Bills no hit as losses pile up at home away from home

Sun Dec 1, 2013 10:15pm EST
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Buffalo Bills made their annual trip to Toronto on Sunday but despite appearances by the Beach Boys and Toronto's infamous crack-smoking mayor, the NFL again failed to generate any buzz north of the border.

A 34-31 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons added another line to a dismal record for the Bills at their home away from home.

The yearly pilgrimage north has failed to live up to the hype in Toronto where the Bills are a miserable 1-5 in their domed home, their lone victory coming against the Washington Redskins in 2011.

But for a small market franchise desperately trying to expand its fan base, the Toronto field trip is as much about dollars and cents as it is about wins and losses.

Like other cities in the Rust Belt, Buffalo has watched businesses flee and population shrink, and the original five-year $78 million deal signed in 2008 to lease one regular season game to their northern neighbors has been viewed as necessary to the franchise's long-term survival in the Queen City.

In January, Canadian communications giant Rogers Communications and the Bills renewed their agreement for another five years leaving Buffalonians to fret that their beloved Bills are simply laying the ground work to do what so many other hard-hit businesses have done - leave town.

While cosmopolitan Toronto, now North America's fourth largest city, has had long flirted with the idea of an NFL franchise to stand alongside its NHL, NBA and MLB teams, the city's support of American gridiron has been tepid.

The NFL has never quite received the warm embrace it expected in the Great White North, Sunday's contest attracting just 38,969 customers, leaving large swaths of empty seats despite deeply discounted ticket prices.   Continued...

Toronto city mayor Rob Ford in attendance at the game between the Buffalo Bills and the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at the Rogers Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports