Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Let's Go, Buffalo!
The Buffalo Bills will host the Miami Dolphins this Sunday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto in the first National Football League regular season game ever to be played in Canada.
Game time is 4:30pm, but we will be there long before that time. We need to gear up for such an event, and the city is now in preparation. In the National Football League, on a percentage basis, the game accounts for approximately 23 per cent.
We will be heading for the Budweiser pre-game festivities which begin at 11:00am. There are a couple of bands slated to entertain: Otis Day and the Knights, and the Flutie Brothers. Yes, the same Flutie Brothers who dominated the Canadian Football League. Memory serving me correctly, they have been hammering out the tunes for more than twenty years. The Syracuse University Marching Band will also be on hand.
Last year, I caught the Syracuse-Washington State football game at the Carrier Dome, and thoroughly enjoyed the marching band. The Buffalo Jills, the cheerleading squad, will also brighten the landscape that cold and dreary December morning.
In order to prepare the city for the event, Bills’ quarterback Trent Edwards spent several hours in Toronto last week promoting the game. He signed autographs until his fingers ached, and then a few more.
As far as the game itself is concerned, the past few weeks have not been kind to the Bills. There was excitement after the first six games, because the Bills had won five of them. The Bills were looking at all kinds of titles, and were whispered to be in the hunt for that elusive Super Bowl title. The season was unfolding like no other for the past eight years. Over that stretch, the Bills had not played in a playoff game.
Then came the massive implosion. There are many reasons for this disappointment. For the most part, the team has not executed well when it was required. Missed field goals, poor passes, fumbles, interceptions. If it is something indicative of poorly played football, the Bills showed us how to do it. As a result, they have won one game, and lost five in their last six games. Which leaves them at six and six, with only a slim chance of making the playoffs.
Players to watch from a Bills’ perspective include quarterback Trent Edwards, providing his injury last week allows him to play. Marshawn Lynch has ground out 844 yards as a back this year, with a respectable 4.1 yards per carry. Lee Evans leads the receivers with 890 yards on 49 receptions, gaining 18.2 yards per catch.
Enter the Miami Dolphins, the Bills’ opponent in Toronto. The Dolphins improved to 7-5, and are now a game ahead of the Bills. If the Bills were to knock off the Dolphins, they would both be 7-6, each with a slim chance to play after the regular season.
The Dolphins have Chad Pennington at the helm, and are led by Ronnie Brown in the backfield. Brown has carried the ball 690 yards, with a 4.1 yards per carry average, identical to the Bills’ Lynch.
Following this game, the Bills travel to New York to play Brett Favre and the Jets, and play in Denver on December 21st. They finish the regular season at home against the New England Patriots.
There is a wonderful quote on the last page of the Bills Game Day program that is given free to fans when they enter the stadium. A fan named Tony Califano was seated in Section 101, Row 1, Seat 3. The Bills had just scored a touchdown. “He ran to us in the end zone, came over and handed me the game ball.” Sort of a quiet Lambeau Leap.
The ad continues: “It’s a whole different game when you’re there.” Just ask Tony. When he went to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, near Buffalo, he never expected to leave with a part of Bills’ history. “To truly experience Bills’ football, you just have to be there.”
In our case, not in Orchard Park, but in Toronto. Please rise for the opening kickoff.