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.