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Media skepticism is wise in Trump interest in Bills

By Alan Pergament

Pardon my skepticism, but some elements of the local radio and TV media went way overboard Tuesday over the speculation that Donald Trump might buy or invest in the Buffalo Bills after the death of owner Ralph Wilson.

Of course, regular readers known I am skeptical of just about everything involving the billionaire blowhard.

I would gladly cheer if Trump saved Bills fans a lot of angst, bought the team and kept it here.

I just wish Channel 4 and Channel 2 had watched ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday before they carried their stories on Trump's interest based on his remarks on WBEN radio earlier in the day.

"PTI" co-hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon both agreed that Trump's purchase of the Bills would be "great" for the National Football League and for Buffalo. But they added the chances of it happening are minimal because he would need approval from other NFL owners who still hold a grudge against him for being a strong voice when he owned a team in the USFL and sued the NFL.

The local stations also would have been wise to have read a post by the Buffalo News' Tim Graham Tuesday that noted the USFL lawsuit and added that Trump's ownership of casinos would prohibit him from owning a team.

Those two nuggets belonged in any Trump story related to the Bills Tuesday because they added much needed perspective. The chance that Trump would give up a sure money-winner like owning casinos to take a financial risk and own the Bills is about equal to the chance -- well -- that he would run for governor of New York State.

And boy did the local channels lose perspective. That was especially true of Channel 4, which gave the speculation some credibility by leading one newscast with the Trump report and WBEN interview.

By comparison, Channel 2 was more cautious. Its 11 p.m. report noted that Trump "was approached" about his interest in the Bills but he didn't commit to anything. Then it added that Trump told WBEN he would keep the Bills in Buffalo if he became part of the ownership group.

That optimistic comment just about convinced me that Trump knows he never will own the Bills. I would doubt that any serious prospective owner would make a statement like that before doing his due diligence and determining whether a $850 million investment could be profitable here.

If the media has learned anything in the last few months about Trump, it should be that if you ask him if he is interested in anything he'll say he is thinking about it.

Ask him if he's willing to run for governor, he'll take months to say no.

Ask him if he's interested in running for president, he'll take years to say no.

So it is any surprise if you ask him if he's interested in buying the Bills, he'll say he's looking into it?

Hardly. Sure, it is news. But it isn't the kind of news that should lead a newscast. And it isn't the kind of news that should be carried without much-needed perspective from the media.

Speaking of overhyped, Monday's laugh-free, heavily-criticized series finale of "How I Met Your Mother" had an impressive 10.3 rating on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate. Before the final scene, I tweeted that the finale didn’t even meet my low expectations. Buffalo audiences seemed to agree, since the rating actually went down in the final 30 minutes. The social media reaction was so  negative that the "Mother" finale certainly is in the conversation of worst season finales ever.  

I also was curious about the local news ratings last Tuesday when Bills Owner Ralph C. Wilson died to see where viewers headed for such a huge local story. It was a statistical tie in households at 6 p.m. but Channel 4 won by almost a 2-1 household margin at 11 p.m. over Channel 2. Of course, Channel 4 had the advantage of a much stronger 11 p.m. lead-in from CBS’ popular “Person of Interest.” But when you are the news leader that Channel 2 arguably is, you would expect viewers to head to your station when big news happens.



Sports | Sports on the radio | Sports on TV | Television | TV news
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About Talkin' TV

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament has continued to blog about television topics since retiring in 2010 as The News' television writer after 28 years on the beat. From local on-air personalities to ratings to the latest on network and cable programming, he keeps you informed.

@StillTalkinTV |