Remember the old joke about going to a fight and a hockey game breaking out?
The Bills went to a football game in Toronto and, apparently, a golf match broke out – at least, that appeared to be the case judging from the tepid, golf-clap crowd reactions that seemed to dominate Sunday’s latest, they-found-another-new-way-to-lose debacle at the Rogers Centre and Mausoleum. In fact, I shouldn’t even use the word “crowd.” Sports crowds are rowdy and engaged. This was an “audience.”
I reserved immediate judgment, because McFadden’s is so loud who can really hear the fan reactions? But, after the Bills scored their tying – excuse me, their should-have-been-tying – touchdown, an audience shot showed one animated Bills fan applauding, surrounded by dozens of non-reacting attendees. It looked like a group of tourists who had been walking down the street and offered free comedy-show tickets. They hadn’t planned on being there, and didn’t know the comedians, but what the hell? We’re in town, and it’s free. It didn’t look like they were enjoying the show so much. Or understanding it.
The Associated Press ran a story on Friday reporting Rogers Communications’ commitment to extending the Bills’ five-year series. The next day, Rogers denied the report, saying only that it is committed to the current deal but has no plans beyond that.
What I found most interesting was the quote from Rogers vice chairman Phil Lind in the original, disputed report: “We’re there for the long haul one way or another. We believe in this.” Now, do I know for sure what he means? No. But, on the surface, it sure sounds a lot like, “We really want the NFL here – but, we’re not sure we want the Bills here.”
Which, again on the surface, would be just fine with a lot of Bills fans, who clearly don’t dig the expense or inconvenience of Toronto games, not to mention the passiveness of the spectators and inability to tailgate. In reality, this was a Bills home game roughly the same way it was a Bears home game. But, a Toronto that actively pursues a franchise can only complicate matters for Buffalo.
Did the passive fans make Lindell miss his first-ever PAT? No. Did they cause Parrish to be ever-so-slightly out of bounds on what would have been a huge, late-in-the-game reception? No (on a side note, I wish it had been a legit CFL field; Parrish might have been inbounds). Would the final outcome have been different in Buffalo? Unknowable, of course, but quite possibly. I’ll even venture to say, quite probably. Cutler got to operate in virtual silence. The Ralph crowd certainly would have made his job tougher.
And this comes from one of the rare Bills fans I know who favored the Toronto experiment. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like it and never have. But, I also viewed it as our best bet to keep the team local. I guess I’m back to rooting for Jim Kelly to actually have a team of investors waiting in the wings.
So, never wanting to end on a pessimistic note, what’s the good news? Steve Johnson might be a star in the making. David Nelson was very encouraging to watch. And maybe, just maybe, Shawn Merriman might lend a spark to the pass rush, which in one crucial instance gave Cutler more than six seconds to find a receiver. Next week, the Lions – an improved team that, nonetheless, had no more luck closing the deal today than the Bills did. See you next week.