Bradley has certainly been a boss in midfield and probably our best player early in the season. He wins countless tackles, intercepts passes and sets up our strikers. He's simply a class above the other midfielders in the MLS.
No matter how much he convinced himself he was ready for the end he still feared the pain, the unknowing, the helplessness of it all.
It raced through his mind again: He was going to die.
It was God's great equalizer. No matter who you were, how much or how little you had, every man faced the same fate. There was no escape. No one to bargain with, no deals to be made. It was final.
It wasn't a thought 93-year old Ralph Wilson liked to contemplate. He knew he had led a rich, full life -- World War II veteran, successful businessman, husband and father. He had been elected to the NFL Hall of Fame as a builder for his role in the AFL and NFL as the Buffalo Bills owner. Even the stadium where he his team played bore his name. He couldn't have wished for a better life. By any measure, it had been extraordinary.
There were so many mornings he told himself he was ready for the next world, ready as any man could possibly be for death. That the nagging pains of old age were too much to bear. That once your body deteriorated to a certain point you were no longer living; you were just surviving.
But he knew all that was a lie. There was so much beauty in this world, so much to cherish.
He loved the crisp Autumn Sundays when Ralph Wilson Stadium was so alive. Grinning fathers and sons tossing footballs in the parking lot before games. The smell of sausages cooking on open grills. The sound of laughter between friends, the roar of crowds at kickoff. The electricity of it all!
Football was more than just a sport in western New York. It was part of the very fabric of the community. If you lived in Buffalo it was an integral part of your identity. It didn't matter if you were black or white, female or male, a lawyer or a warehouse worker. Everyone was united on Sunday. Everyone wanted a win for their Buffalo Bills.
The Bills were his greatest accomplishment and his greatest failure.
He had founded the team, kept the Bills alive when the steel and manufacturing industry collapsed and the city's population decreased to the point that in 2000 its population was less than it was in 1900. He had done it with the lowest ticket prices in the NFL. The team soared to great heights and was the talk of the NFL when it became the first and only team to appear in four consecutive Super Bowls between 1990 and 1993.
But that was a long, long time ago.
The four losses in the Super Bowl had cemented the city's inferiority complex. To make matters worse the team had missed the playoffs 12 consecutive years, an eternity. He had refused to accept his Hall of Fame award at the half time of a home game as scheduled because he feared he would be booed and cursed.
He heard the chatter grow louder everyday that the team would be better off with new owners, better after he was dead!
This team that had brought him such happiness and such joy to the community was now bringing him hatred. How could that have happened? It was impossible!
Ralph Wilson looked out the window of his executive office at the sun-drenched empty stadium. He pictured the stadium full of fans standing and cheering wildly like they had in the 1990s. He promised himself he would see that again before he died.
He was going to turn this football team around.
He had signed one of the best defensive players in the league, defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $100-million dollar contract. He didn't care if people thought it was too much money tied up for one player. It was his money.
His name was not going to become synonymous with losing. He was going to go out a winner and he was prepared to make one more change to make sure that happened.