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Ranking NFL venues, the Stadium Journey way

bills
From time to time, you can find in your news feed some article trumping out “the best NFL stadium” or “Ranking the best and worst”. If you’re a stadium enthusiast, these will always make for interesting reads.

But in many cases, they’re also nonsense. And downright embarrassing at times, none more so than an article of this type that actually made it to the pages of USA Today this past October. Look closely and you’ll find that the misinformed writer assigned no actual scoring or metrics to his choices of what he deems to be the best, and the worst, stadium in the NFL, and everything in between. For example, NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, came in at 17th. Why, you wonder? The writer states, “My goodness is that a horrible name for a stadium, though I guess coming from a city that once had Enron Field, it could be worse.” That’s it. That’s all. So there you go.

Then there’s Stadium Journey.

If you haven’t heard of this media entity, you’re missing out. With a phalanx of writers scattered throughout North America and even beyond, the site is an aggregate of helpful and interesting information about sports venues everywhere. I have been affiliated with Stadium Journey for a number of years, keeping tabs on our sports palaces close to home, and from time to time, submitting profiles gleaned from our Ultimate Sports Road Trip travels.

stadiumjourney-193x67Stadium Journey has just released its annual rankings of the 31 NFL Stadiums and the experiences they offer. But unlike some of the write ups you stumble across, these rankings come to you thanks to the painstaking evaluation and review of writers from each of the cities that are profiled. Most of them have stellar credentials as accomplished sports travel enthusiasts, possess superior writing skills, and take the business of scoring and presenting their venue very seriously. Additionally, all the stadiums are re visited and re scored at the minimum of once every two years, so that information and data is fresh and relevant.

My contribution to this year’s roster of NFL venues and their scores is our very own Ralph Wilson Stadium. The longtime home of the Buffalo Bills landed at 19th of 31 once the scores were tallied. What places The Ralph at this level, being an aging though still (barely) functional stadium is the incredible tailgating scene, one of the absolute best in the NFL. Secondly, Buffalo’s unofficial anthem, the beloved Shout song, has endured for three decades and is as much a part of Buffalo as the chicken wing. What sunk Buffalo’s score is the location, sitting amidst 200 acres of asphalt in a manicured suburb, and the lack of access by anything other than private transportation.

And this year’s (returning) champ? Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. And why not! With a superb location on the edge of a bustling downtown core, endless pre and post game food, drink and entertainment options, a building with a retractable roof and retractable end zone wall, abundant space for tailgating, and suitable for a myriad of events far beyond 10 days of football. Indianapolis’ gleaming playpen offers exactly the template for Buffalo’s future stadium plans, and they managed to fund and build it at a comparatively reasonable cost.

So there you have it. Click on the rankings, then click through to your favorite stadium and check out everything from the food to the tailgating to the prices to the extras. It’s a fun site to visit again and again.

Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell cover the NHL Buffalo Sabres and AAA Buffalo Bisons for Artvoice


Buffalo Bills… The Most Misbehaved Fans Ever?

BillsgamedayFrom time to time, dramatic stories emerge of some horrific happening surrounding a sporting event. At Dodger Stadium, a fan wearing San Francisco Giants gear is attacked and maimed. In Europe, soccer hooliganism is legendary and infamous, and even today, stadiums are designed to cordon off “away” fans from the home team supporters.

Yet right here, in Buffalo, the community known as “The City of Good Neighbors” is getting yet another black eye, as awful video taken in the parking lot of Ralph Wilson Stadium this past Sunday, has hit several sport media blogs and has gone viral.

The video depicts a fan, dressed in Bills garb, literally setting himself on fire, while nearby people, almost all male, all wearing Bills gear, and almost all holding a cup in their hands, presumably containing alcohol, cheer the nitwit on.

Thing is, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Occurrences of fan misbehavior, with alcohol and even drug use fueling the bad acts, has become all too common on game day Sundays in Orchard Park. And it has even resulted in death.
In 2012, a drunken fan was ejected from Ralph Wilson Stadium at a night game in November. From the parking lot, he texted his brother and friends as to the post game meet up spot. Nobody heard from him again and his body was found the next day, face down in a shallow stream a half mile from the stadium.

Then in 2014, another fan decided to slide down the bannister along the upper deck of the sideline balcony. He slipped and fell more than 30 feet, severely injuring another fan who had the misfortune of being in exactly in the wrong spot when the individual hit the ground.

