have no problem giving them either as many already know lol) but thanks to social media, hearing and understanding everyone else’s opinions, are also an option. I would have no issues relaying all fan opinions.

Representing local, displaced, male, and female Bills fans (Billieve me, just about everything needs at least a bit of a woman’s touch, boys J) I would also bring support of other female fans like myself, from all 32 NFL teams and their fan bases thru nflfemale.com. If it is a war that is necessary, why not bring the largest army possible? This is our fight as a family but it never hurts to have the extended NFL family on our side.

We, as fans, are ready as always to support the Fan Alliance, the team, the city, and WNY in any way possible. I will gladly do this as a member and/or as a diehard fan, wanting nothing more than to keep what bonds us all together, home, where the Bills belong.[/expand]

3. Eric Haase
[expand]I’m Eric Haase. Born in Buffalo (Children’s Hospital) in 1969. My father was an original Bills season ticket holder. I grew up watching OJ run wild, and I was at the stadium to see Tom Dempsey miss a short FG that would have ended the Miami drought in 1979. I love that the Bills ended Don Shula’s career by rushing for about a gazillion yards in the playoffs. I taught my dog to understand the phrase “Squish the Fish.”

We left the area in 1980 because of my dad’s job, but I returned ten years later to attend law school at UB. My graduation present from UNC Chapel Hill in 1990? A pair of Bills season tickets I still maintain to this day, despite the fact I haven’t lived within 500 miles of Orchard Park in more than 20 years. I subscribed to DirecTV in 1994 just so I could get the Sunday Ticket and watch my Bills. I look forward to the schedule release every year so I can plan my 2-3 trips north, and I’m waiting for the day a non-stop RDU-BUF route returns on some airline. I danced in the stands in Nashville in 1999 after Steve Christie’s FG, waving my WGR “Drill the Oilers” sign saved from “The Comeback” six years earlier (yes, I was there and never left). We all know how that turned out (and I lost the sign).

Between my dad and me, our family have been season ticket holders for all but 10 seasons of the team’s existence. And let me make one thing clear: if the Bills leave Buffalo, they lose this fan. The team is a huge part of the city’s and region’s identity. I know studies have shown that perhaps the economic impact of the team leaving would not be significant, but it goes so far beyond that. Buffalo, to a large degree, IS the Bills (and Sabres). Ask any of my friends or acquaintances, old and new, to tell you five things about me, and I’d almost guarantee my loyalty to the Buffalo Bills is one of them. I wear my emotions on my sleeve when it comes to the Bills and Buffalo.

I upgraded my season tickets to the Van Miller Club this year. My money is where my mouth is. Nearly all of the accounts I follow on Twitter are Buffalo sports related, and probably half of my internet bookmarks. I bristle at the local sports writers who seem to almost enjoy chronicling the team’s failures, and the 2nd happiest day of my life (after marrying my bride) will be the day the Lombardi is awarded at midfield to Ralph Wilson’s successor. I would truly enjoy the opportunity to help in any way to ensure the future of the team in Western New York.[/expand]4. Robyn Mundy
[expand]It is with great pleasure that I submit an application for consideration to become a member of the Buffalo Fan Alliance Advisory Board. Although I physically left Western New York in 1982 out of necessity to advance my professional career, my passion for “all things Buffalo” has remained firmly entrenched as part of my personal identity over the years.

As a voluntary lead moderator for the official Buffalo Bills Message Board for the last 12 years, we were able to create and grow the busiest and most respected official message board in the NFL. According to Gregg Pastore, Senior Director of Digital Media for the Buffalo Bills, nearly half of all the website traffic that now goes through the buffalobills.com website originates through the Buffalo Bills Message Board. Gregg has told me for years that other Digital Media Directors across the league consider the Bills Message Board to be the envy of the league.

Why should a fan that lives in Wyoming be considered for the Buffalo Fan Alliance Advisory Board? As a lifelong fan of sports in Buffalo, I am representative of a large group of people who left Western New York for a variety of reasons. We are a large contingent as passionate as any fan that is fortunate enough to live in the Western New York area. In fact, out of state fans often spend more money than local fans to support sports teams from Buffalo.

One of the largest consumer groups of NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV consists of out of area Buffalo Bills fans. Furthermore, we often travel thousands of miles to go to training camp in Rochester, or games at ‘The Ralph’. We infuse a great deal of money in the Western New York region.

