On Sunday, October 30th, the Buffalo Bills will play the Washington Redskins at the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto. This is the fourth season in a row that the Bills will play one of their "home" games in Canada.
Bills fans are not happy at all with this arrangement, as they fear that these games signal that owner Ralph Wilson may want to move the team elsewhere.
Here’s hopefully some good news for Bills fans: many people in Toronto aren’t happy with this arrangement either.
I’m not merely talking about the Canadian Football League fans that fear for the stability of the Toronto Argonauts franchise and CFL football as a whole. I’m also talking about the NFL fans in Toronto who hope that an NFL franchise will finally come to this city.
Here are five Toronto-centric reasons why the Bills should play all of their home games in Buffalo.
The most expensive tickets to Sunday’s game are valued at $320 CAD. That is astronomically higher than the amount that Bills fans will pay for the best seats in the house at Ralph Wilson Stadium the weekend afterwards—those seats cost only $90 USD.
If you were Ralph Wilson and you knew you could make a profit much larger than the usual amount just by scheduling one home game elsewhere, would you do it?
From that perspective, the Bills Toronto Series becomes understandable.
However, if you’re a Bills fan or an NFL fan in general from Toronto, you can’t help but get angry about the price gouging that comes along with these games.
Toronto and other parts of the Southern Ontario area fall within the marketing territory of the Bills. In this article from USA Today, a spokesman for the NFL is quoted as saying that the Bills Toronto Series is “an effort to regionalize the team’s fan base”.
That’s all nice and dandy, but there’s one problem with this: many NFL fans in Toronto don’t like the Bills.
Perhaps there are many older fans who only had access to Bills games that began to follow the team. Perhaps modern advances in technology like digital TV and the Internet have given younger NFL fans access to markets far away from their own.
But the simplest argument is probably that Buffalo isn’t Toronto—it’s a different city in a different country. There isn’t really much of a reason why NFL fans in Toronto would like the Bills more than any other team.
Safety George Wilson recently commented on this to the Toronto media by saying, “You see just as many jerseys for the opposing teams as you do the Bills.” He’s right.
The liquor laws of Ontario are much different from those of New York. Sure, the drinking age is 19 years of age, but alcohol can only be purchased from government-run liquor and beer stores. Convenience stores don’t sell alcohol here. Drinking in public areas is highly regulated.
Buffalo is renowned for its tailgating—there truly isn’t an experience like it. Tailgating has also become synonymous with going to an NFL game.
This is an important element that has been missing from the Bills Toronto Series. There just isn’t enough space around the Rogers Centre for tailgating. Beer companies have tried to host sponsored tailgate parties, but these don’t even compare to the simple enjoyment that is parking lot tailgating.
This doesn’t mean that everyone who goes to an NFL game wants to tailgate, but it is a part of the culture. It just doesn’t seem right for it not to be an option.
While admittedly all of these teams went on to make the playoffs in the year they played the Bills, the bigger road draws such as the Colts (minus this season), Steelers, Patriots, Cowboys and Packers have never played here.
This relates back to the point about the series being a cash grab. Ralph Wilson wants those teams to play in Buffalo because of the revenue.
So Toronto is apparently good enough to shell out big bucks for NFL action, but isn’t good enough to deserve seeing an elite opponent.
Hockey is Canada’s game. Football is America’s game. These are facts of life.
When the Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets moved south of the border in the 1990s, many people in Canada were very angry, especially as non-traditional markets such as Phoenix, Atlanta and Nashville began to receive NHL teams. There was a sense amongst Canadians that our game was being taken away from us and being handed off to people who wouldn’t appreciate it nearly as much.
Having the Buffalo Bills move to Toronto would be a similar situation.
NFL fans in Toronto would undoubtedly prefer to have a clean slate—a shiny new franchise where there is no baggage. In fact, Torontonians would probably welcome a rivalry with the Bills, as has been the case with the Sabres and Leafs.
Hopefully that will happen soon and the Bills can go back to Buffalo where they truly belong.