Fans of the Buffalo Bills have had little to cheer for lately, with their team sitting two games out of playoff contention. Frustrating fans further is their inability to watch the few wins the Bills come by, as was the case with last week's victory against the Jaguars, which was blacked out due to the team's failure to sell enough tickets at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Fortunately for Buffalo residents, a local restaurateur has generously stepped up to avoid yet another television blackout.
Russell Salvatore, owner of Russell’s Steaks, Chops and More, single-handedly bought 10,000 tickets to this Sunday's matchup against the Rams, ensuring a Bills sellout and a game broadcast on local Fox affiliates. The announcement was made by Bills CEO Russ Brandon, who called into the Howard Simon Show on WGR 550 Wednesday morning.
"Once again, one of our great community partners, Russ Salvatore, stepped up and purchased the remaining seats and ensured the blackout would be lifted, so the game will be live on Sunday," Brandon told the station. "He's been a loyal supporter for many years."
In addition to thanking Bills fans and ticket sales staff, Brandon took to Twitter to express his gratitude for Salvatore's generosity.
Thank you to #Bills fans & 1 of our great community partners Russ Salavtore for ensuring a sellout on Sunday ...
— Russ Brandon (@RussBrandon) December 5, 2012
Earlier this year, the NFL relaxed its blackout rules, easing the sellout requirement from 100 percent to 85 percent, NBC notes. Salvatore was able to assist the Bills because of a loophole in the rule that allows a team to purchase unsold tickets at 34 cents on the dollar in order to meet this requirement.
This isn't the first time Salvatore has helped avoid a blackout by purchasing Bills tickets. In 2010, WKBW reported that he had bought the remaining tickets to a game against the Patriots, securing the broadcast while distributing the tickets to local military and youth organizations.
This time around, Salvatore said he didn't hesitate to step in when the Bills approached him on Monday, referring to the purchase as his holiday gift to Buffalo fans.
“It’s amazing how the Buffalo Bills hit people’s hearts,” Salvatore told the Buffalo News. "I do it because I enjoy doing it. It’s thanking the people of Buffalo -- without them, where would I be?”
According to the Buffalo News, Salvatore plans to hand out 1,000 tickets at his restaurant and around the community, "first-come, first-serve." He also plans to give a few hundred to the Erie County Sheriff Department, which will distribute them to children's charities. The remaining tickets were left with the Bills' front office to give to other local charities and veterans groups.