Over the next five years, the Buffalo Bills will play 8 games in Toronto, Canada; three preseason games, and five regular season games. This years game against the Miami Dolphins will be the first in the set of five regular season games to be played abroad.

I am not a fan of Bills team owner, Ralph Wilson, moving the team to Toronto for a game every year.

The primary reason for this sentiment being that Wilson’s family has stated that they are not interested in keeping the team after he passes away, which could be any day now. This of course implies that the Bills franchise will be sold to the highest bidder within the near future, and subsequently the team will relocate someplace outside of Western New York.

Someplace like Toronto, Canada.

Come December 7, 2008, Western New Yorkers will be denied the opportunity to attend the annual matchup between their Buffalo Bills and rival Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY.

And to put it bluntly, I think that sucks.

Why strip the ‘Phins game away from long time, die-hard Bills fans? Having season tickets with my Dad for the last few years now, the Miami game has always been our most favorite to attend. This match up is the date that every Bills fan circles or highlights on their respective calendars annually. There is nothing like tailgating at 8am on a Sunday morning alongside thousands of fellow Bills fans chanting ‘Squish the fish!,” and setting flame to various Dolphins memorabilia. In the last few years the home game against the Dolphins has been a guaranteed win for the Bills. Recent history at Ralph Wilson Stadium shows that the Dolphins have been shut out, snowed upon (“Let it snow!”), and utterly destroyed by Buffalo. The fans really get into it too as the loyal crowd of 74,000+ would deafen Miami every time their offense lined up to make a play.

So I again pose the question; Why must the Toronto game be against the Dolphins? Other 2008 home opponents of the Bills include: The Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and the New England Patriots. In my opinion the Chargers would have been the best candidate for the game in Canada. San Diego has a superstar running back in the electryfying Ladanian Tomlinson. Plus, the Chargers are a 2007 playoff team, and are more marketable than the 1-15 Dolphins. Also, the Chargers (like Miami) aren’t used to playing in cold weather, and since the game is in December, this should benefit the Bills. What better way to market the product of the NFL abroad, than with a small town team standing up to a 2007 playoff team complete with an NFL superstar in the backfield in early December?

. . . Or even have the Bills play Oakland in Toronto. Or Seattle. Or San Francisco. . . But not long time division rival Miami!

The Bills/Dolphins rivalry dates back to the 70’s when the Dolphins were the powerhouse team in the AFC. They ran rampant over the Bills, not losing a game to them in years. Then when the Jim Kelly/Dan Marino era emerged, the rivalry intensified. Even though neither QB won the Super Bowl, the hatred between the teams and their fans persists to the present day.

And now, for the first time ever, Buffalo will be denied the opportunity to embarrass Miami on their home turf.

By putting my personal interests in the game aside, I will briefly play ‘devils advocate’ to the situation. It does seem to make sense for Ralph Wilson to try and market the Bills to our neighbors of the North; Toronto is an hour or so drive from Buffalo, Western New York is a dying economy, and more Bills fans equals more revenue for the team and city. In addition, the Canadian dollar is currently worth more than the U.S. dollar, so Wilson’s cash flow should increase significantly over the next five years via the Bills games being played there. 

Lets look at some of the numbers involved with this years game in Toronto.

Located in Orchard Park, NY, Ralph Wilson Stadium is the home of the Buffalo Bills, which seats approximately 73,967 loyal fans per game.  The cheapest Bills season ticket is $40. $40 multiplyed by 73,967 equals a revenue of $2,958,680 per game. A decent chunk of money. No official price tag has been placed on tickets to the Toronto game in December, but the cheapest ticket is rumored to be around $250. The Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays and location of the Bills/Dolphins game, seats 50,516. $250 x 50,516 equals a revenue of $12,629,000 for the game.

The logic of Ralph Wilson is obvious. 

Without a doubt the Rogers Centre is a beautiful ball park, but I am worried that this one Bills game a year in Toronto deal for five years is the precursor for the Bills to move out of Buffalo. I don’t want to go there, but if that were to happen, not only would the people of Buffalo hit a level of severe depression, but so would the economy of the region. The numbers mentioned above speak for themselves, and while the Canadian figures are higher, multiply the Orchard Park numbers by eight and subtract that taxable income from the overall revenue of Western New York. The outcome is a large sum of money, per year, that Buffalo would lose out on if the Bills left the area. 

It is obvious that an already faulty economy will only suffer more with the departure of the Bills.

Backing off of the issue of cash flow, and refocusing on the issue of football, Bills Nation needs to ask the following question; Do the citizens of Toronto even know about the rivalry between the Bills and the Dolphins? Are they aware of the past history between the teams? Or of what home field advantage and the 12th Man can do to a visiting NFL team? Will these Toronto Bills ‘fans’ be screaming their head off on every offensive snap the Miami Dolphins take, as would be the case in Ralph Wilson Stadium? Will this game feel like a home game for the Bills players on the field?

I suppose only time will tell. Even so, one thought remains; What the hell Ralph Wilson and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell,  why have you taken the Dolphins game away from the hometown fans?

When all is said and done, the Buffalo Bills had better stay where they belong; in Western New York.

Photo #1 of two rabid Bills fans, was taken by Andy Liegl during the 2006 Bills/Dolphins game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. That game was awesome. As a disclaimer I need to clarify that unless used for food, I do not support the killing of animals.

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