# 11 R.I.P.

Drew Bledsoe was finally released from the Bills today after three seasons of play and begging his release last season. Yet, those charged with overseeing this team apparently saw things differently. The word is that Ralph Wilson's heavy hand "aided" in making this decision which appears to have been the case given the seeming reluctance, to understate matters, with which those trusted with making the decision seemed to exhibit.

Like a starving man that hasn't eaten in days clinging to some shred of food, so too Bills management and coaching seemed to have clung to Bledsoe in spite of the rest of the pro sports world having seen that this marriage arrangement has been long over. In this writer's mind it never should have begun. While somewhat perplexing, it should also be highly concerning to Bills fans as to why the personal preferences for those making these decisions seemed to have outweighed what was in the best interests of the team. Football is a business and in many instances it has been treated as such by Bills management. Yet, in this case it cannot be more glaring that personal preferences set the tone for the decision making in Buffalo. This is concerning.

It simply cannot be overlooked what the Bills now passed on last season to attempt to "fix Humpty" yet one more time this season when every shred of reason suggested that to pass up the opportunity costs that they did simply for one more shot at getting a washed up QB to play to an average level this past season was utterly foolish. The fact that they failed only adds insult to injury. But then to linger on making this decision as if it was a personal grief highly questions the methods and philosophies of the current management as well as their abilities to actually manage this team pushing it in the positive direction and make future proper decisions. It certainly makes one wonder what the true goals of the management are.

Certainly "risk" seems to characterize a good chunk of the Commander Tom approach. It has long gotten past the point, with this offseason as a very likely make-or-break mark, of sound decision making leading to putting a winning product on the field. Fans and media have listened, but in this, his fifth season, two seasons after promises of playoff contention and viability, the good GM either needs to either produce something or vacate the commode! Ironically, he may be rewarded with a contract extension. I for one certainly wonder where this team would have been now had it never opted to trade for Bledsoe at all. Nevertheless, the good GM and "all the king's men" were truly never able to put Humpty together again or even come anywhere close.

What is infinitely perplexing is the haste and decisiveness with which Rob Johnson was cut contrasted with the seeming painstaking grief and necessary involvement of owner Ralph Wilson in order to get Commander Tom & Co. to see the light on releasing a QB who offered similar if not worse play and if better only marginally so and with a world more of tools at his disposal. It simply makes no sense and provides no "boost of confidence" to fans hoping that perhaps finally this offseason will be the offseason whereby the team quits tinkering with flash, glitter, and glitz and begins to attempt to rebuild an offensive line which is on the verge of disintegration not to mention the other areas of the team in dire need of upgrade or approaching utter disrepair.

Nevertheless, in this modern era of pop-psychology, and given the recent news about the release of Humpty, the Bills owe it to fans to inject a little lagniappe into the situation. You know, a little something extra to show the fans that they still care about us, the common man that pays big bucks for season tickets or individual game tickets and then sits in cold plastic seats or metal benches, the way football was meant to be viewed by-the-way, not up in some box with windows with condensation on them in 75 degree heat on a 20-degree day and with smiling girls waiting on them hand and foot. What's watching football live in December without risking a little hypothermia! Packer, Brown, and Bear fans know what I'm talking about. But I digress…

The Bills owe it to fans to bring some closure to, …..well….., let's just say "11."

From the career characterizing "wide right", one of the many banes of Bills fans, to a career otherwise very much synopsized by the word "short", Scott Norwood led off the string of "less than stellar" series of players that would occupy the now dreaded # 11 jersey number. Rob Johnson followed and then came Drew Bledsoe who predictably played no differently than he had throughout his entire career.

Much like camping in the wild where one goes without a shower for days, a cleansing here would be tantamount to putting on a fresh pair of clean, dry underwear the morning of a cold, damp day. A catharsis of sorts.

Some suggestions to honor the situation would be #11 toilet paper in all of the stadium's commodes. Or perhaps $11 off every game ticket next season. Or perhaps the Bills, much like Jet Blue has a promotional upgrade during games, could do the same. "We'd like to congratulate ‘so-and-so' who are this game's honorees for the "# 11 seat upgrades!" And then the fortunate ‘winners' would be whisked away by security to sit in the seats in row 40 in the upper corner of the upper decks, …. facing the wind! That would perhaps serve as a symbolic and appropriate reminder the #11 era. The slogan could be, "I must be in the front row…!"

How about turning it into an insult of sorts in Buffalo; "Hey, you can go straight to ‘number 11'," or "don't bring your ‘number 11' around here!" The complaints counter at all Western New York stores can be renamed the "Number 11" counter. And the next time you are at the hospital and here a call, "Calling Doctor Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard, we have a #11 in room 412!", just realize that it's some sort of life-threatening emergency. As well, for the kids, since seeing the letter "F" these days apparently is so traumatic in the age of the "new education," the grading system can be altered to be judged on an A, B, C, D, or "11" scale. "Son, is there any reason why you have two ‘11s' on your report card?"

I have a better idea however. Let's turn this into an event. Let's make it one of the "special event days" that the team has throughout each season. It would be at halftime. Heck, the draw may be so rave that this may be a good mid-March event.

Better yet, in keeping with the symbolism associated with "number 11", the Bills should perhaps schedule the event during the bye-week as if there is actually an event or a game. They shouldn't tell fans, rather they should double the price of tickets that day and have something promoted on the ticket that will not actually be at the stadium that day in full memoriam of the "11-era." They can then hold the special event as a solo event. After the event, fans can divide themselves over whether or not the price and money paid was worth all the hoopla giving them one last remembrance in send-off of the #11 era.

Instead of a large inflated buffalo bills tunnel, the Bills could have an enormous inflatable gravestone made with "# 11 R.I.P." on it. Instead of shout music, a dirge would be played. The Jills could come out in their best Goth attire and shake their 11's at the fans. A casket with a jersey with the number "11" on it draped over it would then be loaded into a hearse and driven into the gravestone tunnel. If it would please the fans, perhaps a large cracked "Humpty" egg mockup could be underneath the drape.

And then, the capstone moment, as the fans' attention is directed underneath Ralph Wilson's box, a conspicuous flag hanging on the famous "Wall of Fame" would be released with the number "11" yet with no name attached to it, just a blank space, or perhaps a black circle or black gravestone shape, symbolizing the moratorium on #11 and indefinitely retiring the bane of the Bills.

Then to mark the event, and again, in keeping with the symbolism of "11", Commander Tom could tell fans that he's "reduced" the price of a beer or a hot dog for that game to $11 and insist what a great deal that is, and treating the fans even further ala the Commander Tom bait-and-switch management methodology in Buffalo.

Either way, methinks that the team owes it to the fans to shed the stigma of 11.

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


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