Monday, September 22, 2014

San Diego Chargers 22 at Buffalo Bills 10 - September 21, 2014


After the ridiculous publicity that resulted from my "Bills are the drunkest fans in the NFL" comment in my book, I knew I had to revisit Ralph Wilson Stadium to find out if my initial impressions were accurate. Quick answer: yes.

With all my other weekend trips and various commitments this fall, I only had two weekends to choose from in which the Bills were home: this past weekend with the Chargers in town, and November 30th against the Browns. Not much of a decision, especially as I had seen the Browns beat the Bills last season and September is significantly nicer than November weather-wise. With both the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and University at Buffalo Bulls playing at home on Saturday, I made it a mini-road trip (I decided on UB).

My buddy Eddie was driving up from NYC and would be driving back after the game, so I had him pick me up at the airport after I dropped off my rental car. We didn't get to the stadium until just after noon and from there, it took about 45 minutes to pick up the tickets at will call due to some problem with the TicketMaster system (perhaps my name is mud in Buffalo). I hate paper tickets but in this case, it might have been wiser to just print them out at home and get in half an hour earlier. By the time I had navigated the security lines and crowded concourse to my seat in the west end zone, it was time for kickoff. I didn't have any time to tour the renovated facility, so I'll be back next year. The seat had decent views but the rope that holds the net behind the goal posts was in my way, ruining what might otherwise be a nice action shot of Eddie Royal making a catch.



Anyway, it was soon obvious that those around me were plastered, and dicks as well. Despite being in row 23, they stood up with no one in front of them. People in rows 24 and 25 asked them to sit down but they wouldn't. The usher came by, but he couldn't do much. I'm not against standing during big plays but standing continuously when the ball is at the other end of the field and nobody is in front of you is a douche move. So is falling over drunk in the middle of the first quarter and spilling your beer all over the place. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right - it was shaping up to be a long afternoon. Fortunately, Eddie had two seats next to him upstairs at midfield, so after one quarter, I headed there, but not before I snapped a pic of Phillip Rivers.



The view from the top was nicer and the area is mostly populated by long-suffering season ticket holders (i.e. older) who had outgrown the need to get sloshed by 1 pm, thus making it easier to concentrate on the game. Peter of the Ultimate Sports Road Trip was coincidentally just five rows behind us and he joined for the second half, keeping me amused with his tales of Buffawoe. The weather turned out to be sunny and clear for most of the afternoon, quite a difference from the rainy forecast that resulted in me wearing a heavy coat like an idiot.



To add insult to fashion injury, the Bills lost 22-10 in a game that will not be remembered for anything other than a lot of injuries (Chargers RB Danny Woodhead broke his leg and is out for the season) and a lot of Buffalo penalties. E.J. Manuel (below) was ineffective and inaccurate, leading many to think he is already a bust. I'd give him a few more games but he certainly was awful on this day.



Your final score is below. There was a lot of optimism in Buffalo before the game as the Bills had started 2-0, but it was stupid to think that the Chargers would lose here, even as a west coast team playing an early game. They had just beaten Seattle! By the final gun, pessimism ruled supreme, even though the Bills hold the AFC East lead and would host San Diego if the season ended today. Of course, there are still 13 games to go, and Buffalo will be in tough to make the playoffs, but it should be a spirited fight.



Notes

The Bills are 0-5 when I see them live.  I plan to attend the game in Oakland on December 21 so keep that in mind if you are a betting man.

At halftime, Andre Reed was honoured with his Ring of Excellence from the Hall of Fame. Former teammates Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, and Thurman Thomas were also on the field. Many fans wanted them to suit up after the Bills anemic first-half performance.



Next Up

This was my first NFL game since the Super Bowl and it just wasn't the same experience as during my trip. When I was visiting every stadium last year, I felt excitement before each game; on this occasion it was just annoyance at the ticket snafu, the slow security line, the drunkards, and the Bills playing like garbage. The novelty has worn off and I can see why others might find going to an NFL game an unappealing proposition. I don't think that quite yet, but I realize that without a new venue or seeing one of the Toronto teams on the road, there is not much point in going to games. I don't know if I will even bother with the Giants or Jets this season;  the costs are simply not worth the product on the field. Going forward, all of my trips will have to include at least one new venue or the Leafs or Blue Jays in a road venue in which I have yet to see them. That will be the case next month when I visit Minneapolis and TCF Bank Stadium where the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Vikings play on back-to-back days. Before that though, check back regularly as I'll be writing about the problems in the NFL, the end of the baseball season, and a few other hot topics.

Best,

Sean

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