The Toronto Experiment: Why The Bills Should Never Move To Canada

Jack AndersonSenior Analyst IAugust 11, 2009

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 28:  Langston Walker #68, Duke Preston #75 and Trent Edwards #5 of the Buffalo Bills wait to walk on the field before the game against the New England Patriots on December 28, 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

There has been talk in some circles concerning the possibility of relocating the Buffalo Bills across the border into Canada.

Quite frankly, the move would be a total disaster.

On the surface it sounds good. The NFL would expand its reach outside the United States, giving commissioner Roger Goodell a taste of the international flavor he so desperately craves. It would pave the way for future international expansion as Canadians would get a glimpse of professional football at the elite level.

Yet digging deeper, one can reveal plenty of pitfalls in the Toronto experiment.

Should Goodell move the Bills from Buffalo, he would be doing a great disservice to the city (an American city). Buffalo's economy is struggling, and removing one of its primary sources of revenue would surely prove costly.

Now Goodell is not obligated to act in Buffalo's best interests, but the city needs the Bills. If he wants to show support for the U.S. and its economy, then he must attempt to keep the Bills in Buffalo at all costs. It's the right thing to do.

In addition, moving the team to Toronto doesn't guarantee any increase in revenue for the NFL. In fact, it may do more harm than good.

If the team moves, many of the fans in Buffalo will not attend the games. Toronto is only a couple of hours away, but Canada now requires passports (previously U.S. citizens could simply come and go) in order to cross the border, which many fans don't have.

Passports are not cheap, so many fans most likely won't go.

Another fraction of the fans will be unhappy with the move, which could mean boycotts. This means there could be even more people from the U.S. who won't be attending games in Toronto.

Furthermore, tailgating in Canada is non-existent. Canadian citizens don't do it and Canadian officials limit it. That's about as un-American as it gets, so throw in a few more no-shows.

Think I'm crazy? Bills fans are rabid tailgaters, as Buffalo was ranked the No. 1 tailgating NFL city by Sports Illustrated. Tailgating is as big as the game to many of them. Without it, they won't show up in Toronto.

The NFL will also have to market to a new type of fan, as hockey reigns supreme in Canada while the CFL is extremely popular.

When the Bills played in Toronto last year, some Canadians boycotted the game, standing behind the CFL. 

So the purists on each side of the border won't be attending.

The CFL has its own traditions and history. Canadians won't abandon it for the same reasons Americans wouldn't pay any attention if the Calgary Stampeders moved to Las Vegas to hype up the CFL.

Another issue would be the location Goodell has picked in Canada. Toronto is very corporate and white-collar, which doesn't bode well as far as attracting a fan base goes.

That kind of environment isn't one that is sports-friendly. Sporting events in Toronto are for the upper class to mingle and network. Business colleagues often go and bring prospective investors, clients, etc.

If the NFL can't connect with the everyday guy in Canada, there will be plenty of empty seats. We saw that last season when the Bills hosted the Dolphins in Toronto. The crowd was far under the capacity and the Rogers Centre only holds 54,000.

With all these problems, Goodell would be wise to ensure the Bills stay put. I know he wants to see the NFL become a world game, but will the world ever truly embrace it?

The games in Japan and London are purely gimmicks. People in Europe and Asia won't ever prefer the NFL to soccer. In fact, Asia has more baseball and basketball fans than football fans.

There's not as much money to be made internationally as Goodell thinks there is. In fact, it might turn out to be a disastrous move for the NFL. Football is an American game that outsiders will never fully understand, much like America will never fully understand soccer.

Buffalo loves their team with a passion and that can't be matched by many other fan bases. Why take the passions, history, and tradition away?

For Buffalo's sake, Roger, keep them here at home where they belong.


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