Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Robby Takac admits "he's never been a sports guy." He pursued a love for music instead, never imagining his career would take him closer to the big games than if he'd been a jock.
Takac is a founding member of the Goo Goo Dolls, one of the most successful rock bands on the planet.
As their bassist he has performed at the Winter Olympics, the NBA All-Star Game, a Dale Earnhardt tribute concert at Daytona International Speedway and at halftime of a Detroit Lions game on Thanksgiving Day. He was involved in a season-ticket push to help the Buffalo Sabres emerge from bankruptcy.
The Goo Goo Dolls' latest single, "Real," debuted on NBC with an Olympic highlight montage the night the U.S. men swam to their epic, 400-meter freestyle relay goal medal.
"I get swept up in stuff," Takac said this week in an interview with ESPN.com about his hometown and its beloved Buffalo Bills.
Takac is such a proud native that when he lived in Los Angeles for nine years he would purchase the NFL Sunday Ticket so that he could feel connected with what his father would watch from his armchair.
He and the rest of the Goo Goo Dolls moved back to Buffalo eight months ago. Takac has a recording studio in the Allentown neighborhood, is on the Medaille College board of trustees and is involved in several endeavors to promote music education and provide opportunities for local kids through his Music is Art foundation.
"We're trying to shake things up a little bit," Takac said.
Not enough of Takac's interview appeared in Thursday's story about the Bills opening their $78 million, eight-game series in Toronto with an exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Takac acknowledged it's a nervous time for western New Yorkers, that many worry this deal is a harbinger the Bills can't stay.
Here's the rest of what Takac had to say in a 40-minute conversation about his hometown, which last week made Forbes Magazine's list of America's 10 fastest-dying cities:
You could live anywhere in the world. Why move back to Buffalo?
Robby Takac: Having just come back here -- and my wife has lived in only two places in her life, Los Angeles and Tokyo -- we came here after much discussion. This is much different than being in a thriving metropolis. Buffalo at this time is neither thriving nor a metropolis. It's a small, struggling city right now. The glory days of Buffalo was when I was a kid back in the 1970s, when the steel plants were raging and we were polluting the lakes and making a lot of money doing it [laughter] ... Those days are gone.
Until you drive into the nooks and crannies of the city, you don't get the whole picture of what's going on. Nikon recently asked me to do a promotional thing called "Visions of Rock," and they sent me a camera to take some pictures. I drove into the East Side. It seems like some sort of horrible hurricane has gone through this place and knocked damn near half the houses down. It's a horrible thing to see, but it's a stark reality of what's here.
But seeing that puts a little bit of fight in you. A man with a blank canvas can create beautiful things. You need to make this place a blank canvas in some places and start over again.
Buffalo seems like a city that's tremendously proud but lacks a swagger that deflects the sting of its shortcomings.
RT: Exactly right. I just went to a gym in my neighborhood to work out. My ID still had my L.A. address. What I got was "Why would you move back here?" When you talk about why you would choose to live here, the reasons don't seem legitimate when you say them out loud. But in your heart there's something real here.
The city still holds onto this thing that's really undefinable. You can't really put your hands on it. There's a sense of pride that people from around here hold. There's a certain sentimentality about what this place was against what it could be one day.
Buffalonians get upset when other people poke fun at them, but they're pretty good at carving themselves.
RT: The city does have a bit of an identity crisis, a weird sense of self-deprecating overtones. It's really funny to talk about all the potholes and how we've ruined the waterfront and how the [local transit authority] held our waterfront hostage, four Super Bowl losses ... There's that sort of weird thing that goes on here. The unfortunate part is that as the economy has worsened, a lot of that starts to ring a little more true than it used to be.
What would losing the Bills mean to the region?
RT: It would be a karmic kick in the nuts for this place. Remove a team like the Bills from a city like this, and it would be a devastating blow to an already struggling town.
Anything else leaving this place would be horrible. I was wondering the other day "What would happen if Rich Products decided to move to Chicago? Or New Era [Cap Company]?" To see the Bills disappear would have that dramatic of an effect.
It would be like a moratorium on serving fried foods here [laughter].
I know you didn't write this song, and I don't want to make a maudlin analogy, but a lot of people assume the song "Broadway" is about New York when it's really about Buffalo's demise (the chorus: Broadway is dark tonight/A little bit weaker than it used to be/Broadway is dark tonight/See the young man sitting in the old man's bar/Waiting for his turn to die).
RT: I didn't write that, but I know [lead singer and songwriter John Rzeznik] well enough and we've talked about it enough that I feel like I can speak about its meaning. That song's directly related to his experience, growing up in Buffalo and watching the neighborhood that he grew up in dissolve and disintegrate to the place it is now.
The Bills, though, are one of region's great diversions from all those problems. But the more the city slides, is it more likely the Bills will move?
RT: Take a drive down [Interstate-90] and look into people's backyards and see the Bills flags flying or the helmets on their garages. The support is here. The infrastructure that a team needs, which is passion within the community, is obviously here.
If there's a need for a new stadium, then that's what it is and they need to embrace that problem and deal with it. If the city looks at benefits it gets emotionally from those sorts of things, it's definitely there.
But then it boils down to the same old story: follow the money. The motive is in the profits. The support here is fanatical, and that's putting it lightly. If they were to leave it would be a financial thing.
Anything people can get behind and root for en masse is really imp
ortant. Eight Sundays a year -- it would be a devastating blow for this area to not have.