It gets worse. Throughout the season, the public has been deluged with stories in the sports media, most with accompanying videos, of the mayhem happening around Ralph Wilson Stadium; fans dropping off an RV and smashing a table. A couple having sex. Men binge drinking out of long funnels. A bat spin contest involving another drunk fan gone horribly wrong. And each time a video like this goes internet viral, it casts the entire community of Buffalo and Erie County in a horrible light on the national stage.

Are Buffalo fans the worst fans in the NFL when it comes to proper conduct? More on that in a bit.

But to understand the very DNA of the Bills stadium, one has to go all the way back to 1973, when a shiny new stadium then named Rich Stadium opened its doors for the very first time. From 1960 to 1972, the Bills played in a crumbling and decrepit stadium on the city’s east side. Back then, urban flight to the suburbs was in full gear, the neighborhood surrounding “The Old Rockpile” was not safe, especially with race riots going on during a very unstable societal era in our history. So when fans went out to Orchard Park for the very first time in 1973, it was a little slice of heaven.

There was a bright and new stadium in an upscale suburb, surrounded by hundreds of acres of asphalt, where people could come and bring their grills and coolers and safely tailgate and soak in the game day experience.

Tailgate they did, and then came the alcohol. Hard to believe in the era we live in today, that fans could actually carry coolers into the stadium back then. Beer, flasks, hard liquor. It all became an essential part of a day (or night) at a Bills game.

That first night game occurred in 1974, Buffalo’s debut on ABC’s Monday Night Football. The spectacle soon turned ugly, with one fan attempting to do a high wire act across the cable holding up an end zone net. There were multiple cases of fans running onto the field, and back then TV cameras lapped up such scenes, providing said hooligans their 30 seconds of fame. Dozens of fan fights broke in the stands, with green jacketed security people overwhelmed just trying to keep up. Buffalo’s national TV debut on ABC’s wildly popular Monday night show was an embarrassing one, with commentators “Dandy” Don Meredith and Howard Cosell rebuking the Buffalo fans for their poor conduct. The appalling scenes playing out that night even made it to a story in Sports Illustrated.

The in stadium violence went on an on. For decades. Bills management beefed up security, but did little to actually stem fan violence and stop miscreant fans from entering the stadium until just the past few years. Part of the charm of attending a Bills game was not only watching the action on the field, but the fights in the stands. You could set your watch to the inevitability that several melees would take place, especially in the end zone directly underneath the Bills scoreboard.

So back to the main question – are the Bills fans the worst in the NFL when it comes to fan conduct?

This is a very much subjective analysis, culled from our multiple visits to all 31 stadiums in the league, and additionally, games attended at almost 50 separate FBS division 1 college football venues. But based on those experiences, the answer has to be a definitive “Yes”.

Simply put, this sort of despicable behavior does not occur with regularity at any other NFL venue. Not in Philadelphia or Oakland, two cities most noted for their rabid fans and hostility to fans of visiting teams. At the Linc in Philly, tailgating involving open beverage containers and grills is limited to one section of the parking lots. Patrolling and controlling any bad behavior becomes much easier with a smaller footprint. Over in Oakland, several losing seasons has turned “The Black Hole” into a pretty docile place.

Looking at teams noted for their robust tailgate scene – in Green Bay, it seems like the entire state of Wisconsin descends on the small town on football Sundays. There is spirit and camaraderie in the air, fans and even kids are having fun, visitors are warmly welcomed. The entire streetscape feels more like an American Legion summer picnic. Same in Kansas City, where their newly refurbished stadium sits amidst a sea of parking, and the local folks are having fun in a well behaved manor.

Over at Houston’s NRG Stadium, the team actually has a kids area with bounce houses, other rides and a play area to make the tailgate scene family friendly. Guest relations associates with the Texans front office ride around the lots in golf carts, delivering prizes to the best decorated vehicles. Radio stations broadcast from outside the stadium gates. The entire set up is geared towards family fun.

In urban settings, the tailgating is more muted and subdued, just due to lack of large surface parking infrastructure. In places such as New Orleans, Seattle, Indianapolis and Detroit, people tailgate. But fans can also enjoy pre and post game at one of the many bars and bistros offering game day pub fare and drinks specials, or gather in a public area for live music and entertainment. At the Eastern Market near Detroit’s Ford Field, thousands of tailgaters gather amidst old historic buildings and warehouses. It’s an ocean of fun. Nobody is belly flopping off of roofs, nobody is engaging in a sexual act, nobody is imbibing from a funnel, and certainly, nobody is lighting himself on fire.
Well, it looks like Buffalo citizens have had enough, and are demanding that something be done. Social media threads, and responses to news articles about the situation, have been jam packed with people’s own stories of their experiences with violent and boorish behavior. The refrain is very similar – fans who gave up going to games years ago because a few miscreants ruined the experience for everybody, tales of drunkenness and vomit, many saying they would never expose children to such a spectacle.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has taken notice. Poloncarz was handily re-elected to his job this past November, and the county he runs is the owner of the stadium and landlord to the Bills. An avid writer on social media, Poloncarz yesterday commented, “Everyone has a role in making the ‪#‎Bills‬ game day experience a great one for all. We are better than what we’ve seen recently.” Speaking to the media, Poloncarz promised action, even if to bring the New York State Police in and to possibly step up patrolling of private lots. He minced no words, calling this sort of behavior “the laughing stock of idiocy”.

But will that be enough? Many of those in Buffalo who attend the games and enjoy tailgating in a respectful manor are now expressing fear that the team might take the extreme step of shutting down tailgating altogether. Many private lots surrounding the stadium do offer tailgating venues, however, and closing down tailgates on those private lands would require ordinance changes by the Orchard Park Town Board.

And there is some pushback. One obscure blogger penned “an open letter to Mark Poloncarz” defending the behavior and spectacle Buffalo Bills patrons all been witness to, and suggesting that Poloncarz come join his tailgate and have a beer. Incredibly, this knucklehead said that he doesn’t take his young children to the games, but if he did, and he happened across two people having sex right in front of him and his kids, he would simply turn the other way. Wow. Just wow.

In the end, there are no easy answers or solutions to this problem. Except that law enforcement and team management has to take more stringent matters to crack down on the small number of people who make things miserable for everybody. If it means expelling fans from stadium property, from doing random breathalyzers at the gates to anyone even carrying a container of alcohol, to doubling and even tripling the number of ushers and security at every section, then so be it.

The Buffalo Bills will be entering year four of a ten year lease with Erie County to play at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and there has already been significant discussion and community debate on the long term home of the Bills – whether it be a new stadium downtown or a complete overhaul of the current home, to another option elsewhere. As a community Buffalo has one generational opportunity to get this right. Poloncarz has taken a wise approach about moving slowly, mindful of the community’s financial situation and lack of political will to publicly fund an expensive new stadium. Bills owner Terry Pegula has indicated that at the appropriate time the organization will make plans for its future home, but there is no immediate rush to do so.

Whatever the outcome of this debate, implementing a place of safety, positive fan spirit, a collegial atmosphere, and a center of community pride, rather than community shame and embarrassment, now becomes part of this discussion. The people of Buffalo deserve better. They are a proud community and Buffalo and Erie County is a great place to call home, and it’s getting better by the day. And the overwhelming sentiment in Buffalo today amongst fans is that enough is enough. Bills Nation and Bills Mafia are ready to take back their game day. Stay tuned.

Artvoice sportswriters Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell have traveled to all 31 NFL stadiums as part of their Ultimate Sports Road Trip project which has taken them to hundreds of different sporting events at venues throughout North America and Europe. Find their web site at www.thesportsroadtrip.com


The Buffalist: Oct 5-11

 TheBuffalist

“Watch the dust start to rise through the air
I don’t know if it ever comes back again
Breathe it in so I never forget where we came from

Don’t put out the fire
It’s been the summer like I wanted but it’s never enough
And although my bones are tired
I won’t change a thing”

  “Wipe Yourself Off Man, You Dead” – Four Year Strong

 

5.  Sugar City Soul Night @ Milkie’s (Oct 10)

So the Bills just lost and you’re feeling the blues.  Well, you can get yourself a little jolt of soulful energy this Saturday at Milkie’s when some great local DJs will be spinning some of the best Soul records from their extensive collection.  Milkie’s is a Buffalo staple of course, and if you aren’t familiar with Sugar City check them out here.  They have done some phenomenal things for the Buffalo arts community and run one of the most unique music venues in the city.  They’ll be taking $5 “donations” at the bar this Saturday, so I highly recommend you throw them a couple extra bucks for what they do.

4. Four Year Strong @ Waiting Room (Oct 10)

Pop punk can sort of get a bad rap due to the extensive list of corny bands that have showcased the genre on the big stage over the years, but this is not one of those bands.  They’re closer to the Bouncing Souls then they are to Sum 41 in terms of the “pop” punk sound, so don’t be afraid that you’ll have to check your punk cred at the door.  The Waiting Room is a pretty cool venue too so this ought to be a pretty awesome show.  Make sure you get nice and close to the pit and get a little sweaty, that’s all part of the fun. 

3. The Dodos @ Mohawk Place (Oct 8)

Riding high on their well received 2015 album Individ, The Dodos will be bringing their kinetic brand of indie rock to Buffalo’s Mohawk Place this Thursday.  Although beset by tragedy in 2012 with the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer, the band formerly known as “Dodo Bird” has kept moving forward and have built up quite a following over the years.  They have an incredibly fresh and energetic sound that ditches some of the snarkyness of modern indie rock in a great way.  Mohawk Place might be my favorite venue in Buffalo so if you haven’t had a chance to check it out A) why do you choose to live under a rock and B) this is as great an opportunity as any to give it a try.

2.  Carrie: The Musical @ The American Repertory Theater of WNY (Oct 3)

Take advantage of one of your last opportunities to see The American Repertory Theater of WNY‘s production of Carrie: The Musical.  If you haven’t been, the venue location is located at 18 Agassiz Circle (otherwise known as Medaille College).  The reviews have been pretty solid, with the Buffalo News giving it 3.5 out of 4 stars along with plenty of other positive buzz.  The talent is mostly home-grown, with theater veterans Christopher Standart and Michael Hake running the production, directing and musical duties.  The last 2 shows will be this Friday and Saturday so get on over there and check it out while you still can! 

1. Sabres Opening Night Festivities @ First Niagara Center/Harborcenter (Oct 8)

It’s here!  It’s finally here!  We can root for the Sabres again!  If the Giants beating up on the Bills has got you down, you should hopefully be able to get your sports fix with the other Buffalo sports team the Buffalo Sabres.  The great news is that they are looking to finally be pretty good, although anything is better than the hell that has been the last 2 years of Sabres Hockey.   They might not be good enough for the playoffs but they’ll at least be exciting.  They’ve looked pretty good in preseason, with the new savior of Buffalo Jack Eichel scoring a couple beauties.  Even vets like Tyler Ennis have been looking pretty damn good, and that doesn’t even include all the shiny new tools in the form of Ryan O’reilly and Evander Kane.  They’re a little green on defense and the goaltending is very suspect, but like I said we’ve got nowhere to go but up for this team.  Let’s Go Buffalo!

Hot Takes:  Joywave @ The Waiting Room (Oct 9).

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!

You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook as well for Buffalo event updates.

 


Bills-Dolphins Flashback: From Kelly-Marino To Losman-Rosenfels, And Beyond

Filed under: Buffalo Bills, Sports

 

 

Since last week’s pre-game attempt at abject homerism went south pretty quickly, a different approach seems in order with Buffalo visiting Miami late this afternoon.

 
As a kid, the Dolphins were to the Bills what the Patriots are today — the omnipotent, evil tormentors of the valiant good guys, who quite possibly used nefarious means to maintain their dominance.
 
No one ever accused Miami overlord Don Shula of blatant Belichick-esque cheating, but his presence on the National Football League’s Competition Committee (and resulting presumptive control over every official’s call that went against the Bills) was a popular talking point through much of the Dolphins’ 20-game winning streak — a whole decade of Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris running wild, while Bob Griese completed infuriatingly dinky play-action passes and Joe Ferguson threw interceptions.
 
I witnessed that run nearly end at 18. A second-half monsoon in Orchard Park helped keep the opening game of 1979 close, and a botched snap on a Miami punt in the final minutes put Buffalo in range for a seemingly point-blank field goal.
 
Tom Dempsey, who had held the record for the longest field goal ever at 63 yards for nearly a decade, wasn’t so good at the short ones. I can still see his kick floating, floating, floating, drifting just outside of the goalpost directly in front of us, at the tunnel end of Rich Stadium.
 
The original Wide Right.
 
Joe Ferguson, Joe Cribbs and The Bermuda Triangle finally broke Miami’s spell a year later, and the teams reversed roles later in the ’80s, after Marv Levy Jim Kelly arrived and started getting the better of Shula and Dan Marino in just about every game that mattered, and most that didn’t.
 
Not only did Buffalo bear primary responsibility for keeping the Hall-of-Fame glove pimp from making it to a second Super Bowl, the Bills ended Shula’s coaching career with a pair of beat-downs, the second in the playoffs, in Orchard Park in 1995.
 
The last truly epic Bills-Dolphins meeting came a few years later in a first-round playoff game, when Doug Flutie held the ball too long after leading Buffalo within 5 yards of forcing overtime and got splattered by Trace Armstrong, fumbling away what was shaping up as the most magical moment of his comeback 1998 season.
 
Since then, both franchises have cycled through coaches and quarterbacks while aspiring to league-wide relevancy. Instead of Shula and Marino v. Levy and Kelly, we’ve been treated to such epic pairings as Cam Cameron and Cleo Lemon v. Dick Jauron and Trent Edwards.
 
In the interim, as the New England Patriots established unprecedented supremacy in the AFC East, Miami has reached the postseason four times — the next three years, and 2008, which, not coincidentally, Tom Brady missed with a knee injury. Buffalo, of course, has been back to the playoffs just once, the year following Flutie’s fumble.
 
No game better embodies what the Buffalo-Miami rivalry has become than their meeting in South Florida 10 years ago. The Bills were staggering through the second and final season of the Mike Mularkey era, while the Dolphins were beginning to get the idea that Nick Saban was probably much better suited to the college game.
 
The erstwhile rivals each came in at 4-7. J.P. Losman had recently reclaimed his lost starting job from Kelly Holcomb, and opened the game as if he had finally figured out this quarterback thing, throwing three touchdown passes to Lee Evans, all in the first quarter.
 
Things didn’t go so well from there.
 
In the interest of providing a little perspective following last week’s rather, well, deflating 40-32 loss to New England, We Want Marangi goes into the archives for the following account of that December 2005 game in Miami.
 
With both teams coming in at 1-1, today could be a turning point for one, a launching pad out of mediocrity and toward that elusive postseason. Or it could be more of the same.
 
No matter how Tyrod Taylor and Rex Ryan perform later today in their first road game as the distant successors to Losman and Mularkey, things can’t get more soul-crushing than getting beaten by Sage Rosenfels.
 
Probably.
 
 
BILLSTUFF: DONAHOE’S BILLS COLLAPSE IN MIAMI
 
by David Staba
 
According to published reports and common sense, Tom Donahoe’s job security was ebbing weekly even before Buffalo’s annual trip to South Florida.
 
This isn’t going to help.
 
The Bills Donahoe built disintegrated in spectacular fashion Sunday, matching the biggest come-from-ahead loss in franchise history with a true team effort — everybody stunk equally over the final 20 minutes of game time, as Buffalo violently backslid from the verge of a blowout to the depths of humiliation.
 
There’s so much blame to go around, you hardly know where to start.
 
You can point to the moment that Miami quarterback Gus Frerotte left the game after becoming concussed on the safety-producing sack by London Fletcher that gave Buffalo a 23-3 lead with a little more than 10 minutes left in the third quarter, since that brought Sage Rosenfels — the career scrub whom the Bills promptly turned into an All-Pro, if only for a few moments — into the game.
 
Rosenfels’ epiphany wouldn’t have mattered much, though, if the Bills hadn’t done so much enabling immediately thereafter.
 
Buffalo took the free kick following the safety and drove to Miami’s 3-yard line. It wasn’t hard to figure what was coming next. Pound Willis McGahee into the sagging Dolphins defense until he traversed those 9 feet, and take a 30-3 lead.
 
But no. This is Mike Mularkey’s offense, devised by the highest-paid coach in team history to trick and baffle, shock and amaze.
 
It sort of worked. A collective gasp rose from the assemblage at Culbert’s Hotel on Buffalo Avenue in the LaSalle neighborhood of Niagara Falls as J.P. Losman, who had thrown three touchdown passes to Lee Evans in the first quarter and not much since, drifted back from the line. When he threw the riskiest pass possible, with the possible exception of turning his back to the line and blindly lobbing it over his shoulder, you knew somebody wearing the wrong colors would catch it.
 
