The League

Michael Kun
Author

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

Don't forget L.A.

CLICK TO REACT Facebook

So, the Bills might be moving to Toronto. Or, to put it more accurately, the Bills might be considering the possibility of exploring an interest in thinking about a possible move to Toronto.

Not living in or near Buffalo, and not being a Bills fan, I have to admit I am surprised that I am still bothered by this. Putting aside any concern that this might be nothing more than a negotiating ploy to gain some leverage with Buffalo or the state of New York on a new lease or a new stadium or whatever, the Bills belong in Buffalo. But, as much as you and I might dislike it, relocation of teams has a long history in pro football.

Even before they played in Los Angeles, the Rams played in Cleveland. (Pat yourself on the back if you knew that. Pat yourself a little more gently if you are old enough to remember the Cleveland Rams.)

And before St. Louis and Arizona, the Cardinals played in Chicago. And the Bears used to play in Decatur (as the Decatur Staleys). And the Chiefs used to play in Dallas (as the Dallas Texans). And the Redskins used to play in Boston. And so on. And so on.

So relocating the Bills wouldn't be anything novel. And we can all understand why the Bills and the NFL would consider a move to Toronto. Toronto is a cosmopolitan city that has supported the CFL's Argonauts well for years. The city has generally supported baseball's Blue Jays (two world championships) and the NBA's Raptors (even when they wore the uniforms with the cartoon dinosaurs on them). And fans in Toronto can always be counted on to support the NHL's Leafs, even if their nickname is misspelled. (The word you are looking for is "Leaves," gentlemen.)

Would Toronto support the NFL? Absolutely. Vancouver might not. Edmonton might not. Saskatchewan likely wouldn't. (Which is not a knock on Saskatchewan, but a realistic consideration of the difficulty they would have filling a stadium every other week at NFL prices.)

But Toronto? Absolutely. Does that mean that the Bills should pack up and move to Toronto, or the NFL should permit it? Well, that's a different question, isn't it?

Unlike St. Louis and Cleveland and Baltimore, whose teams have left in the past few decades, if the Bills were to leave Buffalo, there would seem to be little chance that the NFL would place another franchise in Buffalo. Ever. So, the NFL would have to be prepared to abandon fans who have been committed to the franchise for decades, and to leave them with no hope of seeing the NFL in their town again.

Yes, Toronto is relatively close to Buffalo, geographically. (About 100 miles.) But it's not so close that you should expect a huge number of fans to drive to Buffalo for home games. (And if you were expecting fans from Buffalo to fill the stadium in Toronto, what would be the point of moving the team? To increase gasoline sales?)

Sure, some Buffalo fans will become fans of the Toronto Bills. But many won't. Is the NFL willing to make that trade? If it makes sense from a pure business standpoint, it would almost be foolish for the NFL not to consider moving the Bills to Toronto.

But they shouldn't. And I'll tell you why. If the NFL is going to allow one of its franchises to relocate, there is one and only one destination that it should consider: Los Angeles. The second largest city in the country. The second largest television market in the country. Los Angeles deserves a team before any other city, in the U.S. or outside the U.S. Now, I can't pretend to be unbiased about this. I happen to live in Los Angeles. (Let the commenters start poking fun at me and my hometown starting... now!)

I can tell you that if an NFL team were relocated to L.A., the city would support it enthusiastically. Maybe that wasn't always the case, but Los Angeles supports its pro sports teams. Try to drive a mile in Los Angeles without seeing a Lakers bumper sticker, or a Dodgers cap. You can't do it. Try to find an empty seat at a Lakers game, or a Dodgers game, or an Angels or Ducks game. It's hard to do, even in a down economy.

(Okay, I'm leaving the Clippers and Kings out, but there's good reason to leave them out.) If there's going to be any relocation, let's give Los Angeles back its NFL team. Then we can start talking about Toronto, or London, or anywhere else that you fancy.

