The distance between
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Barstool Prophet: Embrace Buf-ronto
According to the latest
Buffalo football scheduling news, the Bills are signing on with Toronto for five more years of Canadian visits—and the hometown faithful are not exactly giddy with the arrangement.
(Author's note: This entry was completed while listening to Donovan's "Sunshine Superman.")
For the next five seasons, stubborn western New Yorkers will sit on their couches, shout expletives over beers and wonder why they have to sacrifice a game per season to thousands of drunken Maple Leaf fans. Confused locals can look forward to seeing the Bills play in front of Southern Ontarians (?) wearing a odd smattering of Peyton Manning, Michael Vick and Doug Flutie jerseys inside the Rogers Center as they care less about who's actually playing on the field in front of them. We'll see televised Fred Jackson touchdowns inside
Canada's answer to Minnesota's Metrodome, and we'll all yearn for those freewheeling days of the nineties when was enough. When it was a sprawling weekly Orchard Park Woodstock, full of wild, committed, ticket-gobbling fans waiting for another impending AFC championship.
Only two problems with this: 1. the NFL economy has changed drastically since my January 12th, 1992 AFC Championship ticket cost $32 (including tax and county charge); and 2. this Toronto arrangement is extremely smart—and not without precedent.
Is it wrong to wonder whether the extension of this agreement is further proof that the Bills might move to
Toronto? I guess not. Since many fatalistic Bills fans already fear the team is California-bound, I guess you're free to pick your pessimism. But, why would the NFL move the Bills up the QEW when a regionalized, lucrative partnership between an international metropolis and an established, passionate, historical football locale makes far more sense? The Bills extending their reach into Southern Ontario doesn't hurt Buffalo's viability for any future ownership group; it helps it.
About 15% of Bills season ticket holders are from
Canada, so why not play one annual game there in December? Sure, prideful Bills fans are reluctant to admit it, but Buffalo (by itself) lacks the economic and/or corporate swingers to both regularly compete and keep the Bills here long-term. Regionalization of the franchise isn't a choice; it's a necessity. Fans bitch about giving Canada a regular season game, but would those same fans be willing to pay double to see that Canadian-located game? Nope. You can't have it both ways. If Rogers wants to fork over another $78 million to rent the Bills for five more Sundays (and a meaningless preseason game every now and then), no problem; a small price to pay for solidifying the franchise's place in the region. In order for the Bills to remain in Buffalo—and, in a much larger sense, for this region's business sector to advance and thrive forward—a partnership with Southern Ontario and Toronto makes a tremendous amount of sense. (It's amazing that this cross-border relationship is considered such a controversial idea. And, maybe that border's the problem. Would there be such a stink about playing games in Syracuse? It's just an underwhelming bridge between collaborative countries, so why the hostility? Who are we, the Fenians?)
Embrace it or endure through it, but know that this kind of travel arrangement has happened before—and for a much more prestigious organization.
There is a precedent set by another small market franchise who enhanced their viability by playing games in a regional location where a larger fan base existed. The team? The Green Bay Packers. From 1933 to 1994, the Packers played two to three games per year in
Milwaukee due to the regional lure of the team. The Packers are 13-time NFL champions and arguably the league's most historic franchise, steeped in narrative lore and profanity-laden Lombardi speeches. They are the small market model and, yes, even they had to travel out of their hamlet to enhance their reach. Also, the distance between Green Bay and Milwaukee? 118.96 miles.
The distance between
Buffalo and Toronto? 98.61.
The distance between
Not a bad drive. And, it's a lot closer than Los Angeles.