When I grew up on Buffalo's gritty East Side, the word "rich" was a dirty four letter word. I was not poor or needy, but my parents taught me to look down on those with money, privilege and all that comes with it. It was a subtle suggestion, like most prejudice, not as deliberate as it was subconscious.
I struggled later, after receiving a scholarship to Canisius High School, where my scholarship to a Jesuit top-flight education was distracted occasionally by the spoiled, complacent children of some of Buffalo's wealthiest families (who forgot the hardworking, good values and tireless effort of their parents and grandparents who started out on the same streets I grew up on). Don't get me wrong, there were some great guys who became lifelong friends.
But the chip on my shoulder would slowly wear away over the years, as I would eventually realize that my prejudice of those with more resources was more of an occasional correlation and not a fact. I would come to befriend and work alongside some of Buffalo's wealthiest, most powerful, yet kind, thoughtful men as years went by.
There is one family of wealth in Buffalo I wish to honor. It is the Rich Family, the descendants of Bob Rich Senior, and their organization, Rich Products, and their employees and partners who deserve true praise.
Through the years I have seen how this family took a great risk and invested in and sustained an investment in a sports-related venture that some would have called foolish. Baseball, especially minor league baseball, struggles more than ever to attract fans, sell tickets and compete, compared to the powerhouses of the NHL and NFL.
This came to me like an oceanic experience the other night at the annual Independence Day Eve celebration at the Coca Cola Field. After the Bisons lulled the Durham Bulls to sleep in the bottom of the ninth inning rain delay, play resumed and they squeezed the most mediocre of a base hits off of the pitchers mound, discombobulating the Durham defense, delaying the throw to first, bringing in the man on third, with two outs, to win the game, and the day! Buffalo fans weary and wary of yet more loss, cheered in relief!
Somewhere between the heart-warming post game, pre-pyrotechnic extravaganza, an incredible salute to our great American Songbook presented by the BPO and the Bisons, it occurred to me the generations of love, effort, joy and happiness (amongst some of the worst of times) that the Rich Family and their partners have given the Buffalo community through the many Bisons experiences.
I can think of no better example of a family and an organization who tells the story of Buffalo, through 25 years of baseball and the connection it provides to us, to the moments and memories, and to each other!
Thank you, Rich Family for reminding me in the most heart-felt, intimate way of how lucky I am to live here, among these characters, these fans, who you genuinely and lovingly provide such joyful moments to. My gratefulness is renewed.
Let's be a Buffalo of open-hearted, grateful people. Let's enjoy the Great American Past Time, baseball and patronize this organization that provides us with an environment to rest, escape the worries of the day and see how much we really do have here in Buffalo.
Michael Weekes continues to develop the Fandemoneum Sports Museum concept and invites you join the Business Process Performance conversation at www.whataboutquality.com.