Buffalo — the city, not the bovine — is “renowned” for a number of reasons.
Such as being one of the stark and iconic examples of Rust Belt deterioration.
For example, Lackawana Steel was once the No. 2 steelmaker in the world, and the eponymous suburb south of the city was founded as a company town more than a century ago. Bethlehem Steel, which absorbed the company years ago, ceased its Buffalo operations in 1980, and its formerly sprawling plant burned to the ground a few years ago.
Buffalo also has the annual distinction of a national TV appearance, as yet another “lake effect” blizzard triggered by polar winds sweeping across Lake Erie dumps several feet of snow on the city and environs. I know. I grew up an hour away, and until they invented snow blowers, I was well on my way to paying my way through college shoveling neighbors’ driveways several months a year.
The city is also home to some sad sack sports franchises. Throughout the 1970s, Buffalo actually had an NBA franchise, the Braves. But when ownership changed hands in 1978, the new owner waited about six seconds before relocating the team to San Diego, which is about as far away, geographically and climate-wise, as it’s possible to move.
And then there’s the Buffalo Bills. Although the franchise won an American Football League championship back in 1965, it’s best known for being the only NFL team to lose four straight Super Bowls, not to mention a playoff drought that has reached 18 years and counting, the longest in the league.
Of course, New York’s second-largest city is also known for “inventing” the best bar food in the last century: buffalo wings. But guess what? The new front office that’s now running the Bills has banned those wings from the team’s training table!
That’s right. In the interests of improved nutrition, according to a lengthy report on ESPN.com, Bills players would have to trek to “local hangouts, such as Elmo’s Bar & Restaurant or the Bar Bill Tavern, if they want to enjoy the city’s signature food item.”
No more wings in the team’s cafeteria, according to Will Greenberg, the assistant strength and conditioning coach.
“Very rarely are we having french fries, or anything deep-fried,” Greenberg told ESPN.
The Bills’ menu does include chicken, but in the form of some 24 rotisserie chickens a day. All that poultry is complemented by more than 250 pounds of salmon a week, with cod, tilapia, sea bass and halibut also on the menu.
As the story explained, “Pizza is the closest players might come to cheating their healthy diet. The team creates a themed flatbread pizza for each week’s opponent, such as an unusual crab cake pizza when Buffalo traveled to play Baltimore in the preseason.”
You know, I’d never considered what the opposite of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza might be, but now I know: thin-crust crab-cake pizza.
In the Bills’ cafeteria, there’s also a stir-fry station, a soup-and-salad bar, a deli-type station that prepares “to-go” meals and even a smoothie bar that daily serves dozens of 24-ounce protein-fortified shakes.
Right Food, Wrong Supplier
All that “healthier” food is fine, and who knows? Better nutrition might be a factor in the Bills’ current position atop the AFC East Division standings. Keep in mind, though, the team remains at No. 22 (out of 32 teams) in the NFL Power Rankings, just ahead of the 2-3 Arizona Cardinals, who got crushed 34-7 by the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday.
But this column is about provisions in the cafeteria, not performance on the field, and on that score, I’ve got a huge beef with Bills’ management.
That’s because one of “multiple protein options,” as ESPN.com phrased it, that’s available to players is lean beef. Which is great.
The Bills serve as much as 500 pounds of beef a week, and according to the story, the team went through “a half-ton of it during one week of organized team activities in the spring.” Almost all of that healthy, nutritious beef is grass-fed. Which is also great.
But what’s not great is that it’s imported from New Zealand!
Are they serious?
We’re talking about the NFL, not the NZFL.
C’mon, Bills. Is there no American supplier willing and able to come up with 500 pounds of grassfed beef a week? Seriously?
And how about the U.S. beef industry? I know the Bills’ biggest rivals are called the Patriots, but this is a matter of patriotism, people, if not national security.
Like its fellow Rust Belt teams, the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions, which have collectively gone 113 years without a championship, it would be good for the city, good for the region and good for the league if the Bills could somehow win a Super Bowl.
But before the team starts eyeing the Lombardi Trophy, I will make a prediction:
Either secure an American beef supplier, or stay resigned to another 52 years of failure.
It’s your choice, Buffalo.
Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.