Friday, May 30, 2008

Taking the Bills by the Horns

...and that's why you'll never see me order anything with a cream sauce at Applebee's.
***

Much has happened during my recent hiatus. Charlie is growing like a weed (she can palm a basketball which strikes me as being pretty advanced for 10 and a half months). The Jays have turned their season around and, despite all my complaining, I went ahead and bought Bills tickets for their eight game series here in Toronto. The price was absolutely egregious and I dread what Rogers and the Toronto scenesters will turn the games into. In the end, however, I caved to my heart. The thought of waking up ticketless on a Sunday morning knowing that my team was about to kickoff only a streetcar ride away was too much to bare. It would be akin to the recurring dream I have about being stuck inside on Halloween watching the other kids trick or treating. Trust me, its an awful feeling. Now I'll have those tickets...and probably a metropass as their exorbitant cost may force me to sell my car. I also feel it is important for the team that there are at least a handful of actual fans on the premises. There will now be at least eight of us. Hopefully they'll be able to hear us over the Blackberry ringtones and small talk about cottage traffic and running groups.

We are now less than three months away from the first of the eight games, the pre-season tilt with the Steelers. That should give us enough time to mount a campaign against the Torontofication of the Bills. This may even require a whole new forum (I have yet to make a decision on that). Regardless it is our duty as legitimate Bills fans to provide some oversight here and put pressure wherever and whenever it is needed to ensure that these 8 games, particularly the 5 regular season games, do not become neutral venue spectacles. Home field advantage is crucial in the NFL and especially to the Bills. Here's some quick, admittedly simple math. The Bills have won nearly 60% of their home games while only prevailing in 37% of their road games. Over an entire season that's the difference between a 10 win team and a six win team, which is essentially the difference between a playoff team and a team with a top 5 draft pick. Perhaps put a different way its even easier to grasp. The Bills average point differential at home is over 7 points meaning they win by more than a touchdown. On the road they lose by an average of 4.5 points. Its therefore not a ridiculous assumption to say that a supportive home crowd and a familiar environment could be worth 11-12 points as opposed to a hostile fanbase at someone else's stadium. The midpoint of 5.5-6 points could then be viewed as the benefit of a home crowd versus a neutral crowd. Let me illustrate the spectrum of possible support levels starting with rabid Buffalo and ending with Dolphins fans (the first regular season home game will be against Miami) in pictures:


Hardcore...

Quiet, yet supportive...

Reserved and disinterested...


Douchey and self-absorbed...


and finally...Go Dolphins!

Clearly the difference between a supportive home crowd and an indifferent "come late, leave early" crowd can mean the difference between winning and losing. Taken a step further if the Bills games in Toronto are allowed to turn into home games for the "visitors" due to the fairweather nature of the local ticket buyers/corporately entertained then there is a better than 50% chance that a win could be turned into a loss. We in Toronto have been entrusted with the role of stewards for Western New York's team for five very important games over the next five years. Think of it like being asked to housesit for the guy who lives down the street...a guy who's house is all he has left because he lost his job, his wife took off on him and his dog died. That's quite the responsibility. Then imagine we don't do our job as fans and allow the stadium to turn into a nice comfy place where the "visting" team feels more at home. That's akin to trashing your buddy's house and then sleeping with his ex-wife just for good measure. That's hardly being a good neighbour/neighbor.

Having done this analysis (and looking at these pictures) it has become clear to me that the enormity of this responsibility is even larger than I had anticipated. A such I have decided to anoint myself The Bills in Toronto Ombudsman. In this role I will do whatever I can to ensure that while the Bills are in our fair city they will be taken care of. Fans will be both educated and motivated. The moneyed backers of this venture and the douchery that defines the event-going population of this city will be kept at bay. This is a promise I make to Bills fans everywhere, particularly those of you in and around Buffalo. We will do all that we can to ensure that they return home every year just as they left, only with another win under the belt. Apart from the $78 million dollars you won't even realize they were gone.