But before we do any of that, I'd rather see the Bills stay in Buffalo. And you should, too. The fans have supported that team for decades, through thick and thin, as they say. Anyone who's lived through a team leaving town can tell you the hole it leaves. Just ask Colts fans about the night the Mayflower vans took their team away in 1983. (I was living in Baltimore at the time, and can tell you that it is still a surreal nightmare.)

Or ask Browns fans about Art Modell moving the team (ironically) to Baltimore. It's miserable losing your team. As football fans, we shouldn't wish that experience on other football fans.


(On a completely unrelated note, my cousin Rob Ianello has been named the interim head coach at Notre Dame. When we were 5 or 6 years old, Rob wanted to be a football coach. Not a football player, but a coach. Now, Rob may get to coach Notre Dame in a bowl game in a few weeks. I know that Notre Dame is looking for a "name" coach to replace Charlie Weis, but I'll keep my fingers crossed that they give Rob the job. If you ever looked at what he's done at Wisconsin and Notre Dame, you'll see that it's just a matter of time before some smart athletic director hands him a program.)

By Michael Kun  |  December 2, 2009; 11:11 AM ET  | Category:  Buffalo Bills Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Bengals, maybe | Next: Toronto Parlay

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Fantasic blog Mike!
I have lived in Buffalo my whole life and have been a season ticket holder for the last 6 years (not the best of times). I can honestly say if the Bills do move to Toronto - myself and many other people in the area will never watch the NFL again.. Moving our beloved team would just prove that the NFL is all about the DIRTY DOLLAR and not about the sport or the fans who support it. Honestly, all the die-hard fans in Buffalo, and other cities but especially Buffalo, who have suffered over the past 10 years or longer do not deserve to be treated like this.

Posted by: chrislewek | December 2, 2009 5:55 PM

I live in Los Angeles too, and don't think the city cares ENOUGH about football. The Raiders and Rams struggled to sell out even in good years. They've lost three current pro teams, the Chargers, Rams and Raiders. And they've lived sans-football for well over a decade.

As recently as last Saturday, the UCLA/USC rivalry game failed to sell out the 110,000 seat coliseum. Sure they're having "subpar" seasons, but could you imagine ANY Penn State or Michigan rivalry game not selling out? (They both have bigger stadiums and FAR smaller cities).

The Dodgers had 2009 playoff tickets available DAY OF GAME, not resold tickets, actual face-value from-the-Dodgers tickets. I know, I was shopping.

On Sundays in Los Angeles, bars are flooded with even Bears, Patriots, Vikings...even Chiefs fans! Football takes a certain level of passion that Southern California doesn't have. Look at the Chargers! The FIRST PLACE Chargers narrowly avoided a black-out this Sunday by buying up their own tickets at the last minute. That, and Charger fans don't even cheer at the right times. Whatevs.

Los Angeles is just not a "football" community. There's a certain level of crowd-participation, tailgating and interest that this city just can't muster.

Posted by: horace1 | December 3, 2009 3:30 AM

I live in Los Angeles too, and don't think the city cares ENOUGH about football. The Raiders and Rams struggled to sell out even in good years. They've lost three current pro teams, the Chargers, Rams and Raiders. And they've lived sans-football for well over a decade.

As recently as last Saturday, the UCLA/USC rivalry game failed to sell out the 110,000 seat coliseum. Sure they're having "subpar" seasons, but could you imagine ANY Penn State or Michigan rivalry game not selling out? (They both have bigger stadiums and FAR smaller cities).

The Dodgers had 2009 playoff tickets available DAY OF GAME, not resold tickets, actual face-value from-the-Dodgers tickets. I know, I was shopping.

On Sundays in Los Angeles, bars are flooded with even Bears, Patriots, Vikings...even Chiefs fans! Football takes a certain level of passion that Southern California doesn't have. Look at the Chargers! The FIRST PLACE Chargers narrowly avoided a black-out this Sunday by buying up their own tickets at the last minute. That, and Charger fans don't even cheer at the right times. Whatevs.