Miami cornerback Sam Madison obliged and the game started slipping away. No one wearing Bills colors had any idea how to stop it.
 
Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray couldn’t find a way to get his pass rush anywhere near Rosenfels, even though Miami threw on 37 of the 42 plays after he entered the game. 
 
Despite knowing exactly what was coming, Gray’s defense couldn’t do anything about it. Rosenfels completed 22 of those throws and wasn’t sacked once.
 
Nate Clements saw his 2006 salary, whoever winds up paying it, take another serious hit after watching Chris Chambers deliver the most prolific performance ever by a Miami receiver — 15 catches for 238 yards and the winning touchdown with six seconds left. 
 
Clements helped set up the game-winner by letting Chambers get behind him and turn Rosenfels’ third-and-10 flutterball into a 57-yard gain that resurrected the Dolphins yet again.
 
Of course, you can’t blame “The Playmaker” for the kill shot, since the free-agent-to-be was on the other side of the field, leaving the immortal Jabari Greer in single coverage on a red-hot receiver. The Dolphins scrambled to the line to get the play off and caught the Bills out of position.
 
It would have been nice if Buffalo still had a timeout to make sure the defense was ready for the most important play of the game, but all three had long since been frittered away.
 
The Dolphins wouldn’t have been in position to even think about a last-second win had Buffalo been able to run out the clock like most grown-up football teams. Again, though, Mularkey’s love of quaint play-calling won out.
 
Ahead 21-0 in the second quarter, Mularkey put rookie wide receiver Roscoe Parrish in the shotgun and had him flutter a screen pass that fooled no one to Lee Evans. Fortunately, it didn’t get intercepted, but that’s an awfully long way to go to gain 3 yards.
 
The Bills moved to within 15 yards of a 28-0 lead, but cuteness again interfered. After a first-down incompletion, Losman got sacked and fumbled on second.
 
“(Expletive deleted) it, we could have put them away,” agonized Jim Dokey, who spent the afternoon pacing through the bar at Kelly’s Korner, a block from Culbert’s, where the BillStuff coverage team took in the first three quarters.
 
Dokey’s worrying seemed excessive, to say the least. Not only did Buffalo lead by three touchdowns, the Dolphins looked like they would have rather been just about any place but on a football field for most of the day.
 
The Miami defense got torched for those three first-quarter Losman-to-Evans touchdowns. The offensive line got flagged for six false starts, including four in the second quarter and three on consecutive plays. Fullback Darian Barnes sort of fell to the side on one running play, rather than block Buffalo linebacker Angelo Crowell, allowing tailback Ronnie Brown to get creamed.
 
“I thought the Bills would run for the bus,” said one impressed-for-the-moment Kelly’s Korner patron after Evans’ third score.
 
“I guess the Dolphins were already on it,” came a response.
 
By halftime, serious discussion had begun among the faithful about beating New England next week and the potentially intense stretch run that would ensue.
 
From the looks of it, Buffalo fans weren’t the only ones prematurely gloating and looking ahead. The defensive collapse that ensued was galling enough. The offensive hibernation for the final three quarters was beyond comprehension.
 
When Mularkey wasn’t getting cute by calling first-down passes, it looked like he was calling the same running play over and over — McGahee up the middle, where the entire Miami defense appeared to have amassed. The offensive line couldn’t make a dent and Mularkey and his assistants again proved incapable of even the slightest adjustment.
 
It all comes back to Donahoe. Much was made of the responsibility given him by Ralph Wilson when he came to town in 2001 and was named not only general manager, but team president.
 
That represented a degree of power the owner had never afforded any other football executive. Not Lou Saban, not Chuck Knox, not Bill Polian and not John Butler — all men with records of success that Donahoe can only envy.
 
And look what he did with it.
 
BILLS MVP: Hey, how about that Lee Evans? Too bad nobody’s going to remember those three touchdowns because of what came after.
 
THE OTHER GUYS’ MVP: Look at everything Rosenfels had to overcome. Being named “Sage,” for starters.
 
KARMA REPORT: BillStuff regrets to admit that, if the superstitions to which the coverage team’s members adhered as kids mean anything, we may have been somewhat responsible for this one.
 
