Torontonians give Bills a warm welcome

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

TORONTO — Outside of the Rogers Centre, about a block down Bremner Blvd, about an hour before kickoff., music played, people drank beer and danced on mud.

Kind of Grey Cup-like, if you want to know the truth and very Canadian.

And kind of fun.

This was Game 2 of the much-discussed, much-debated, overly-analyzed Bills in Toronto series and frankly Game 1 was a stinker and Thursday night’s Buffalo Bills-New York Jets game was not.

Last year, the stadium lacked atmosphere, seemed too corporate and distant, didn’t feel like football at all.

There was so little noise the seats could have been filled by manequins.

Not Thursday. Thursday, almost every of the apparently sold out house was filled. Fans waived towels. Fans made noise, even at times when they weren’t instructed by the scoreboard to do so, which was very un-Toronto-like of them.

It didn’t exactly feel like a Bills home game, but it was a QEW drive closer that it certainly was a year ago.

If last year was dismal failure, this was moderate success.

If last year a was game devoid of action and emotion, this game offered a whole lot of everything, highlighted by a heavyweight matchup between Terrell Owens and Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, with defensive player winning on the judge’s scorecards.

If last year was overpriced, the price came down. If last year was a once-in-a-lifetime I’m never going to waste my money on this crap, this year was reason to consider next year’s game.

All this with a proviso: This is Toronto. We are quiet people. Atmosphere is for Yankee Stadium.

Here at Rogers Centre, we behave. Yet Thursday night, was almost rowdy by our own drab Toronto standards, And Canadian to the point of having our favourite Toronto band, Barenaked Ladies, doing more than fine with the American national anthem. Which a lot of famous people have botched over the years, just not Thursday.

If you love football, like I do, you love all kinds of football. I watch the Junior Argos in the summer, and CIS football in the fall, and Canadian Football League games right to the end of November and every National Football League Sunday. I consume all of it. And when you break it all down, the size of the field, the number of downs, the price of the tickets, the diffterence in all the rules, there is a one reason why I prefer the National Football League to all other brands.

The same reason I prefer Broadway to Off-Broadway.

The same reason I’d rather watch the Maple Leafs than the Marlies.

It’s the actors, it’s the show, it’s the whole production.

The athletes are better. Bigger. Faster. Stronger. Able to do more with less room.

You see it from the same seats we watch the Argos from. You see how even a neophyte quarterback like Mark Sanchez or a run-of-the-mill quarterback like Ryan Fitzpatrick compel you more than Kerry Joseph ever could, even when he won the Grey Cup in this very same stadium wearing green.

You see it when you watch Braylon Edwards. He is one of those athletes you can’t take your eyes off. He is like too many NFL wide receivers. He can be remarkable one minute, annoying the next.

In the first half Thursday, he was both. He dropped a wide-open, long-bomb, sure-thing touchdown pass and came back several plays later and lept high, stretched out one arm, pulled the ball down, fell backwards, and still managed to stay in bounds. He made that catch before he dove, stretched his arms out again, and scored the Jets first touchdown of the night.

One of the real problems with this Bills In Toronto series, aside from all the obvious problems, is that it features the Bills. The truth is, we already have enough lousy teams in Toronto.

Not sure we need another one. The Bills played four quarters in Toronto last year and failed to score a touchdown. Their first Canadian touchdown came from Marshawn Lynch, who apparently is a better international runner than he is one domestic soil.

At least one Bill will want to come back to Toronto. After all, you have to build this strange idea of a build this series, one down and one beer at a time.


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