Los Angeles is just not a "football" community. There's a certain level of crowd-participation, tailgating and interest that this city just can't muster. It's that...je ne sais quoi... that small cities like Green Bay can "fill a stadium every week at NFL prices". In LA, the prices would be even higher, the experience would cater to the novelty, ignorant, luxury fan who's there because it's the place to be seen. It's not a football town.

Posted by: horace1 | December 3, 2009 3:34 AM

Yawn. How much longer until spring training starts?

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 3, 2009 8:16 AM

The LA Jaguars aren't enough, we need the LA Bills too? If the Bills are going to move, Toronto seems to more logical destination. Sure many Buffalo fans might not follow the team, but the Bills already have fans in Toronto even only playing there once a season.

Posted by: thurdl01 | December 3, 2009 8:28 AM

Mike - you are wrong about Canadian fans not coming to Buffalo. At any given game, estimates are that 15% of the fans in the stadium are from Southern Ontario. They like the tail-gaiting and blue-collar fun that a Buffalo Bills game provides. None of that in Toronto, that's for sure. A move to Toronto would represent the final nail of corporate death in the coffin of the NFL. Jerry Jones will have won. $350 tickets. $20 a beer, $50 pizzas. When that happens everywhere, the NFL will deserve to die.

Posted by: pgr88 | December 3, 2009 8:32 AM

Agree with the comment regarding LA's lack of support for teams (the same is true of Miami to a great extent - transient population, nice weather, and better distractions on a weekend afternoon). You might also remember that even when the Raiders were good, ABC refused to give them a home game on Monday Night Football because of the constant fear that the 2nd largest TV market would be blacked out on a Monday night since the Raiders regularly couldn't sell out the Coliseum. Which also points out that by having a regularly non-selling out team in a market, Sunday doubleheaders would be regularly not shown. Another bad idea from the business side in the 2nd largest market in the country.

Posted by: Rob63 | December 3, 2009 9:25 AM

Lot of points here:

--the Raiders had trouble selling out a crumbling old 100k+ seat stadium. Big deal. The new stadium in City of Industry won't be that big. It will sell out every game, no problem.

--L.A. avidly supported the Rams until they made the stupid decision to move to Anaheim.

--I completely agree with Mr. Kun that the NFL needs to focus on keeping its teams in the blue-collar heartland, including Buffalo. That's where pro football started and where it is still strongest.

The Bills should stay in Buffalo. Toronto already has pro football in a well-established league, and there are other NFL teams with less tradition that are better candidates for relocation.

Posted by: acoberst1 | December 3, 2009 2:10 PM

if the bills moved to LA, who would take their place in the AFC East?

Baltimore (which is hardly North enough for the AFC north) is the first possibility I see. But who wants to let go of great divisional rivalries like Ravens/Steelers?

And who would leave the AFC West? KC, prolly, headed to the South...

but then it requires a whole reshuffling of divisional assignments.

you see the problem.

Posted by: j762 | December 3, 2009 4:19 PM

As much as Toronto would love a team for the sake of having an NFL team is in reality just a prairie mentality. This means that your city is a player in the scheme of major league sports.

Does Toronto deserve a team and if so what is it based on? Based on a corporate wish list which says if we're on the list our marketability is on the absolute top of the heap.

So far the Tororto fans appear to be like the first MLB and NBA fans in that they're not really sure what to do, say, act like, etc. It will take the city about 5 years to figure it out but that won't the biggest problem. The problem will be the fact that they're not a city of rabid fans which absolutely must have there fix. They are simply a big city that thinks (they think) that they want a team.

The fact that Los Angeles, 4 times the size of the entire regional network of Toronto doesn't guarantee an NFL team surely tells us that city size and simply wishing something doesn't make it so.

-$5.00 US to the first person to correctly identify why LA doesn't have an NFL team-.

Incidentally, a little known fact relative to the comment of Vancouver (or Edmintun) supporting an NFL team (probably not) I believe it stated. Fully 40% (31,200.) fans that hold season tickets to the Seattle Seahawks are from Vancouver and make the 120 mile trek every weekend. This is only season tickets, if you add casual drive ins you can add another 8,000.