Additionally, if my extensive contact with other Buffalo sports fans from outside the local region is any indication, out of state fans are at least as impassioned as local fans to keep professional sports teams in Western New York. Most of the fans I speak with on a regular basis are so passionate about this matter that they clearly state that if a team from Western New York is moved, they will no longer be a fan of that team in any other location.

Why would I make a good choice as a member of the Advisory Board for the Buffalo Fan Alliance? First, I am retired from professional practice (as an oncology nurse and psychotherapist), and recently stepped back from my lead role as moderator on the Buffalo Bills Message Board (though I remain a staff moderator at this time). This would allow more time for me to focus my attention on where I can make a greater use of my personal resources to help the Western New York community secure their professional sports teams.

I am a professional writer, blogger for BillsMafia, and have had extensive contacts in the fan community for over ten years. I believe I can make a significant contribution to the Buffalo Fan Alliance Advisory Board by providing strong representation for out of state fans that have a vital interest in retaining high quality professional sports in the Western New York area.[/expand]

5. Philip Rizzi
[expand]I write to you as a lifelong Bills fan, a fan who has the Buffalo Bills in his blood. As I type this I am looking at the 1954 Bills team roster photo with my grandfather in the middle of the image. The Bills aren’t just a sports team but instead an integral part of the Western New York family and possibly the single most important entity that ties us to the national landscape. Every day I read the articles, watch the news, listen to WGR, and feel the need to be an active part of the effort to keep the Bills in Buffalo.

After growing up in Western New York (a third generation Buffalonian), and graduating from the University at Buffalo, I, like many young people left home for a once in a lifetime job offer in Dallas. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. The time away from home has made me realize that a booming economy with vast amounts of personal and corporate wealth are not the most important factors in making a place feel inviting or like a community.

This is what I love about Western New York and what makes the Bills such a keystone asset to our economy. Nothing brings a city together, and bonds them on a regular basis more than the love of their teams and I truly believe no city cares more about their teams than Buffalo does.

I took much ridicule from the Texas sports fans during my time in Dallas. My office was completely decorated in Buffalo sports memorabilia and architectural mementos, I spent all day listening to WGR, and was more informed on the news in Buffalo than my friends back home. I even kept my season tickets. My colleagues in Dallas just could not figure out why I had so much pride, why I cared so much about Western New York. They just didn’t understand because they don’t have it. It’s missing from their lives. Jerry Jones and all his money can’t buy what Buffalo has: pride, community, and a strong sense of loyalty.

With a degree in Environmental Design from UB and 8 years working for one of the busiest commercial developers in the country as their Head of Design, I believe that I would bring a unique perspective to the Advisory Board. With some experience in the many various fields related to commercial development; planning, architecture, construction, real estate, and finance, as well as being an active part of a region with almost exponential growth, I can lend my knowledge and love for Western New York in finding creative solutions to keep the Bills where they belong.[/expand]

6. Brian Smith
[expand]My Buffalo Bills fanhood began the same way as so many others. My father grew up playing football and, being from Buffalo, was a die-hard Bills fan. He bestowed his love for the Bills upon me and for most of my life I was your typical fan.

At some point, two things accelerated my passion for the Buffalo Bills: first, my love for my city; second, the impact the Bills made on my relationship with my father.

I love Buffalo. To me, the Bills are essentially “Buffalo Incarnate,” the physical manifestation of everything I love about this city. When the Bills play the Jets or the Dolphins, it is not a bunch of athletes from all over the country playing against each other; it is the City of Buffalo being measured against NYC and Miami.

My passion and love for Western New York runs so deep that I decided to pursue a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning in the hope that one day I could work somewhere my effort would directly and positively impact this area. After a lot of hard work, I was fortunate enough to be recommended for, offered, and to accept a position with an economic development group in WNY.

My father and I have always been close, but not until recently did I realize how much of our relationship has been built upon the time we have spent watching and discussing the Buffalo Bills. It’s no coincidence that my favorite memory with my old man is also my favorite Bills memory, jumping, hugging, and screaming as Drayton Florence crossed the goal line after that Patriots interception. We cannot allow future generations of WNYers to be stripped of the bonds that are created between family and friends through Buffalo Bills fanhood.

Everyone in this city can feel the positive momentum growing in Buffalo and throughout WNY. This city is on the upswing, and simultaneously so are the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have been here for us and for this city through the bad times. We must ensure that they stay here to represent us through the good times as well.

