This is part three in a series:
This time he wanted to meet at the Anchor Bar. I thought it was rather bold, considering his secretive, back alley, after dark, jump in, jump out of a smoke-glass stretch limo style at the previous two meetings…until I realized he meant three in the morning, not three in the afternoon.
In the far end of the parking lot, the black limo dissolved into moonless darkness. I had a feeling it wasn’t just coincidence all the street lights within 50 yards were out.
I pulled up parallel to the limo, slid my window down and waited, as instructed. A moment later, the window next to me slid down.
“Hop in,” he said.
“You don’t get it.” He complained.
“Why do you think I’ve been calling these meetings? I need you to take action. Start the ball dribbling, so to speak.”
“What’m I supposed to do?” I asked. “I’m just a Sports Then & Now contributor. A volunteer journalist. The largest audience I’ve had for an article is a couple of thousand, and that was my tongue-in-cheek prediction that the Bills would win the next Super Bowl.”
“Why do you think I picked you?”
“That article?” I asked, incredulous.
I just stared at him.
“You still don’t get it, do you?”
“Listen, John. You may not have been consciously aware of what you were writing or of what you know at some deep level, but the Spirit of the Braves has already touched you. You don’t know that of which you know.”
“You’re right. I don’t know. So tell me. What am I supposed to know?”
“Look. Some people have the ability to believe the impossible, the improbable. Some people not only think outside of the box, they don’t even have a box to think in. Some people can even imagine the TO signing working out well for the Bills this year. (And by the way, how do you think the Bills and TO were able to do the deal?)”
“You mean?” I asked.
“Absolutely.” He said. “The Aud had a gaping hole by the time TO was signed.”
“So as I was saying. Not everyone has the faith. Not most people. Not even a lot of people, maybe. But some people. And more people in Buffalo than anywhere else, per capita. And more of the old Braves fans than anyone else.”
“And the truth is, the truth revealed by the newly liberated Spirit of the Braves (free at last to do its work after haunting the Aud for 30 years) is that Buffalo can win the Stanley Cup any year now.
“And the Bills, the Super Bowl. And the Braves the NBA title with their new number one, Blake Griffin.”
“You’re saying Blake Griffin could be the new Bob McAdoo?”
“Maybe, but that’s beside the point. The point is that a Triple Championship for Buffalo in the same year can and will happen as soon as the Braves are restored to their proper home and the curse is finally cancelled.”
“A very big IF, don’t you think?”
“Absolutely not! And that’s what I’m here to tell you today, John. You need to get it this time, cause we’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
“It’s all metaphysics and simple math.”
“I get the metaphysics piece. Exorcising the curse. Reuniting spirit and matter. But what about the math?”
“How many season tickets did the Bills sell this year?”
“55K, give or take,” I said.
“Exactly. And you’re the one who told me at our last meeting what the Clippers franchise is worth. Just shy of 300 million, right?
“And who in Buffalo has that kind of money? We’re trying to hang on to the Bills and Sabres. How’re we going to buy a third franchise?”
“Look, Howell,” he said, sounding like Tony Soprano again. “I’m disappointed in you. Listen to me!” He was grabbing me by the shoulders, shaking me to a migraine.
“Listen to me! Bills, Braves, Sabres. The three are inextricable. Without the Braves, it’s only a matter of time. First the Bills follow the Braves to LA, and then the Sabres ship off to some other sunbelt town. I mean who ever got the bright idea of playing hockey where the winter temperature never dips below Buffalo’s summer high. But I digress.”
“So,” I said, almost afraid to commit. “It isn’t just about winning the big one?”
“Yes, yes!” He shouted, obviously relieved to have finally gotten through.
“It’s about just having the teams here. The final culmination of the curse is that the other two teams are also lost.”
“Thank you, God!” Throat said with a sigh. “So you see this isn’t an elective course, Howell. This is mandatory for graduation. It’s the fricking Holy Trinity. Three in One. Three or None. End of story.”
“Ok, I get it, I get it. If we don’t save the Braves, we lose them all. Now what?”
“Simple math. Like I said.”
“One more time, John. How many season tickets?”
“And what’s the franchise worth?”
“Right. Now divide it.”
“Divide 300 Mill by 55K?”
I got out my smart phone, pushed the button for the calculator feature.
“For Chrissake, Howell,” he said. “Round numbers.”
“Oh.” I blanked for a moment. Brain fart. I am over 50 after all.
“C’mon, John. 300 divided by 50.”
“Times a thousand?”
“We’ve been over this before, remember? He sighed big, leaned back, turned and leaned into my intimate space. “So if the same number of people who bought a season ticket to the Ralph could come up with another six grand– on average– we’d have the whole enchilada.”
“But can they?”
“To keep the Bills and the Sabres? And do a championship sweep? Considering it’s an investment not a contribution? It’s money for equity. Better than home ownership, these days.”
“Yeah, but six G’s times 50,000? Buffalo’s not LA.”
“Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? Listen. Some people can give more. A lot more. What about Golisano? He says he’s saving $15 mill a day in taxes by moving to Florida. He might be willing to give up a few days of tax money. And there’s Kelly. And Thurman. And what about some of the old Braves? Randy’s gone, may he rest in peace…”
At the mention of Randy Smith, Brave-Throat reflexively removed his hat, bowed his head (just for a split second, as if he’d forgotten where he was, who he was with) and quickly put it back.
Without the hat, he looked vaguely familiar, but it was just a fleeting glance. Too quick to register in my aging brain.
“You know,” he said, stuttering slightly as if he was rattled by his slip. “You know, maybe Mac, Ernie, maybe even Snyder. Maybe the Knox’s, now that they’ve divested the Sabres. All kinds of people might have their reasons to throw in a whole lot more than six G’s.”
“But what does that have to do with me?” I asked. I don’t know any of those people.”
“You’re the town crier,” he said. “You put it out on the web. Write some articles. Call some people. Send some emails. Get all of this to go viral. And then, let the Spirit do its work.”
I had a feeling, despite his earlier reference to the Trinity, he wasn’t talking about the Holy Spirit here.
“Ok,” I said. “I am your servant. I have heard the call, and I answer.”
“Let’s go Buffalo!” He said, smiling wide with a mischievous glint, as he opened the door and nearly pushed me out.
The limo was screeching tires, speeding away before I was firmly on both feet.
(This column is the third in a series about clandestine meetings with the Mystery Man, Brave-Throat.)
Note: for an extensive set of links to recent videos, articles, & audio clips about the Buffalo Braves, see Chris and Tim Wendel’s blog, Buffalo Nation http://buffalonation.wordpress.com/