Bills in Toronto: The Upside for Buffalo

RealFootball365.comSenior Writer IFebruary 1, 2008

The Bills' playing in Toronto is either the best or worst thing that could happen to the franchise, but there's no reason to freak and believe the latter without proof.

Right now, the only evidence for pessimism is in the vicinity of a Billy Brown-style, placekickers-paid-to-miss-attempts conspiracy theory, so it's best to focus on the positive aspects absent any concrete indication concerning relocation.

Specifically, an attempt to turn curious Canadians into Bills fans has to be a good thing for this squad, especially in an adjacent region packed with latent NFL enthusiasts primed for more exposure to the game.

Roger Goodell is expected to announce in his address about the league's status before the Super Bowl that the Bills will call the Rogers Centre home for one regular game a season over the next five years.

Toronto will also get three preseason contests, which of course no one cares about; every team could play every July and August game in Canada, and season-ticket holders in each NFL city would either A) never notice or B) throw a party with the currency saved.

As for assumptions that the guest team will become Toronto's actual home team, it's hard to envision all this taking place for no other reason but market research for a possible shift. Frankly, it's more likely that they would just pick up and leave were such an event to happen; holding a game every season in Ontario as a precursor to a move somehow seems both sneaky and obvious.

The NFL should realize that this is a situation where it can easily make Canadians fans of an American team; on the other hand, every single Western New Yorker would curse the franchise forever were it to move to another city.

Aside from recognizing that Buffalo is a true football town and that the Bills leaving would be a Browns-to-Baltimore-type public relations disaster, the important factor for the league is that fans in the area would be more likely to buy Los Angeles Clippers merchandise than shell out any money on tickets or merchandise for their former home squad.

Sharing this team means gaining followers, while transferring it would lose many permanently.

It may be possible at least for now to discount the utterly speculative prospect that the Bills will relocate north to Southern Ontario, but what remains is the sad thought that Ralph Wilson Stadium will only be used seven times next season, taking away a home game from fans who embrace the opportunity for revelry and community presented by their football club.

Having one fewer tailgating session and chance to share a game's summits and depths a year with neighbors in an activity that genuinely bonds locals together is unfortunate.

Still, the chance to present the team to a huge city with real bouts and not just exhibition yawnathons outweighs that single loss, especially if Toronto fans enjoy the 100-yard game enough to buy seats and head to Orchard Park, N.Y., for one of the season's other matches.

The best part of this move is that, instead of whining about market size, the Bills are doing everything they can to add backers and maximize revenue. The franchise has done everything in its power to push its product eastward, most notably by wisely holding training camp in suburban Rochester, N.Y.

While a decent number of Ontario's football fans already cross the bridge to see the Bills in person, playing regular games in Canada's crown jewel is a further commonsense attempt to reach out to not only individuals in the closest multimillion-resident city but also its corporations.

Hopefully, Toronto's conglomerates will enthusiastically pony up for Ralph Wilson Stadium's club seats at the worst and boxes at the best, not to mention the possibility that they'll consider promoting their products by purchasing available ad space after being exposed to the sport.

If nothing else, by playing in a venue that a communications company renamed after itself when they purchased it, Ralph Wilson might finally see the wisdom of selling this team's regular stadium's naming rights. Making money by promoting a business instead of making nothing by promoting the owner is the next logical move for a team that is prudently targeting new financial sources.

Of course, this isn't the only action necessary to preserve the Bills' fiscal solvency. For one, the People's Republic-style outlandish taxes that plague the team's state, county, and city, all done by a government that thinks it knows how to spend your income better than you do, are the chief reason that there aren't more businesses or skilled workers moving into the area and bringing cash to the stadium; that needs to change, and not only for this organization's sake.

The Bills should also realize that the easiest way to attract supporters is to, oh, be successful and make the playoffs.

But in the meantime, making friends in Toronto makes sense.