It was a dream come true for me to accept my current job and be able to see my hard work and dedication directly benefit WNY. To have the opportunity to do the same for the Buffalo Bills, and help ensure that they are here in the future for my relationship with my children, and my children’s children would be another dream come true. I am motivated and ready to do everything I possibly can to keep this team here.[/expand]

7. Mike Sullivan

These are the 7 words that every Bills Fan wants to hear. But, the only way this happens is if the Bills stay IN Buffalo. This will not be an easy task–external groups with extensive resources would love to take the Bills from us and reap the profits.

This is exactly why I want to lend my talents to the Buffalo Fan Alliance. With an MBA in Marketing from the University of Buffalo and over 15 years of experience branding and marketing some of the most successful products in the world–I can pair my professional expertise with my unbridled passion for the Buffalo Bills.

Ensuring that Bills stay in Buffalo is going to require big ideas and big thinking. As demonstrated in my professional career and in my personal passion of creating original Buffalo Bills inspired content for the website The Kick Is Good–I bring a creative and innovative approach to everything that I do. My out of the box, creative and innovative thinking has entertained, engaged and provoked thought in the Buffalo Bills community for years.

Now with the opportunity to join the Fan Advisory Board for the innovative Buffalo Fan Alliance, I would be honored to lend those talents to secure the future of the team that we all love so much.

Go Bills![/expand]

8. Ryan Talbot
[expand]I’ve seen my father get emotional twice in his entire life. Once after my grandfather passed away and once after Super Bowl XXV. His passion for the Buffalo Bills is in my genes.

From as early as I can remember, I’ve been a Bills fan. Every Sunday at 1 PM my family was surrounded around our small television watching the Bills and eating Cheez Whiz and nachos. When I blew into my Tecmo Super Bowl cartridge and turned on my Nintendo, the Buffalo Bills were the only choice. The first basketball game I ever saw live? The Buffalo Bills against some of Salamanca’s finest. I still have a picture of Darryl Talley and Cornelius Bennett signing autographs from the event.

My childhood revolved around the Buffalo Bills. My adult life isn’t much different.

Now, I’m an educator and blogger. In the classroom, I have a Buffalo Bills wall. On my desk? Starting lineup figurines from my childhood. In Math class, I create word problems involving the Bills to prep my students for their state Math test. We write an essay on something we’re passionate about and every year, the Bills are my topic. I’m currently working on a project where students research the best locations for a new stadium and amenities the stadium would have. I’m teaching the next generation how important the Bills are to me and Western New York.

After school, it’s family time, but after the kids are put to bed I spend a lot of my evenings writing about the Bills. I’m honored to be the Editor-in-Chief of BillsMafia.com and Assistant Editor of BuffaloBillsDraft.com. I take great pride in my work and I believe my passion comes out in my writing.

What would I bring to the Buffalo Fan Alliance? Passion at an uncanny level. I’m willing to go around surrounding communities and get local businesses involved in our cause. I’d make calls, write letters and e-mails, and write grants if applicable. I’m a team player and would do anything to help the cause. I believe that the Bills belong in Buffalo and that I can make a difference as a member of the Buffalo Fan Alliance.[/expand]

9. Jack Wheeler
[expand]It would be a great privilege to be considered for the Buffalo Fan Alliance. As a WNY native, I’ve been a die hard Bills fan for over 25 years. I believe that I can add a unique perspective to the Board with my background in local government and economic development. For the past six years, I’ve served as Deputy County Manager for Steuben County, NY. In this role, I’ve been intimately involved in many business development deals, most notably, the Southern Tier Network. This $10 million public-private partnership with Corning, Inc. has built and is managing a 235-mile fiber optic ring that is positioning our region to attract national and global companies. I have spearheaded our County’s participation and investment in this Network, from concept development, lobbying of federal and state officials, and project management and governance. I serve as a Board Member and Secretary of STN. I have also been involved in business retention and development projects with companies such as World Kitchen, Phillips Lighting, and Guthrie Healthcare.

In addition, in my role as Deputy County Manager, I have in-depth knowledge of how public funding can be leveraged for private projects. I’ve helped negotiate Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements to attract businesses, while also selling these deals to our County Legislature who holds final approval authority. I have close contacts with NYS Assembly and Senate members, in addition to folks at Empire State Development. I believe that these groups will be critical to any sale of the team, and most importantly, the construction of a new stadium. I have some thoughts on how the Board can support or utilize local and state resources and contacts to promote its mission. I’d love to provide this perspective, whether I’m selected for the Board or not.