My comment is not to suggest that Vancouver, not Toronto deserves an NFL team but to state that Toronto believes in some inherent right to be an NFL golden child (we're big time and so we must deserve it). The fan base is clearly not there to adequately sustain one. The numbers simply don't support it.

Get over yourself already Toronto and start working toward a fan base rather than an aritificial inherent right to something you know nothing about.
JF

Posted

Posted by: jfirth1 | December 4, 2009 12:30 AM

The most popular team in any sport in LA is the Mexican national soccer team.

A franchise in the Mexican soccer league would be extremely successful in LA and I'm surprised the Mexicans haven't thought of it.

Posted by: corco02az | December 4, 2009 6:32 AM

Um, Corco02az, the Mexican soccer league DOES have a version its most successful team in L.A. already, Chivas USA in Major League Soccer. It's a middle of the road MLS team (has made the playoffs but never advanced) with middle of the road fan support (almost never sells out the Home Depot Center) in a young middle of the road (by world standards) professional league.

Posted by: nvamikeyo | December 4, 2009 7:04 AM

Taleb Nicholas Nassim already outlined this in his great book, "The Black Swan". He explains that the NFL intentionally keeps a team out of L.A. so that any owner can blackmail a city into building a new Sportspalast, or else we'll move to La-La Land. Here in Minnesota, with the worst weather in the NFL, we are already told by the Vikings ownership that the Wilf family will move to--guess where--unless a new open air stadium is built in Minneapolis.

Posted by: rrbill1 | December 4, 2009 8:45 AM

I must disclose that my family had Baltimore Colt tickets from the time the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1953 (the team was formerly the failed Dallas Texan franchise) to their ignominious exit in the middle of the night, thirty years later. The fan base of the Colts felt betrayed by the move, but I don’t believe that anyone had an inkling of how difficult it would be to get a replacement NFL franchise. The team’s former quarterback, Bert Jones, was quoted as saying: “Losing the Baltimore Colts is a small price for Baltimore to pay to get rid of Robert Irsay (the team’s owner)”. I don’t believe that Jones would have been as glib, had he known that it would be more than a dozen years before the NFL would again have a franchise in Baltimore.

Baltimore, was a city with history of successfully supporting an NFL franchise, yet it was repeatedly left as a bridesmaid at successive NFL franchise expansion weddings. The NFL expanded, placing teams into unproven markets such as Jacksonville and Charlotte. The NFL Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, was quoted, saying that Baltimore should give-up attempting to get an NFL franchise “it should build a museum or something.” Repeated snubbing made it clear to the fans and the City of Baltimore that the only way to regain an NFL franchise was to entice a team to move. It was an act of desperation that some Ravens fans, like me, are still trying to rationalize.

Mike, I agree. There is no way that the NFL will ever come back to Buffalo with an expansion franchise and there is virtually no chance that Buffalo will ever have ability to entice an existing franchise to move there. There are too many LA’s, Toronto’s etc. to compete with. Sadly, the only small market team that is safe from being moved or being used as a pawn is the Green Bay Packers. If there were a way for the Bill’s to become a publically traded not-for-profit entity, like the Green Bay Packers Corporation, it might give the City of Buffalo sufficient reassurance of a long term relationship to allow the investment in a new stadium and the requested related infrastructure; the team would be locked, in perpetuity, from moving. (The City of Green Bay has slightly more than 100,000 residents. What are the chances that the Packers would still be playing anywhere near Lambeau Field if it didn’t enjoy that unique ownership structure.) Sadly, the NFL will not allow any new teams to adopt that structure. It is not financially beneficial to its team owners to remove pawns from the board.

As for LA…, I’m not worried about its eventually getting a team. Look around the league. There are at least four teams that might, at any moment, decide to test the waters. Ultimately, LA will get its team (for a while). The question is when will they get it. Will it be AFTER Toronto, Vancouver and Saskatoon. (Saskatchewan is a province, not a city.)

Posted by: nric | December 4, 2009 1:28 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company