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.

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 Orchard Park was enough. When it was a sprawling weekly 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. 

Not a bad drive. And, it's a lot closer than Los Angeles.

(Author's note: This entry was completed while listening to Donovan's "Sunshine Superman.")

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Barstool Prophet: Gratitude

There wasn’t many weekends of my teens or early twenties that didn’t include an intervention or two from the Beastie Boys’ now deceased Adam Yauch, aka MCA.

His voice came out of Ford speakers and bar jukeboxes, from radio headphones or the tape deck from an old basement stereo system. The instances are so numerous that, as I type this, I can still see friends dancing and mimicking lyrics from songs off Paul’s Boutique or Ill Communication. It’s not that Yauch himself was inspiring or emotionally invigorating, instilling everyone at our parties with some expanded world view or political conscience; that wasn’t it. He—along with his bandmates Mike D and Ad Rock—were simply responsible for the rhythms and beats that carried so many of our reckless or carefree nights and weekends. Their music elicited laughter and air-scratching; it stopped parties and started ridiculous dance contests; and it inspired the opportunity to shout hilariously crude statements about parties and mashed potatoes.

Now, as we grow older and transition deep into adulthood, those remembered moments will forever be soundtracked by MCA’s sonic imprint.

Until I pull something together of greater length on this subject, I wanted to offer the below playlist (with audio or video links) to the honor Yauch’s memory. Enjoy it alone or gather with friends, ones who know all the words to “Root Down”—or can recognize the greatest use of an Abbey Road sample ever. Turn it up, raise a beer and count it down for the late, great MCA:

“Four and three and two and one.”

  1. Skills To Pay The Bills
  2. Do It
  3. Shake Your Rump
  4. Jimmy James
  5. Sure Shot
  6. Root Down
  7. Hold It Now, Hit It
  8. Unite
  9. Make Some Noise
  10. Sabotage
  11. The Sounds of Science
  12. The Negotiation Limerick File
  13. So What’cha Want
  14. Heart Attack Man
  15. Ch-Check It Out
  16. Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win
  17. Get It Together
  18. The New Style
  19. Flute Loop
  20. Egg Man
  21. Intergalactic
  22. Pass The Mic
  23. Professor Booty
  24. B-Boys Makin’ With The Freak Freak
  25. Super Disco Breakin’
(Author's Note: This entry was finished while listening to "Unite" by the Beastie Boys.)