The second regular-season NFL game in Canada had a chance to showcase Canada in a positive light, thanks to national TV exposure.
Last year's Buffalo Bills in Toronto NFL game was offered regionally on CBS, to western New York state (Buffalo) and southern Florida (Miami). But this year's Bills in Toronto matchup offered the perk of a team in the top market in the United States (New York Jets), and a national audience, albeit for those who get the NFL Network on cable as well as the Buffalo area and New York City through over-the-air simulcasts of the NFL Network coverage.
There were beautiful skyline shots of downtown Toronto. The weather was dry, and though the roof of the Rogers Centre was closed, you still saw plenty of the majestic skyline, topped off by the world's (for the moment) tallest free-standing structure.
The announcers did share some about Toronto: Color commentator Matt Millen talked on and on about the restaurant in the CN Tower. Play-by-play announcer Bob Papa talked about Nathan Phillips Square skating rink. Then Millen made a crack about a square skating rink. Millen clearly misheard Papa but no one corrected him.
There wasn't anything that I followed on the Bills being in Toronto, playing a game outside the country, the CFL and its Toronto Argonauts. Not even that much of a reference to be in a foreign land during the broadcast.
I was hoping for more local colo(u)r and flavo(u)r, even the attempts to tailgate or show the fans dressed up just outside the stadium. Nothing. I was disappointed mostly since I thought the NFL and its NFL Network would want to showcase Toronto.
This was only the second NFL regular-season game ever played in Canada, and it was treated almost as if they were in San Diego.
The crowd was into the game. They did show enthusiastic fans sitting at the top of the rafters, so that was a good sign.
I didn't hear the call from CBS for last year's game (saw it in a bar), but the excitement of playing a game in a foreign country seemed lost on the folks at the NFL Network.
There was one somewhat shining light at the end of the game.
At the end of the game, sideline reporter Jason La Canfora interviewed New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis:
La Canfora: "How did you like it up here in Toronto? Was it a pretty cool experience for you guys coming up to Canada?"
Revis: "Yeah, this is my first time going outside the country. Got my passport for the first time, so it was a good time."
See, there was a story involving Canada that was relevant. A professional football player's first time with a passport. Those players who have been in the U.S. college International Bowl (also held at Rogers Centre in Toronto) may have had the same experience, but established professional players are more likely to travel outside the U.S. Too bad the NFL Network didn't work harder to find the easy story.