Rogers and the Buffalo Bills announced this morning that they will not be holding the Bills In Toronto series at Rogers Centre this year, claiming in a joint statement from Bills President and CEO, Russ Brandon, and Rogers Media President, Keith Pelley, that they “will use this time to collectively evaluate opportunities and build on the foundation to enhance future games.”

That seems like a rather tidy little pronouncement on the surface, but there may be a whole lot more to the story. Particularly, disaffection on the Bills’ side of things, despite the fact that it was not long ago that the two sides agreed upon a five-year extension of the deal, which was to see Bills games played at Rogers Centre until 2017.

Mike Gaughan of the Buffalo News explains:

The initial five-year deal was a financial windfall for the Bills, with Rogers guaranteeing the Bills roughly double the revenue from the games in Toronto that Buffalo would gross for games in Orchard Park. The terms of the five-year extension have not been made public. But sources have told The News that the terms are not nearly as tilted in the Bills’ favor, and that the team is not grossing much more than it would take in at The Ralph.

The series isn’t working on the field, either, with tepid crowds — “last year’s game drew an announced crowd of 38, 969, at least 12,000 short of a sellout,” Gaughan writes, also noting that there seemed to be as many Falcons fans in attendance as Bills fans — and poor results. The Bills are 1-5 in regular season games at Rogers Centre.

Perhaps the limited financial windfall under the terms of the extension doesn’t offset the dent this game — and the giving up of a real home field advantage at the Ralph, especially when they bring a damn dome team like Atlanta into Toronto for the series — puts in the Bills chances making some actual playoff revenue. It’s a hilarious thought, I know, but for real!

As far as I can tell, nobody there likes it — it’s an affront to the fans, it’s an affront to the players, and it’s just a wretched idea whose time, it seems, has finally, finally come. I’m sure there are certain corners of the Rogers empire where people believe in it, but even they, with their overt designs on bringing a disgustingly lucrative NFL franchise to this city, may be finally ready to admit that these games are doing more harm to their brand than good, at least in the NFL’s eyes.

So… they’re saying the right, corporate-y things, but if they had any sense about them, both the Bills and Rogers would see fit to taking this opportunity to finally smother this miserable stinking turd of an experiment to death. I mean, the “Toronto Bills” makes about as much sense as the “Milwaukee Packers,” and I’m pretty sure a big part of why the city had so little interest in the games — apart from ticket prices set in direct relation to the arrogance from Rogers that this was going to be an unequivocal smash — is that it’s just so utterly distasteful to want to steal what seems to an outsider like a pretty seriously important cultural institution in the city of Buffalo, and one that’s so deeply woven into the fabric of their identity. Or maybe I’d just like to think that’s part of it, because… seriously, fuck us (read: Rogers) for even trying.

As for the Jays and their desire to add a grass playing surface to Rogers Centre, today’s announcement certainly seems to have the potential to be a positive. Yes, the Argos are still in the building, but it seems almost a foregone conclusion that they’ll end up at BMO Field sooner or later, meaning that any hint toward a permanent hiatus for the Bills In Toronto Series clears another hurdle.

Shit, maybe having the Bills playing at the expanded BMO, restoring the weather advantage and cutting down on the empty seats, is where this is headed to anyway. Of course, we may be getting ahead of ourselves in believing anything like that is what this is — obviously this hasn’t been an experiment marked by good sense and accurate reading of public sentiment. Plus there’s this little thing called a contract that might prove a sticking point — and, in fact, QMI is reporting that all four remaining regular season games will be played. So they may be bound and determined to press on come 2015 — ugh, and maybe even beyond 2017 — but we have to have hope, I think, that somewhere in this is enough people with enough goddamn sense just to kill it.

Granted, Paul Beeston’s recent unequivocal statements that we wouldn’t see grass until 2018 anyway would seem to render the status of the Bills moot. Yet it’s not difficult to wonder if it was perhaps with the Bills agreement in mind that he chose the year after it expires as the earliest the grass field project could move forward, even though his pretext was some nonsense about needing several years to figure out how they’re actually going to accomplish it.

Shit, maybe he knew all along that this was a possibility — Bills President Russ Brandon was, according to Gaughan’s piece, “non-committal about the future of the series in the weeks after” the early-December loss to Atlanta — and Mr. “If We Don’t Win This Year, We Win Next Year. If We Don’t Win Next Year, We Win The Year After” has actually learned a thing or two from a humbling 2013 about under-promising and over-delivering.

I wouldn’t count on that just yet, but whatever the case, at least in a small way this has to be looked at as a positive for those of us sick of watching baseball being played on fucking garbage bags.


