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Sports: Buffalo Bills – The Toronto Experiment

First and foremost let’s be clear: I am in no way, shape, or form a Buffalo Bills fan.  Nevertheless, The Buffalo Bills remain an institution here in Ontario.

Growing up in Hamilton, in an age where there were no “Sports Packs”, NFL fans got one game… The Bills.  I still remember watching Jim Kelly toss touchdowns to Andre Reed; Thurman Thomas lead the league in yards; and even Scott Norwood missing wide right.  But all things change in sports and dynasties fade.  On and off the field the Bills are now a disaster; in constant transition with their players and staff.

Enter the Toronto Experiment:

This November 7th marks another visit from the Buffalo Bills to Toronto’s “Roger Centre.”  This province has gained a hunger for NFL Football.  We all flock to pubs and friends houses every weekend to watch ‘the big game’, and almost everyone we know throws a Superbowl party.  However, does anyone you know throw a Grey Cup party?  Our national football league, the CFL, is the red-headed step-child to our current generation.  It just does not appeal to them with regards to play, excitement, and glamor like the NFL does.

Although NFL exhibition games have been played in Canada since the 1950′s, it was not until the Bills-Toronto Series (December 7, 2008), that a regular-season NFL game was played here.

The brain-child of Larry Tanenbaum and the late Ted Rogers; the two struck a deal for the Bills to play eight “home” games (including pre-season) over five years at the Rogers Centre.  Their dream was to bring this city an NFL franchise,  but why would Ralph Wilson, (the owner of the Buffalo Bills), allow his team to play in another city? Approximately $78 million dollars is in his pocket is why; a sum that amounts to more than the team earned in 2006.

Moving away from the logistics let’s talk of right and wrong; of the experience versus convenience.

As a fan of the NFL I have gone to many games in the US, particularly Buffalo, and I can say without a doubt that the NFL experience in Toronto pales in comparison to that of Buffalo.  The atmosphere is different, the culture is different, and most importantly the celebration is different.  As Canadians, we are subject to laws that our southern counterparts are not.  Meaning there is no tailgating in Toronto!!! Tailgating is one of the most celebrated traditions of the NFL; a cold beer with a bratwurst conjures memories like an old photograph.  Tailgating is the game before the game.

The game here is instead treated like any other, I.E. as a Commodity:

Ticket prices here are astronomically high. In 2008 the average ticket in Toronto cost $183, (almost 4 times the average ticket in Buffalo). In addition, the Bills travel here as the home team but arrive as neutral combatants, and they in turn lose that crucial home-field advantage.  Lastly, as Canadians we tend to be a bit more reserved at sporting functions, unless of course it involves a puck.  The US Bills fans on the other hand support their team through thick and thin, rain, sleet, and snow.  All in all our local interests are unfortunately vested in the entertainment aspect rather than the love. The NFL is fun, unruly, and raucous, the ultimate sporting event.  In Toronto it is sometimes just another reason to check your BlackBerry.

Does this mean that we do not deserve our own (or Buffalo’s) franchise?  That is hard to say.  But we must earn one as fans, before we claim another city’s.

Come November 7th I will be at the Bills versus Bears game, but I will make sure that I do more than sit on my hands.  I’ll make sure the home team feels at home, I hope you do too!


  • sabrina

    let’s go buff -A-lo !!

  • Sharlene

    the Toronto Bills’ experience is totally whack. I wouldn’t turn down a free ticket or anything but it’s pretty bad. the sad reality is that the only Torontonians at sports venues in TO (with the exception of TFC) are those that can afford the pricey tickets as opposed to the really passionate fans that make games so live.

  • Adam

    Having been born in Toronto, I’m an all Toronto fan (even the Argo’s). Having grown up in St. Catharines we went to Bills, Sabers, and even Bisons games – I’m yet to experience the NFL in Canada but if its anything like the sushi-eating, tie-wearing experience of the ACC … the cash grab would be all too encompassing.

    Too much new money – not enough old school passion.

  • Brian

    Nothing like being the only one standing and screaming on 3rd and 1….only to be asked to sit down by some douchbag covservative “fan”.
    Ill be there on nov 7…still screaming…even for an 0 for the season squad. I just got my self mad.

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