Anyone who lives in Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, or Buffalo can attest that Rust Belt residents take their professional sports teams – especially football- very seriously. And why shouldn’t we? Who doesn’t love to cheer for our team, particularly when our cities aren’t doing so well?
A team can be so critical to a city’s self-esteem. I’ll never forget the dancing-in-the-streets joy I witnessed in Pittsburgh after the Steelers’ most recent Superbowl victories.
That’s why so many people are troubled by what they fear might happen in Buffalo. The Buffalo Bills have a deal in place to play several games in the coming years in Toronto, a larger market. The team has said it is a way to keep the franchise competitive and earn some extra cash. But the move has raised questions, especially among the team’s hardcore fans, about the long-term future of the Bills in Western New York.
Bills fans were particularly incensed last year when one of the “home” games in Toronto was against what has historically been a huge rival, the Miami Dolphins. Bills home games against Miami have typically taken place in December, giving a real home /weather advantage to the Bills, rather than playing in Toronto in a dome.
On Monday, The Buffalo News reported the team is now interested in playing additional games in Toronto. If approved, that would mean the Bills would pay 25 percent of their “home” games not at home.
“Any deal, which still would have to be negotiated with the Bills and other parties, clearly would increase concerns among Bills fans about the team permanently relocating to Toronto,” the article says.
The paper followed with another story on Tuesday:
“Buffalo was abuzz Monday about the prospect of the Bills moving another foot out the door toward Toronto,” the News reported.
“Andrew Petrinec and Al Keohane, two old high school buddies from East Aurora, weren’t at all happy about news of a possible second regular-season game going to Toronto.
The two friends launched a petition drive late last fall, asking for the Rogers Centre roof to be opened, to let a bit of winter inside and give the Bills some home-field edge for the game against Miami on Dec. 7.
Following this weekend’s news, Petrinec and Keohane talked about whether they want to keep their season tickets.
“We came to the conclusion that if they move another game up there, we’ll probably stop getting the tickets,” Petrinec said Monday. “That would be a quarter of their schedule. At that point, it just doesn’t seem worth it, especially if they give Toronto the better games.””
Any Buffalo fans care to weigh in here? What’s the word on the street? What do you think will happen?
And Clevelanders – think back to your years without the Browns. What did you do, pick another team to root for, or continue to cheer for the team after they had moved to Baltimore and become the Ravens?
A friend of mine who is a Bills fan said that during the years when Cleveland was without a team, some Browns fans (dressed in full Dawg Pound regalia, of course) would actually come to Bills games and cheer for Buffalo. That’s some great Rust Belt solidarity! Here’s hoping the folks in Buffalo don’t ever have to experience the feelings of sorrow and betrayal of a team departing…