Inside The Bills

Mr. Wilson on Sirius NFL Radio

Posted by Chris Brown on July 10, 2009 – 8:24 pm

Bills owner and founder and 2009 HOF enshrinee Ralph Wilson was a guest on Sirius NFL Radio this morning with Randy Cross and Bob Papa. He discussed a number of topics including Buffalo’s fan base and how he came to choose Chris Berman as his presenter.

Here are some of the highlights courtesy of Sirius NFL Radio.

On whether he knew the AFL was going to be the success that it was.

RW: “I hoped that we would be successful, but I didn’t know. It was a new league that was taking on the NFL. We did have an exciting product, but I wasn’t sure of course.”

On how he was appointed to first discuss merger talks with the NFL in 1965.

RW: “When we came into existence we were never expecting a merger. We came in to give football to towns that didn’t have it like Denver and San Diego and Oakland and they were very, very small towns in those days back then. But in 1965 we had heard rumors that the NFL might be interested in maybe merging with us. And we didn’t start those rumors.

“Barron Hilton was President of the league at the time and he appointed myself and Sonny Werblin with the Titans or now the Jets to meet with a representative from the NFL. I had numerous talks down in Miami beach with Carrol Rosenbloom of the NFL to set the parameters for how a merger could be accomplished.

“It didn’t go through the first year and then the following year Lamar (Hunt) and Tex Schramm of the Dallas Cowboys finalized the merger and it went on from there.”

On how he decided to hang in and stick with the AFL instead of cutting his losses in the early going

RW: “I didn’t know how long we could last. I don’t think we would have lasted indefinitely had we continued without the merger. We didn’t bring the merger up and we didn’t establish the league to merge. I was just happy that the merger came along because part of the merger agreement was that we would pool all of the television money and we would all get equal shares. And that gave some of the small markets the wherewithal to get some good players from college because the price of poker was running up.

“The Buffalo Bills lost money until the merger. We didn’t become wealthy. You were a success in pro football in the early days if you broke even. And there weren’t too many teams that were successful by that definition then.”

On how the Buffalo community has embraced the Bills as the fabric of the community

RW: “That’s true. We have very, very passionate fans in Buffalo. Unfortunately over the past two or three decades Buffalo has lost a lot of their big companies, like Bethlehem Steel and National Gypsum. Their population is down, but the people that are still left are rabid Bills fans. A lot of people told me that I ought to move the team.

“Even if I had thought about moving the team, which I never did, I always felt it would have been devastating for the fans of Western New York.”

On going in with Bruce Smith

RW: “Bruce was probably one of the best defensive ends that I ever saw. In my years I’ve seen a lot of great pro football players, but Bruce Smith was a game changer. Against the Miami Dolphins when they gave the football to Dan Marino who would always beat you in the last minute, he would pour in and get a sack for us and get us the ball. He was a great player.”

On how he came to choose Chris Berman as his presenter

RW: “There were a lot of fellas I thought about, a lot of people. I took a couple of months to try to decide. I’ve known Chris for many, many years and first I had to think as to whether he would even do it. I didn’t know if he would do it or not. I thought he would be outstanding. Someone has to say something good about me I hope he does. I’ve got to get on the phone with him about that.

“He stood out for me though, but there were other people I knew who could have done the job too.”

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