Bills' loyal fan base eroding

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:04 PM ET

As homer broadcasters go, Buffalo Bills radio voice John Murphy rarely resorts to Joe Bowen levels of excess.

This past Sunday though, Murph came close.

He likely was just caught up in the emotion of the moment, but the well-known Buffalo sportscaster made quite a statement.

After Bills kicker Rian Lindell booted the 42-yard field goal as time expired to swipe a 27-24 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Murphy erupted with the crowd.

"If you weren't here to see it, then damn it, you should have been!" Murphy boomed.

STAYED HOME

An unusually large group of Western New York and Southern Ontario football fans clearly thought otherwise.

Despite a brilliant November afternoon, the announced crowd of 63,680 at Ralph Wilson Stadium not only was the first NFL game of the season not to be a sellout, it was some 10,000 shy of a full house.

For a team that had sold out 27 of its previous 28 starts -- through good weather and bad, poor teams and putrid -- it was a bad and somewhat shocking sign.

But it doesn't end there.

Reportedly, a similar amount of tickets still are available for this Sunday's date with the San Diego Chargers, a team that should be a surefire draw given the star power of running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

FISH THE MAIN DISH

Ditto for the Bills' most reviled opponent, the Miami Dolphins, on Dec. 17, a team that historically has been an automatic sellout.

And unless the Bills do the unlikely and turn a two-game win streak to five, the toughest sell yet will be the Christmas Eve affair against the Tennessee Titans.

Predictably, the not-so-full house on Sunday has led to a mix of fear and excuses filtering out of Western New York.

The Bills schedule is top-heavy with late-season home dates this year, always a curse in a city where weather is a concern. Even when getting to the playoffs was a semi-regular thing, selling cold-weather games took a little more work in Orchard Park.

Conspiracy theorists have suggested the brutal lineup this year is a little NFL payback for owner Ralph Wilson's off-season moaning about slights to small-market teams.

The success of the Buffalo Sabres has tapped into the ticket-buying pockets as well, but does anyone really believe this isn't a football-first town?

The outcry over the local television blackout this past weekend has led to complaints that the Bills need to fill a 73,000 stadium every week.

With at least 10 teams in the league having a capacity in the 65,000 (Indy is the league low at 55,506), there is a point.

Of course, the argument loses its steam given how blindly fans have supported the Bills the past three miserable seasons.

The real answer, most likely, is that discriminating buyers finally are getting fed up with the failed promises.

Recent victories aside, as a viewing spectacle, the Bills have been rather light on sizzle. They may be an improving young team, but that line is getting old.

At 5-6, the Bills would likely have to run the table on the remaining five games to snag an AFC wild-card spot and with dates against San Diego and Baltimore, not to mention the improving New York Jets and Dolphins, that's a reach.

It doesn't help that a generation of little Buffalonians are growing up wondering what the NFL playoffs are all about. The previous time the Bills tasted the post-season was the Music City Miracle, which is coming up on seven years ago.

While it still may be early to speculate about the Bills future in Buffalo, patience, like the crowds, is starting to run thin.


Videos

Photos