Maybe Buffalo Bills fans will finally show a little love for Toronto.
The Bills won for the first time in the regular season in Toronto, posting a 23-0 shutout of the Washington D.C. NFL team at Rogers Centre.
Buffalo is now in a first-place tie with the New England Patriots at 5-2. The Bills are now 4-0 at home, 3 in Buffalo and 1 in Toronto.
This is the 4th year of the 5-year contract, so 2012 will have the last regular-season game (and pre-season game) under the deal. Even though Buffalo won in Toronto, its fans might want teams to rotate playing in Canada's largest city.
Fox thought enough of the Toronto game to bring in its #1 crew. Thom Brennaman (filling in for Joe Buck), Troy Aikman, and Pam Oliver all made the trip to Canada.
Brennaman's last trip to Toronto might have been June 2004, if he wasn't working for Fox that weekend, as his former employer, the Arizona Diamondbacks, made its only visit to Toronto. Brennaman did make trips to Montréal for games with Arizona, Chicago Cubs, and Cincinnati Reds. Major network broadcasters don't normally make this kind of trip.
The #1 crew usually goes to a large segment of the audience. This game was one of two late games on Fox on a CBS doubleheader Sunday (meaning Fox stations only received 1 game), going to about 23% of the country, including Buffalo, Dallas, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington.
Canadian TV viewers saw the game either on City TV affiliates nationwide, Rogers Sportsnet East, or Fox 29 from Buffalo.
Last year, Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije was in the spotlight as the Canadian playing for the other team. Idonije was from Manitoba.
This year, Washington free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe got that spotlight. Atogwe was coming off a knee injury, but started for the D.C. team.
Atogwe is from Windsor, Ontario, barely in Canada, true, but a lot closer to Toronto than Manitoba.
Fox came prepared for ways to showcase Toronto. I didn't see all of the tidbits, and the sound wasn't on most of the game. But here is what I personally observed:
The opening shot looked like it came from the ferry coming back from the islands back to the mainline with the CN Tower in prominence. This was a view I have seen a few times in person.
Brennaman and Aikman talked about the great weather with Brennaman wondering why the roof wasn't open. Rogers Centre is very fussy about not opening the roof past a certain point in the fall, regardless of the weather. This was the earliest NFL game in the series. Rogers won't open the roof for the CFL Argonauts, but since the city is in a showcase with this game, an exception could have been made.
We saw several overhead shots of downtown and the CN Tower. Brennaman and Aikman had fun with Casa Loma. I didn't make out all of what they said, but it sounded like they were joking about staying there before the game. They showed off the ring of honorees that surrounds Rogers Centre.
Out of one break, we saw Wayne Gretzky's bar, just up the street from the Rogers Centre, and the Hockey Hall of Fame. Again, the sound was off but Brennaman made some mention to Gretzky and Cincinnati. Cincinnati was the site of Gretzky's first hat trick when Gretzky was with Edmonton in the WHA.
We saw a kid riding a buffalo in some family-friendly setup near the stadium; more overhead downtown shots, and one great nighttime picture of the lit-up CN Tower that maybe was shot down Yonge Street.
They showed off a flashback of Mark Rypien winning the Super Bowl MVP crown in 1992. Rypien won the game for Washington, Buffalo's 2011 opponent in Toronto. Rypien is the only Canadian to win the Super Bowl MVP trophy.
Rypien is the cousin of the late Rick Rypien, who died as a member of the Winnipeg Jets in August, but played in the NHL only for the Vancouver Canucks.
I spent part of the game with rabid Buffalo Bills fans at a Chicago bar. I wanted to get a sense of true-blue Bills fans. They were unhappy with the lack of excitement from the crowd. They were unhappy that in the series, the fans aren't necessarily rooting for Buffalo, and didn't like going 0-3.
Here at CanadianCrossing.com, we remember back to the Expos playing in Puerto Rico and feeling horrible about that experience. So we do have sympathy. But we like the idea of having a NFL game in Canada each year.
Having a rotation of teams, and maybe a rotation of cities with cheaper tickets. One issue with the complaint of the lack of enthusiasm from the fans stems from the people who pay a lot of money for seats aren't as likely to get excited.
For those looking for the obligatory "players had to get their passports at the last minute story," check out this gem from The Washington Post. Have to like the part where because of the NFL lockout, the team couldn't advise its draft picks to get passports. The draft picks knew that the D.C. team was playing in Canada, and weren't told by other adults that they needed a passport.