Sometimes transformational leadership comes from unexpected places. We saw a display of that this week when the Bills won big in Buffalo, providing further evidence that the “miracle” we have waited for is right in front of us.
Buffalo is rising from the ashes deposited on the shores of Lake Erie by abandoned steel factories and years of economic decay. The purchase of the Bills by Terry and Kim Pegula was a massive slam-dunk. It’s a call out to the rest of the world that we are back.
Remember the chants by Bills fans during the early 1990s to the rest of the country when they whined about having to watch the Bills in yet ANOTHER Super Bowl? “We’re baaaaaaack, America. Deal with it?” We withstood withering criticism for being chronic losers because our football team could not get to the top of the mountain, time after time after time after time.
It wasn’t just football fans that endured the constant sniping. The entire region withstood withering criticism for decades. The cacophony of garbage from opportunists who thrive on enjoying the misery of others had a stranglehold on our psyche for far too long.
Terry and Kim Pegula recognized the only way to transform the battered region was to silence the critics by responding with the only thing our world seems to value today. Of course, that ‘thing’ would be money, and all the power that comes with it.
However, this ‘transformation’ is about much more than buying a football team. It is a defining moment in the history of a region that has been repeatedly beaten down and abused by the rest of the nation. It’s fashionable to ridicule Buffalo as a decaying rust belt city that is irrelevant. It’s been that way since at least the early 1970s.
It’s probably a good thing that as we age, we lose our short-term memory first, because keeping long-term memory intact allows us to gain wisdom from a lifetime of experience. Conversely, long-term memory can also keep us bound by a lifetime of resentment that builds from holding on to bitterness, anger, and despair.
It all boils down to personal choice. We can choose to be defensive and allow the negativity of others to infect us, or we can do our own due diligence. Doing so helps us identify inflection points that we might otherwise miss when we are too busy feeling sorry for ourselves.
As mentioned in previous posts as well, inflection points offer a rare opportunity to pivot and shift the entire mindset of a person, or in this case an entire region. We’ve already discussed how the Bills and their fans could put this team on their backs and carry them to victory. So far, the Bills are 2-0 and both the team and fan base have delivered the goods.
Now it is incumbent upon us to show the players and the rest of the world why we are unique. However, this can’t be accomplished in just one game. It requires that we be patient with this young team and never falter in our support.
Just as the coaches drill into the players’ heads that football season is a marathon and not a sprint, we cannot falter in our quest to do our part to carry this team to the playoffs. We must stay inspired for our football team to continue to grow as a team and become successful.
Players understand the process of building a winning team comes from dedication, unrelenting hard work, and the refusal to accept the mindset of a loser. How many times over the years have we seen Bills teams that looked good on paper, only to be relegated to hapless status by the end of October?
If we believe that adversity can present the greatest opportunity for personal and collective growth, then Bills fans and all the people of Western New York have decades of experience with which to draw upon. We must not allow ourselves to fall victim to the cackling outsiders that are clueless about what is happening in Western New York right now.
Let me explain by example how one act of leadership this past week has the potential to pivot an entire mindset of a region from despair to triumphant resurgence. It would be easy to miss the significance of what happened on Twitter this week in the greater context of the news cycle, especially as the NFL faces the biggest moral challenge in its existence.
Donald being Donald tweeted this on Friday after losing his bid to purchase the Buffalo Bills to Terry & Kim Pegula:
The Wilson family should thank me. Pegula overpaid for the @buffalobills because of me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2014
It was sadly Donald Trump’s typical style to post such a tactless response. The reaction by Bills fans and Western New Yorkers ranged from collectively rolling our eyeballs to firing back all sorts of retaliatory insults, empowered by social media. However, one tweet rocked my world for a number of reasons. Mr. & Mrs. Pegula’s daughter Jessie tweeted the following in response to Mr. Trump:
— Jessie Pegula (@JLPegula) September 19, 2014
I laughed, and then I gasped. This young woman just shut the trap of one of the most obnoxious and powerful persons in the world. That response was SO much more than simply putting a muzzle on Donald Trump, although that in and of itself was a thing of beauty. It was one of the most perfect examples of leadership ever displayed in less than 140 characters.
Furthermore, consider this act of leadership in the context of its greater meaning. What Jessie Pegula did was show the world EXACTLY what makes us different as a region and a fan base. She summarily dismissed Donald Trump and what he represents; a world where greed and materialism are valued more than dignity, respect, and promoting the greater good.
Jessie fired Donald Trump, and in doing so empowered an entire region. She is leading the way in challenging all of us to think differently and let go of the past. With one little tweet, she showed us the path to escaping the despair that has weighed us down for way too long.
It’s easy to recognize and praise people like Bill Gates for his leadership in helping improve society through his foundation that spends millions of dollars a year to combat public health problems. This type of leadership displayed by Bill Gates is frequently brought to our attention by the media.
However, the effect of one small tweet could go unnoticed in a world bombarded by social media data. To all Bills fans, please do not miss the golden piece of wisdom this young woman shared. She just handed us all the ammunition we need to not only carry this young team forward to success, but to shift our paradigm of despair to one where all things are possible.
The “difference” the players and community are sensing right now is happening precisely because the entire Western New York region is experiencing a joyous rebirth. There is a tsunami of positivity staring at us all in the face, and if we don’t grab onto it and run with it, the momentum will be lost.
This presents an enormous opportunity for change. If we fail to do our part in building on the energy produced by this type of leadership, then the results of that failure are on each and every one of us.
There has never been a more pivotal moment for the future of a football franchise or the entire Western New York region. It’s beginning at The Ralph and Pegulaville. It’s already happening in Larkinville, Elmwood, Olmsted Parks, the Medical Complex, Canalside, Allentown, and all over the city.
Buffalo really isn’t a city; it IS a mindset. Now it’s time to bring that mindset to The Ralph and show this team that we are willing to transform ourselves as much as we want this team to transform itself. This truly is our moment for positive transformation.
We must embrace what Jessie Pegula taught us this week. We don’t have to be quiet victims of arrogance any longer. Let that sink in as you make your way to the game on Sunday. Think about how one small tweet can change the world. It already has, but most people outside Buffalo aren’t paying attention.
If you are going to the game, get out there and be louder and prouder than you were last week. We can change the world by changing our loser mentality as sports fans. Let’s start now.
Sending a special shout out to our new BillsMafia member Jessie Pegula for restoring my faith in humanity. I have much more hope now that young leaders like Jessie will help us all move forward in a positive direction. She gave me the best laugh and the greatest gift I could have received reading her tweet in response to Donald Trump this week. You go girl!
Also, for anyone that made it this far through the wyobabble: please add your comments/responses to any of my posts. I appreciate all the thoughtful responses people write, and try to make a point of responding. Let’s keep this dialogue going. Go Bills!