Most importantly, my wife Jeannie and I are parents of eight month old triplets, and I want them to experience the wonderful memories I have as a Bills fan. I want to take them to multiple games per year, as my Dad has done with me since I was a kid. If I could provide any small measure of help to make sure the Bills are here in WNY for them, I’d jump at the opportunity. [/expand]

10. Josh Wisinski
[expand]As a kid growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania, I was one of the few Buffalo Bills fans in my hometown. But I didn’t mind. I felt like the luckiest kid in the world for the better part of a decade when my dad and I made the 90 minute drive to Orchard Park on Sunday mornings.

Given a choice of several markets to start my career when completing my degree at Penn State, I chose Buffalo. It was a dream come true, moving to the town where my favorite pro sports team played. Next to marrying my wife, it was the best decision I’d ever made.

What started as a love affair with a football team has turned into a fascination with a city and region. Even though I’m not originally from Buffalo, my friends and co-workers marvel at how I’m so well versed about local history, architecture, tourism, and anything else you can imagine.

Buffalo, as many who live here have discovered, has big city amenities with a small town, family feel. I often think of how I stumbled upon the wonders of this area simply because I wanted to be closer to my beloved Bills.

The legacy continues with my own daughters. They’re easily as passionate as I am on game days. They know the players and their positions. They want to delete Bon Jovi songs from their mp3 players. Our family arrives to tailgate by 8:30 each home game. My wife, who grew up hating football because of misguided family Pittsburgh Steelers allegiances, has come to know as much about Buffalo Bills history as I do. But my family’s love of the Bills is rivaled only by its love of all other things Buffalo. Simply put, Buffalo is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. But the Bills are where the love affair starts. It’s what’s got us on the map.

My passion for the team and the region can be put to work for Buffalo Fan Alliance. I’ve gained valuable experience in managing construction of hundreds of homes in Western New York. I’ve volunteered for many civic functions including the NCAA Tournament and Friends of the Night People. I constantly pump up our region through whatever social media channel I can.

The movement that Buffalo Fan Alliance is spearheading will prove that creative, proactive planning is invaluable in keeping the Bills in Buffalo. By working on BFA’s advisory board I’ll bring the same passion I have for the Bills and Western New York. I want to see people have a chance to fall in love with this team and region just like I did for many years to come. Go Bills.[/expand]

(Note: We had to move the poll to Survey Monkey because of a bug in our polling software that allowed some web browsers to cast multiple votes. We apologize for the inconvenience.)


About Del Reid

Del Reid became a Bills fan shortly after coming into this world, having been raised in a home that actually had a framed picture of OJ Simpson on the wall in the living room (until it came down in 1994). Del has always had a passion for bringing people together to celebrate things they share in common. As a result, he (quite accidentally) ended up co-founding the #BillsMafia movement among Bills fans in social media -- which to this point is the coolest thing that has ever happened to him aside from his relationship with God, his wife, and his two awesome kids. Follow him on Twitter at @mrdeadlier.

7 Replies to “Buffalo Fan Alliance Advisory Board finalists”

  1. Thank you to the #BillsMafia for the opportunity and naming me a finalist. I appreciate even the chance to be a part of helping keep the Bills where they belong!

    Philip Rizzi

  2. I am so excited for the opportunity. I can’t believe I made the top 10. It’s amazing and it would mean a lot to me to win and be one of the top two. Thanks #BillsMafia !!

  3. Pingback: Buffalo Fan Alliance Advisory Board finalists – MyBuffaloSports.com

  4. As a lifelong Bills fan (since 1968) – one with all of my eggs in one basket (keeping the Bills in Buffalo) – I give my highest recommendation to Jack Wheeler. A huge Bills fan with practical experience working with the bureaucracy of state and local governments, Jack will bring a level head and a deep heart to help keep the Bills in Western NY. Plus, those triplets, they need a Bills future!

  5. Thanks #BillsMafia! Proud to be in the top 10 and who knows what will happen next? Go Bills!

  6. Good luck to Philip Rizzi. He is the best candidate for this position because of his love for the team over the years and for his love of Buffalo. His strong family ties and family connection to The Bills are very big positives for all of us. Go Mr. Rizzi!!