TORONTO — The Bills played the Colts Thursday night in the fourth instalment of the Bills Toronto Series. The crowd was once again relatively quiet and relatively neutral, and for the fourth consecutive time, not every seat at Rogers Centre was filled.
And so we’re all ready to get our panties in a knot once again, or strengthen a knot that has only been twisted deeper since Ralph Wilson and the late Ted Rogers originally tied it when they announced this series on Jan. 30, 2008.
That was 933 days ago, and the series has yet to receive a truly positive review by a single correspondent not employed by Rogers Communications, which infamously paid $78 million dollars — nearly 10 percent of the team’s overall worth, according to Forbes — for this eight-game array of mediocrity.
We can all agree that the series has been a failure. The crowds continue to be stale, the tailgating parties continue to be non-existent and the ticket prices continue to be too high, despite Rogers’ attempts to soften the blow by lowering them in consecutive years.
What I don’t understand is why this botched series is being connected to the NFL’s potential future in the city of Toronto. The two things do not go hand-in-hand.
I should apologize now to both of my regular readers, because I’ve said this time and again, but the people of Toronto aren’t interested in a bad foreign team playing overpriced exhibition games in their city. Football in Toronto isn’t a novelty — the CFL’s Argonauts play 10 or more home games per year here and the Bills are a 90-minute drive away.
There is very little appeal to these games to Torontonians, but that doesn’t mean Toronto isn’t a city that is well-suited to one day have its own team. The fifth largest market in North America would embrace a team with “Toronto” on its jersey.
Anything short of that, and this is the best you’ll get. Stop being surprised by the reception.
Barring a work stoppage, this series expires after the 2012 season, which is a bad thing for the Bills and a good thing for football fans north of the 49th parallel. That’s because it’s highly unlikely the marriage between Rogers and the Bills continues beyond that. The two sides have not been negotiating an extension and — this is just speculation — Rogers can’t be thrilled with the way things have turned out.
It would make very little financial sense for Rogers to continue the series, unless it gets a large discount the second time around.
That will once again make Toronto a free agent. It’ll also cost the Bills money — they’re making significantly more money off Toronto games than games at Orchard Park. Eventually, Ralph Wilson will die and the Bills will essentially become a free agent themselves.
When that happens, the wheels will undoubtedly be in motion for a move to Toronto or Los Angeles.
It’s sad, but from a financial standpoint, the Bills — as well as the Jacksonville Jaguars for that matter — aren’t carrying their weight in North America’s most powerful professional sports league.
Toronto has the corporate presence to support its own team, so does Los Angeles. Right now, we’re delaying inevitability.
There’s no room for Ma and Pa operations in the NFL.
Unless they’re based in Green Bay.