After an announcer mentioned that a sore thumb might have been hampering Frerotte’s throws in the first half, I cracked, “Well, you know what they say. Gus Frerotte at 80 percent is still better than Sage Rosenfels, ever.”
 
Not content with having thusly jinxed things, even after Frerotte’s concussion forced Sage into the game, we left Kelly’s Korner at the end of the third quarter for Culbert’s, almost daring the gods to smite the hometown team.
 
And smite they did.
 
WING REPORT: Fortunately, we didn’t leave until after consuming a variety of mediums, honey-garlics and “Jay’s Hot-Hot-Hots.”
 
The first two were excellent, well-cooked and flavorful, and well-deserving of a collective A-minus. The third earned the first pure A of the year from Tim, our senior wing analyst and a notoriously stingy grader.
 
“Spicy, without being overpowering,” Tim ruled. “A flavor you can savor.”
 
BS FAN OF THE WEEK: Jim Dokey has become something of an institution at Kelly’s since returning from Texas, particularly on game days. Thoroughly clad in Bills gear, he delivered high-fives from one end of the bar to the other after each Buffalo score and big defensive play, delivering a running commentary that was by turns joyous and agonizing.
 
“We tried to get rid of him, but it didn’t work,” said Joe, the bartender.
 
If there was an upside to our potentially momentum-shifting departure, it was that we weren’t around when Chambers caught that last pass.
 
 
(NOTE: Join us for more great memories and semi-informed commentary during today’s renewal of the Bills-Dolphins rivalry on the Twitter @DavidStaba.)

Rex, Tyrod, Shady Make It A Whole New Ballgame

Filed under: Buffalo Bills, Sports

Admit it. You have no idea what to expect from the Buffalo Bills when they open the 2015 season  (and the Rex Ryan Era) against Indianapolis this afternoon, and neither do I.

Tyrod Taylor could be a revelation at quarterback, throwing over and running through a traditionally shaky Colts defense. Or he could be overwhelmed by facing a defense that’s really trying, and has spent time planning to counter his strengths and attack his weaknesses, for the first time as a professional.
 
LeSean McCoy could be recovered from the hamstring injury that sidelined him most of the summer and start proving himself well worth what he cost the Bills (Kiko Alonso and a massive contract), looking like the NFL-leading runner he was two years ago. Or he could spend the afternoon demonstrating that last year’s drop off of 1.4 yards per carry for the Eagles was not an accident, and that Buffalo got completely fleeced in the deal. Or he could tweak that hammy and limp off after a carry or two.
 
Sammy Watkins was at least the third-best rookie receiver last year, and that was withlargely dismal quarterbacks throwing the ball in his general direction. If the Taylor thing works out, he could be unstoppable. If not, he could be running around all day waving a hand and yelling, “Hey! I’m open!”
 
Buffalo’s new starting guards, rookie John Miller and often-less-than-ideal-teammate Richie Incognito, could lead a revitalized offensive line that blasts holes in the Colts’ defense for McCoy, while providing Taylor with an ample comfort zone. Or the unit could produce a mixture of whiffs and flags that causes suspended offensive line coach Aaron Kromer to pace around his living room until he has to go looking for a kid to punch.

You would think the one lock would be the debut of the full package of Ryan’s acclaimed defensive schemes as executed by one of the league’s most talented units. But doing anything for the first time can get a little sloppy, especially with a rookie starting at cornerback, a Pro Bowl tackle sitting out a one-game suspension and the AFC’s best young quarterback ready to spot and exploit any breakdowns. So Andrew Luck could look likePeyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers did against Buffalo last season, or he could look like he did against just about everyone.

Even Dan Carpenter, Buffalo’s most reliable scoring threat over the last couple years, could be a missed field goal away from unemployment after an uncharacteristically shaky summer.

Starting a season with a new coach, new quarterback and new primary running back all at the same time since John Rauch, James Harris and O.J. Simpson in 1969 makes you think that, whatever else happens at Ralph Wilson Stadium this afternoon, they couldn’t look like the same old Bills that have been the only NFL team to somehow keep themselves out of the playoffs for the last decade and a half.

But as you know if you’ve watched this team for any length of time, that could happen, too.


