All our lives we've been waiting for the National Football League.
Today we have to take a moment and wonder why.
After the most talked-about, most promoted, most hyped football game played in Toronto, all there was left at the end was a sense of ambivalence.
Who won besides the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills' bank account? Maybe Bill Parcells.
He was smart enough to stay home.
But the first National Football League game to be played in Canada ended up accomplishing what nobody really envisioned. It angered people in Buffalo. It angered people in Toronto. It cost Rogers Communications all kinds of money. And it entertained almost no one.
"We don't have a clue," said Buffalo receiver Lee Evans after the 16-3 win by the Dolphins yesterday at Rogers Centre.
He was talking about the Bills offence. He could have been talking about the promoters of the game, the good Rogers people who put out $78-million US for eight NFL games and then assaulted just about everybody's sensibilities with ridiculous prices and an introductory news conference that played the public for rubes.
He could have been talking about the stadium operators or those running a tailgate beer-stand who refused to serve two 50-plus Bills fans who failed to produce I.D.
Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
There was much talk coming in about the Bills losing a home game in December -- this game being played so late out of courtesy to the Canadian Football League -- losing a cold weather game where the team from Florida was expected to shiver itself into submission. Instead, the Bills got this: A neutral site game, where hardly anyone cheered for hardly anyone.
This had a corporate Super Bowl feel to it. A lot of people paid a lot of money to be here and then weren't sure what to do.
So being Toronto people, they did what they do at Leafs games. They sat quietly, like this was some kind of theatre. Perhaps theatre of the absurd.
"I think we had a lot of fans here," Evans said. "But sometimes you couldn't tell (if this was a home game). We didn't give them much to cheer about. We didn't get to find out how many Bills fans were here."
Last week, in cold weather, the Bills scored three points on offence. This week, inside a dome, they matched that number.
"Rock bottom," Evans called it.
It reminded me of the old Harry Neale line, edited for football: The Bills can't score at home. The Bills can't score on the road. The Bills can't score outside. The Bills can't score inside. Their failure as a team is they have to find another place and another way to play.
People paid mortgage payments for a pair of tickets to watch J.P. Losman play quarterback. That doesn't seem fair to anybody. He is Buffalo's Michael Bishop -- and before Saskatchewan let him go, you could watch for him about 25 bucks.
And the suddenly first-place Dolphins -- in a three-way tie with the Jets and New England -- aren't exactly from the Bob Griese days.
The good people at Rogers -- bless them -- announced attendance at 52,134. Some of them apparently paid. Those who attended the Metro Bowl high school championships last week were given freebies. Those who work for Rogers or the Blue Jays were informed they could have free tickets. Outside, you could have had scalpers' seats for less than $50. That makes this event dubious as a way of impressing the NFL.
What also was evident was that the emotional draw that makes sport special -- being here for your team, caring, being passionate -- loses its appeal in what ostensibly seemed like a neutral-site game. When I asked a friend in the stands to rate the atmosphere, he called it a D-.
That isn't good.
This doesn't make the CFL any more or less appealing in this city -- although having a semi-full stadium, by whatever means, is more interesting than having it half empty. The Argos in Toronto are what they are.
That isn't about to change. This kind of series of games, with one pre-season and one regular-season game now over, seems to establish next to nothing.
Is Toronto closer to the Bills? No. Is it closer to the NFL? No. History was made yesterday: We just don't know what any of it meant.