Dreams come with nightmares

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:38 AM ET

The dream lives.

The NFL came to Toronto last night.

At kickoff, flashbulbs popped. Music exploded. When Bills quarterback Trent Edwards hit Robert Royal with a touchdown pass in the first quarter, a big football crowd hollered. In the press box, about a dozen Canadian football writers were so impressed they spent half-time watching the CFL game.

When Ben Roethlisberger threaded a touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes there were oohs. Leodis McKelvin brought folks out of their seats. All of which was nice.

Somewhere Ted Rogers -- owner of the Rogers Centre, and the man who brought the Bills' exhibition to Toronto -- was smiling. Good thing, because there have been times in this enterprise when there wasn't much to smile about.

Before buying into this talk about bringing an NFL team to Toronto it should be remembered dreams also come with nightmares.

In other words, be careful for what you wish. There are expectations and then there is reality.

A Bills game in Toronto is not like the Bills in Buffalo. For instance, enjoy tailgating? Not in Toronto. Yesterday there was a beer tent selling beer for $6 a pint. Anyone trying to light up the bumper bar-b would set off alarm calls at fire stations all over town. Popping a Coors within city limits in this country is considered one of the deadly sins. Security guys talking into their armpits surrounded the stadium like the Russian army on a Georgian holiday. A CFL protest group led by Sterling Halliday drew about 20 supporters -- and 13 cops.

Talk about your No Fun League.

Sure, you get an extra down. You also get a lighter bank account. It is still possible to see an Argos game with the family for the face value of one of the tickets to last night's do. We already have one team people can't afford to watch. Is it really possible this city needs another one just so fans can have a home team on the Pro-line card on which to lose their weekly paycheque? Just wondering.

Also, we are talking about the Bills. Just what this city needs, another team that can find a playoff spot about as often as my wife can find something in her purse. People hear NFL and think Super Bowl, Brett Favre, the Patriots, Cowboys and Peyton Manning. What Toronto is most likely to get is what most NFL cities get. A team near .500, unless we're really unlucky and end up with some facsimile of the Detroit Lions.

Of course it's not like the night was a complete failure for Rogers and proponents of getting an NFL team. For instance, that CFL rally fizzled like an Argonaut offensive drive. During a stroll around the Rogers Centre and along Front St. the closest thing to a protest move in evidence were the people declining the free Irish Spring body wash.

But there was plenty else to see. Buffalo Jills, for instance. It is like they say: In the NFL, everything is ... ahh, uhmmm. Bigger? But, I (blush) digress.

To hear promoters tell it, this was the toughest ticket in town. It was. But you had to be a scalper to understand why. They were in tough. "Cheap, cheap tickets! Cheap!," pleaded one left holding a fistful. Maybe fans weren't as gullible as Rogers' advisers thought they might be when they tried to sell an August exhibition as if it were a real NFL experience. For instance, Edwards was done partway through the second quarter. Ditto Roethlisberger.

Officially this was supposed to be a sellout. Attendance was announced at 43,484. Unofficially, many got free passes. Show me a Rogers employee and I'll show you someone who had access to free tickets. An exaggeration? Okay. Maybe. But so was that radio ad telling people tickets were going fast. "Half-price tickets!" yelled the scalper. Gotta admire his optimism.

Noted Halliday of his protest movement: "We got a lot of media coverage so we've made an impact already." But they were left protesting well up Blue Jays Way -- where only a small part of the Toronto populace noticed. You know, kind of like an Argos game day. Some things never change.


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