Buffalo’s fans should worry twice as much about Toronto

By Anthony Bialy  |   Tuesday, March 24, 2009  |  Comments( 77 )

Buffalo Bills
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As dismal as the Buffalo Bills have performed in recent memory, imagine shipping away more of their home-field advantage northward. That prospect is a suddenly urgent concern: Fans who bought tickets to last year’s Toronto-based game recently received an e-mail questionnaire that included the series’ organizers claim they might be able to negotiate a deal to bring a second regular-season game to Ontario in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Resident fans can now augment worries that the only thing keeping the team in Western New York is Hall of Famer Ralph Wilson’s unwillingness to cough up the bridge toll for everyone in the organization.

First, it’s bad for Bills football, as this would mean another fixture where enemy offenses get to operate in silence. Based on last year’s experience, this team would be volunteering to hold 25 percent of its household games in a vacuum. It’s not as if the Rogers Centre emerged as a welcoming alternative to the Bills’ home and native land. The austerely sterile concrete box of a barn doesn’t exactly feel like Grandma’s house; the Bills don’t need to be spending more time in a multipurpose stadium that’s unsuitable for all purposes.

The soulless environs contributed to the comatose atmosphere at last year’s snooze fest. The December game against the Miami Dolphins was as lively as a neurosurgery, only with a more sanitized feel. In fact, one of the few signs of life came from Dolphins fans who comprised an unacceptably large percentage of attendees. “Cold” isn’t a word typically used to describe someplace homey.

At the same time, that’s not true in another sense of the word: Buffalo’s fans pride themselves on enduring a different kind of cold, namely the delightfully hideous weather conditions with which visiting opponents typically must cope during the season’s second half. Nonetheless, supporters may see that inherent advantage melt away because the additional Toronto contests would likely also come late in the season so as to not interfere with the Canadian Football League’s schedule.

More indoor December games would mean eliminating one of Buffalo’s perpetual advantages. That said, the concern only starts with the domed venue: The trouble isn’t so much the location but rather the location’s location. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a survey to gauge interest, as the thought of moving even one more game per season over 100 miles away should unnerve everyone who wants the Bills to stay.

Buffalo-area fans were overcome with furious panic when they heard about the transfer of just one contest per year, and the indication there may be an attempt at a further game grab is as frustrating as it is disheartening. They’ve already tolerated largely exasperating results on the field ever since the Todd Collins era began, but it’s not enough for this team to break fans’ hearts with its play. Now, backers fear that paranoia relating to the team’s potential relocation could be justified.

The point of the Ontario Experiment is to allegedly draw more Canadian fans to the Bills, not draw the Bills to Canada. If this team wants to display any integrity to its true home fans, it’ll limit the number of games stolen from Orchard Park per season to one. That’s at best enough and at worst too many already.
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