It’s no secret that the first three years of the Bills’ partnership with Toronto haven’t been an overwhelming success. Sleepy, quiet crowds in a far less than filled Rogers Centre, lackluster opponents, and an even more lackluster product on the field for the Bills have led to three very forgettable games in Toronto, all of which Buffalo have lost.
Talk radio, print media, bloggers, fans, and message boards all have their differing opinions on how the Toronto Series is going, but most have a pretty negative taste in their mouth about the partnership.
Financially, the Toronto Series has been a boon for the Bills, who frankly have needed it with home attendance in Orchard Park dipping over the past three seasons. The deal to play one regular season game in Toronto continues through next season, and with a very, very winnable game on the slate for Sunday, and a very, very entertaining Bills team to watch, the negative connotations fans have towards the Toronto situation, especially among Canadians, could evaporate by 7:30 on Sunday night.
Locally, fans, already with the built-in Buffalo sports inferiority complex, look at the series as a threat to the long-term sustainability of the team in Buffalo.
But take a look at the hard, if not impossible task the Toronto Raptors have of attracting free agents to Toronto. Those are just 12 to 15 man rosters. Now try to build an NFL roster and attract top free agents. Players, given the choice, don’t want to play in a foreign country. Who can blame them?
And despite the fact that Ralph Wilson Stadium is 16 years older than Rogers Centre, try to objectively tell me which one is older without knowing the answer already. Both stadiums’ concourses feel like you’re walking through a parking garage. At best, the facilities are a push.
Fans? Is this even something to bother debating? Toronto is as much an NFL town as Buffalo is an NBA town. They have their own professional football team in Toronto, and they don’t draw well, especially for a city of over 2.5 million people. Buffalo fans are right there with the most hardcore in the NFL. Toronto sports fans care passionately about one thing only – hockey.
But there is your answer. That number, 2.5 million people, or 5.5 million when you count the entire Greater Toronto Area. That’s the important one. The grand design is not to move the Bills to Toronto full-time, but it’s to do all the organization can do to market this team to our friends in the T-Dot.
If that can successfully happen, even a little bit, then the market segment from Syracuse, through Rochester and Buffalo up to Toronto puts the Bills in what would be one of the largest markets in the entire NFL. Winning games and winning games with some of the incredible people we have on this team will go a long, long way in making that happen.
In the end, the reason for the Toronto move is actually counterintuitive to the rationale so many fans here in Buffalo think the organization has for playing the games up North.
Expanding this team’s reach up through Toronto makes it even more likely that the team stays in Buffalo. Commissioner Goodell has said as much. For almost the entire history of the Bills, Toronto has been an untapped market. That needs to change for the Bills to not only remain here, but also to thrive here.
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