Glorious image still via James_in_TO.

Comments (27)

  1. I think it would have been funny if your entire article was just: “Nope.”

  2. Even if the series is actually postponed instead of cancelled, you have to think that there may be a chance that it could take place in a renovated BMO.

    40,000+ seats in a more suitable for football stadium would probably be a better experience (weather aside) for both the Bills and fans.

    • on problem, most NFL stadiums sell out they’re 70,000+ seats every game, 40,000 max capacity is a long way from a suitable NFL stadium

    • Very possible. I might have to add something about that. Thanks!

    • I feel like people are either too young or forget how miserable it was to watch a game (in non summer months) at Exhibition Stadium because of the weather.

      The only way going to an NFL game makes sense in Toronto is if they allow real tailgating, most people like this aspect better than the actual games, and as a result they are usually too drunk to care about the weather.

      • Yes on the tailgating! As for outdoor/weather related stuff, I dunno – on one hand it would suck to be sitting for 3 hours in -20 weather, on the other hand it’s colder in places like Green Bay than it is here, and they love it. Personal preference, I suppose.

  3. I want grass too, but I just don’t see it til 2018, like the Beest said. But that’s just me…

  4. It is weird that the parties would sign a 5 year extension in January 2013 (after having just completed a 5-year contract), only to scuttle the deal after one year. Surely the Bills would have understood prior to signing this extension that it wasn’t going to be as much of a windfall as the previous deal. Surely, Rogers must have understood prior to signing this extension that the Bills-in-Toronto series was not a success…. So what has changed in the interim that both sides would be looking to get out of the deal? It strikes me that there must be something more going on behind the scenes

  5. The only reason I commented in the prev post that the Bills series will still run for 4 more years until fall 2018 further delaying the grass was because of this article: http://www.torontosun.com/2014/03/05/bills-in-toronto-series-shelved-but-source-says-it-will-resume-for-four-more-years

  6. It was a great test for the Toronto market. Rogers was obviously looking for concrete data they can use in the future to bring in an NFL team and I’m sure they got lots of it. Meanwhile the Bills took their team to a major market where they got to do some business development while being overpaid for a game or two each year. Both organizations won from this.

    • Right up until people stopped buying tickets.

      • You think they’re just standing around wondering why people didn’t buy tickets? Rogers has been operating at a loss the entire time. They’re testing a product in a new market. There’s just as much to learn from a failure as there is from a success.

  7. How many season ticket’s to holder’s usually sell on places like stub hub in a baseball season? I’m very curious. Does Stoeten have season’s tickets?

  8. Bottom line is… as the Canadian Dollar falls, the monetary interest is not there. Same goes for movies filmed in Canada etc. If the Bills made marginally more than the did in Buffalo, and the Canadian dollar drops 10% so does the contribution the Bills are getting, which makes it a no brainer to cancel.

  9. Well said.

  10. Buffalo is not a winning team. And its not r team thats why ppl dont support them.

  11. Move the remaining games to the new Hamilton stadium – Tim Horton’s Field. We’ll treat them like a home team, we’ll hammer-time tailgate the neighbourhood, and kick the Argos out of the dome. I want grass now.

  12. Even though I’m a huge football fan, I just couldn’t get into watching the Bills in Toronto. Turned down free tickets a bunch of times. It just doesn’t feel like an NFL regular season game. The large crowd of neutral/disinterested fans, and the shitty surface make this series a failed experiment. If the money is essentially the same, the Bills would be much better served to stay at the Ralph.

  13. Do you really need to write a new article about grass in the RC every month? It’s spring training I’d much rather read articles about baseball.

    • The Rogers Centre is a travesty of a ballpark right now. Bringing it up continuously on DJF likely has no impact but can’t hurt the chances of Rogers taking notice. The fact they even tried to host NFL games at the Rogers Centre demonstrates how oblivious they are to the fact that it has the ambiance of a fucking funeral parlour.

    • Have you tried the internet? I think there’s lots of those on there.

  14. Would some please explain to me what the NFL has to do with getting a grass field? The NFL field us 360 feet long….is that too long?

    CFL I get…the field ends on King Street….but an NFL field fits in a baseball field so why is this an issue?

    • They move the stands around to configure the stadium for football. Don’t really think having NFL in the baseball configuration is an option — sight lines and the way the seats are angled would be weird… not that they aren’t regardless of the setup in there, I guess.

  15. Sooooo Mr. Wilson, you pay Santana and Drew and we tear up the Bills contract. Deal? Deal.

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