The Word: Forgetting their fan base

Sunday's hapless atmosphere said it all. The Bills anticipated a big splash when they set up this eight-game Toronto Series. The environment in Buffalo's 16-3 loss yesterday was anything but. And the team now has much bigger problems than its late-season collapse, says BFR's Tyler Dunne in his weekly column...

Make it through that three-hour M. Night Shyamalan spectacle? Congratulations. You're in the minority. Everyone waited, and waited and waited for a twist, a climax, some form of compensation for wasting half a Sunday. But those bumbling Bills never sniffed success.

On Sunday, the blind girl in The Village realized "those we don't speak of" didn't even exist. On Sunday --- what many call the saddest day in Bills history --- a season officially poofed in thin air.

It had immediate implications --- the Bills need mass rebuilding yet again. And future implications --- Buffalo's gagging 16-3 loss may have been the first official step in moving the club to Canada.

Hopefully Sunday's buzz kill has Ralph and co. thinking twice about this assumed relocation to Toronto. I've seen more excitement at pickup Ultimate Frisbee games at Syracuse University. At least the five or six girlfriends/boyfriend spectators watching these games cared. J.P. Losman was as sharp and on-target after the game as he was sloppy and erratic during it, admitting to The Buffalo News afterward that "No, it didn't feel like home-field advantage. It was quiet. We didn't have the loud factor we like to have."

Hello. Red flag, Bills execs. Hello. You have fans in Western New York. Those diehards have filled Rich Stadium-turned-Ralph the past eight years game-after-game-after-game despite a hapless product. Those diehards have taken the bait on every rebuilding marketing ploy.

Up there in Toronto? Those rich guys that seemed so impressionable months ago? No, it's not the Manifest Destiny the Bills expected. The Rogers Centre looked like Congress. A smattering of Bills fans, a smattering of Dolphins fans, no true partisan shift. An overall sense of passiveness.

Hail the W.N.Y. Bills fan. He stayed home. Salute the mass mobilization of domestic Bills fans to stay home with the reprieve of a remote. Whatever Ralph Wilson says, whatever Roger Goodell says, whatever anyone says, the Buffalo Bills did lose sight of its core base. The team committed adultery on its hardcore fans – that hot chick up north was too enticing. Thankfully, the true Buffalo fans caught their spouse in the act and refused to buy the malarkey-full "regionalization" alibi.

Sunday's wretched atmosphere was the perfect reflection of this.

The temperature in Orchard Park, N.Y. Sunday crept as low as 10-degrees Fahrenheit. It was blustery, as if Mother Nature (and her legion of hard-tailgating disciples) were clanging a cow bell for a warm-weather team to come hither. Instead, the Bills were nestled inside of a 72-degree, climate-controlled stadium where fans sported button-down shirts and knitted sweaters instead of body paint and Halloween costumes.

Ode to Bills season-ticket holder Andrew Petrinex, who created a petition that asked Wilson and members of Rogers Centre to play with the roof open. That never happened of course, as the Bills willingly relinquished a homefield advantage.

Just imagine Sunday's implications if Buffalo hadn't blown games to Cleveland and San Francisco. Sunday could have had division-title drama written all over it. By playing in Toronto and closing the roof, the Bills' playoff hopes would have vanished via a self-inflicted wound.

Instead, a bad team simply lost another game.

The Rogers Centre, which lacks a formidable drainage system, remained locked down in Miami-like conditions. Players smiled and expressed pleasure about the indoor environment in the week leading up to the game --- an awkward sense of complacency. And on the dotted line, the Bills are cashing in $78 million over this eight-game Toronto Series.

Too bad the two things that matter most --- the current roster and the current fan base --- sunk to a new abyss Sunday. Bills fans are disgruntled and the team is polluted with deficiencies everywhere: quarterback play, an overpaid/underachieving line, a putrid pass rush, etc.

A sign of hope? Chief Operating Officer Russ Brandon said "everybody should be under fire in the organization" after the humiliating loss. Let's hope so. After seven losses in nine games and Sunday's slap-in-the-face to fans, the sheer health of the franchise is at stake. Whether it's Dick Jauron's job or full-scale personnel changes, the Bills must be punctual in March.

Because less and less people are caring about this team by the day.


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