Thursday, December 29, 2011

Back to the Ralph

I returned to Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time in a while on Saturday for the Bills' game with the Denver Broncos. You know how the game turned out, I figure. But I did want to make a few quick observations from the fan's point of view:

* Traffic problem? What traffic problem? It took 30 minutes to make a 30-minute drive from Buffalo to the Erie Community College parking lot. I think it takes me about, oh, 30 minutes to make the same drive on a Wednesday in June. It was funny to see the main lots, charging $25, so empty, while the lower-cost secondary lots were relatively full.

* It's never easy to pick up the biggest price-gouging item at the concession stands. My personal winner, though, was the soft pretzel with cheese. Six dollars. Ouch. By that standard, the $3.50 hot chocolate was a bargain.

* I wonder if Tim Tebow is already in the NFL Shop's Pro Bowl for moving merchandise. The single most popular jersey worn by fans to the game ... IN BUFFALO ... was Tebow's. There were a few other Broncos' shirts for Champ Bailey and John Elway, but Tebow was about a 5-to-1 winner.

On the Buffalo side, there were a variety of shirts worn -- a Fitzpatrick here, a Stevie Johnson there, a few Fred Jacksons, one Merriman, some Jim Kellys. That might point out one of the Bills' problems -- a few more stars not only would move merchandise, they might help the team's record.

* I was about 20 rows up on the Broncos' side of the field, and I'm told fans have developed a new habit this year -- standing constantly. When the fans in the first few rows stand, the fans behind them stand, and the fans behind them stand, and so on. My first thought was, I'm getting a little old for this. My second thought was, I expect this at a Rush concert, but not at the Ralph.

* Speaking of fan behavior, one traditional action remains in effect during Bills' games. When fans (and there aren't that many of them, for the record) need to yell something really insulting at opposing players, sometimes no doubt fueled by alcohol, they still rely on an old standby -- homosexual slurs. Now, remember, the opposing players in question can't hear the insult from a couple of dozen rows up, so all those fans are doing are revealing a lot about their own character.

NFL games are always a great spectacle, and this one was plenty of fun to watch from the Bills' standpoint. And by Bills' standards, everyone was relatively well-mannered -- meaning I didn't see any fights or vomiting. But with fewer than 50,000 fans on hand and temperatures in the 30's, it wasn't a typical game by any means. I'm glad I went, but a Disney-like atmosphere it's not.

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