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Ralph Wilson was a boss

Jordan Rodness Mar. 27, 2014 4:30 PM
Ralph Wilson was the oldest owner in the NFL when he passed, and the last remaining owner of an original AFL franchise to still own his team. Many will remember him for his dramatic opinions during his tenure with the Bills, though a little less so towards the latter years. But for those of us who need a reminder as to just how colourful he could be, look no further than this letter to then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in response to a fine received after Wilson commented on poor officiating in a 1998 game against the Patriots.

(Credit: uberduff - Reddit)


"On December 2nd I received a fax from Commissioner Paul Tagliabue informing me the Bills are being fined $50,000 for criticism on my part of officiating in the last moments of our game with New England. I described two calls, back-to-back, as probably the worst I have witnessed in the 60 years I have watched pro football. Those two calls cost the Bills a very important game, one in which out team fought back very courageously from a substantial deficit.

Society today is more enlightened. Fair comment and criticism are rampant. The entire media as a unit is frank and the millions watching a game are frank.

But the Commissioner lecturing to me as if I were a novice, instead of one who has been involved in football infinitely longer than he has, contends that criticizing a call has "destructive and corrosive effects on the game."

What is more destructive and corrosive – errant calls in front of millions of viewers or my statements of opinion? People all over the country registered shock at the way officials, however honourable their purpose, took the game away from us. Even the league has admitted to us that the calls near the conclusion of the game were incorrect.

On Monday morning the Commissioner can sermonize on destruction and corrosion, but he has never experienced the pain of blowing a crucial game due to officiating. I have yet to decide whether or not I will pay or challenge the fine.

But, at 80, I do know I don't need pompous lectures from the Commissioner and I feel that the $50,000 is not only unwarranted, but punitive in nature. The next time he may ask me to sit in corner."

Ralph Wilson was a boss.