L.A. Bills booster wants team to stay put
John Mammoser founded the Los Angeles Bills Backers in 1989
Los Angeles Bills.
There's just something wrong about that name. Maybe it's because "Buffalo Bill" has as much to do with Los Angeles as Bill Russell. Maybe it's because the Bills have resided in Buffalo, N.Y., for the past 50 years. Or maybe it's because Los Angeles hasn't had an NFL team for 15 years and the idea of having one simply seems foreign.
Whatever it may be, Majestic Realty, the group behind a proposed new NFL stadium in the City of Industry, has targeted the Buffalo Bills (and the Jacksonville Jaguars) for a move to Los Angeles, which means we might have to get used to hearing that name soon.
One person who won't have to get used to it, however, is John Mammoser.
Mammoser, a 50-year-old comedy writer in Los Angeles, founded the Los Angeles Bills Backers in 1989 after moving to Southern California from his hometown of Buffalo. In the beginning it was simply a way of meeting fellow transplants from western New York. They would meet up every Sunday and make a local watering hole a "Los Angeles Bills Bar." During the height of the Bills' success in the early 1990s, the group grew to be in the hundreds and started closing down bars around Los Angeles before finally settling on Busby's Sports Bar in Santa Monica.
"During the glory days when we lost four Super Bowls in a row we had over 200 people every week," Mammoser said. "As the years went by we began to advertise on Facebook and MySpace. I even got on Match.com and instead of looking up people to date I'd look up people from Buffalo and tell them to come. It was kind of weird sending an e-mail to a guy from Buffalo and saying, 'Hey, there's a new Bills bar here in Santa Monica you should check out. I'm straight by the way but you should check it out.' When we're doing good there's about 80 to 100 people but when we're losing, which has been the last several seasons, it has gotten smaller."
They belong in Buffalo. In Los Angeles the Bills would be an option but in Buffalo it's a passion.” -- John Mammoser, founder of Los Angeles Bill Backers, on the group's heyday at Busby's Sports Bar
When Mammoser heard there was a possibility that the Bills could move to Los Angeles his first thought was, "This is great, the Bills in L.A. I don't have to go all the way to Buffalo to watch them," he said. "That was obviously for selfish reasons. Then I thought, wait a minute, they belong in Buffalo. In Los Angeles the Bills would be an option but in Buffalo it's a passion."
That's the problem with Majestic Realty targeting the Bills and Jaguars -- the group couldn't have picked two more polar opposite teams to go after in the NFL. While the Bills sell out all their games and are as much a part of the city as spicy chicken wings, the Jaguars play in a sparsely filled stadium and are at or near the bottom of the league in attendance and merchandise sales. The Jaguars could pick up and leave Jacksonville today and the residents might not notice until September, if at all.
"The Bills are huge. They're the heartbeat of Buffalo," Mammoser said. "It bonds everybody together. The common bond of Buffalo is to complain about the snow and to talk about the Bills. If they're doing great it's let's go Bills and if they're not doing well they complain about them but it's still a common bond."
It's a sentiment that U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer echoed after John Semcken, the vice president of Majestic Realty, said that he and his group were targeting the Bills for a move to Los Angeles. Schumer said he spoke with Bills owner Ralph Wilson and that Wilson had no plans of moving the team. "The Bills are part of the very fabric of Western New York, and in Western New York they will stay," Schumer said in a statement. "Ralph Wilson is committed to Western New York, has had no contact with any purported suitors, and flatly told me that the Bills are staying in Buffalo." That may be true today but Wilson is 91 years old and has previously stated that the team will go up for auction when he dies. Even the most optimistic Bills fan knows that the team's foundation in Buffalo after Wilson passes is tenuous at best.
Mammoser has lived in Los Angeles for 20 years and knows exactly what would happen if his beloved Bills moved here. The team would be the new hot club in town, talked about and packed for the first year before it's quickly forgotten when the next new shiny toy arrives.
"I think Los Angeles would embrace a team at first," Mammoser said. "I mean everybody liked David Beckham when he first came here. I think that was the talk of the town for six months and then it kind of dwindled. One would hope that with a new stadium it would last a little longer but people in Los Angeles have so many options and you get finicky. I find myself falling into that trap too. Someone will call me to go to this new place next weekend and a part of me wants to but I kind of want to see if anything better pops up. That's the way we are. We have so much to choose from."
The Majestic Realty group, however, doesn't have much to choose from and that might one day leave Buffalo without a team. If that happens, at least Mammoser won't have to travel very far to watch his team play.
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.