â€˘ A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
Buffalo, N.Y., a city in decline, has had difficulty sustaining the team. The Bills ranked in the bottom six of the NFLâ€™s franchise valuations for 2006 and 2007, the year they announced they would begin to play pre- and regular-season games in the wealthier, population-rich birthplace of actress Mary Pickford. The Billsâ€™ owner, Ralph Wilson, has said he wonâ€™t sell the franchise while he is alive, so the Toronto venture is seen as an attempt to test the market for a bid.
Several Canadian businessmen have been named as potential buyers â€“ though economic hard times have also affected Toronto. Still, recently reduced prices at Torontoâ€™s Rogers Centre begin at $99 while at the Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo they average $51 (the lowest in the NFL). And it is noteworthy that the Billsâ€™ 2009 â€śhomeâ€ť prime-time game against the New York Jets will be played in Toronto.
While nationalistic Torontonians worry that the cityâ€™s Canadian Football League team, the Argonauts, will be eclipsed by their glamorous American cousins, and many Buffalonians are unhappy about losing even a small percentage of their home schedule, the inching northward continues.
A Bills game versus the Miami Dolphins last December was Canadaâ€™s first regular-season taste of the NFL. Rumor has it that more regular-season Bills games will be played in Toronto in 2010, 2011, and 2012. At the least it could mean a time-share between gridirons â€“ at most, the Toronto Bills.