Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson made a pretty shrewd move six years ago when he brokered a deal with the city of Toronto to host a game every year for five seasons with the city. The deal was re-upped for another five years during this past offseason. It was a pretty good pact for the Bills when you consider that they got paid up front. That means it didn’t matter what the gate was, that’s all on the Rogers Centre. That in turn means that the Rogers Centre doesn’t care what kind of atmosphere there is in the stadium, as long as there is any atmosphere. That means fans of different teams will just trot in from the street to watch a football game. And trust me, it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Former Bills safety George Wilson described the game like this a few years ago – “The fan support in Toronto is a night-and-day difference from what we have in Buffalo. For the most part, it’s a show. You see just as many jerseys for the opposing teams as you do the Bills. They cheer for any big play regardless of whichever team makes it.” When you consider that this year’s match-up features the dome-team Atlanta Falcons playing in similar confines rather than an outdoor stadium in the Northeast in late November the drawbacks to the Toronto series become apparent. Football teams are supposed to have a home-field advantage — particularly one that plays in snowy and cold Buffalo in the winter. Giving up that one game of home-field advantage could prove crucial for a team during a playoff run, which the Bills are just trying to hang in right now.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Toronto is a very nice city and the Rogers Centre is a pretty good place to watch a game, a baseball game at least. I’ve been there before and it’s definitely amenable. But for a home football game in November I’m not so sure. Of course it doesn’t help that the Bills are only 1-4 so far in the Toronto series and were handily thrashed by the Seattle Seahawks in last season’s installment.
The other tired annual exercise when the Bills play up in Toronto is the rumors of a new owner that will move the team up there. This year we really went off of the reservation with the reports of Jon Bon Jovi trying to buy the team and move it to Toronto. If the Toronto series is any indication the Bills may be giving up what could be a great home-field atmosphere in Buffalo.