A 2006 Interview With Van Miller

image credit: buffalobills.com

image credit: buffalobills.com

Bills fans have had a heavy heart since the passing of beloved, long-time play-by-play announcer Van Miller earlier this summer. In honor of Miller and the start of the NFL Season we have a never before heard interview with Miller. In 2006 Tony Maggiotto Jr sat with Miller on his front porch. He reflects on his long career, his family relationships, his greatest calls, and what Bills fans should think about life in Buffalo.

Listen here:


The Buffalist: Sep 7-13

 TheBuffalist

“Flat top intervention
Bringing home a new invention
See it there in pieces on the ground
A television war between the cynics and the saints
Flip the dial and that’s whose side you’re on
Sleeping on the White House lawn ain’t never changed a thing
Look at all the washed out Hippie dreams”

“Flat Top” Boy Named Goo

-The Goo Goo Dolls
 

 

5.  Hank & Cupcakes/ Scajaquada Creeps/ Bryan Johnson and Family @ Nietzsche’s (Sep 10)

 

Coming all the way from Tel Aviv, Israel, Hank & Cupcakes will be lighting up Nietzche’s with their funky synthpop this Thursday night.  The duo, consisting of Sagit Shir and Ariel Scherbacovsky, met while in the Israeli Army (service is mandatory there) and were married a half a decade later.  Spending much of the 2000’s in New York City, they sharpened their musical abilities playing 3-4 concerts a week all over Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  No doubt they are going to rock Nietzche’s hard, but don’t sleep on the Scajaquada Creeps and Bryan Johnson and Family.  They are two outstanding local acts that you won’t want to miss. 

4. Buffalo Pink Dress Run @ D’Arcy McGee’s Irish Pub (Sep 12) 

Pink Run

Having raised over 37,000 for breast cancer research, 7th annual Pink Dress Run will be kicking off this week from D’Arcy McGee’s Irish Pub this Saturday and it ought to be a ridiculously fun time.  Participants are expected to of course where a pink dress, but feel free to get crazy and really get dolled up with a wig and makeup if you’re brave.  The race registration is at D’Arcy McGee’s from 930-10am (or here online), with the race kicking off at 10am and costing 30 bucks if you haven’t bought a ticket already.  All proceeds go to Roswell Park Cancer Institute, so the money will certainly be used for a great cause.  It’s fun and thoughtful events like this that make Buffalo a great place to live, so get out there and support if you’re around! 

3. Edgefest @ Outer Harbor  (Sep 12)

God damn this year’s Edgefest has a hell of a lineup.  Artvoice’s Jeffrey Czum already did a phenomenal write-up on this event so I’ll just send you his way.

2. The Buffalo Bills Home Opener @ Ralph Wilson Stadium (Sep 4)

It’s finally that time of year where Bills fans get to convince themselves that maybe, just maybe, this will be the year where we finally making the playoffs.  We know we’ll have those hopes expertly dashed by early November, but there is nothing like the excitement of the fresh beginning of a Bills football season.  The difference is, this year they might actually be pretty good.  I know, we’ve heard this before.  Every year for last 16 years we’ve heard it actually, and the team hasn’t made the playoffs each time.  The defense is stout and might be a top 3 unit in the league, so no problems there.  It’s really going to come down to new starting QB Tyrod Taylor and whether he can keep the offense moving forward.  He certainly has the talent around him to be successful, so we’ll see.  Call me cautiously optimistic.  Okay, I’m a homer… I’m really goddamn excited.  Hey ay AY ay!

1.  Music is Art Festival ft. Goo Goo Dolls @ Delaware Park (Sep 12)

 

As you can tell there is a lot going on this Saturday, what with everyone trying to get their last bit of summer in before jack frost comes back to town to drop a billion tons of snow on us.  If you aren’t feeling up for Edgefest or don’t want to fork over the cash, head down to Delaware Park for the 13th Annual Music is Art Festival.  With over 100 bands on 6 stages, you can look forward to a full day of a FREE good time.  Oh yeah, and Buffalo legends The Goo Goo Dolls will be playing.  A Boy Named Goo is one of my favorite albums of all time, and if you are a Buffalonian it should be for you too.  Go listen to it right now and let the nostalgia for the ’90s flow through you.  For a full list of events and things to do, check here and you can even download the official app!  See you there!  

Hot Takes:  Swervedriver @ The Waiting Room (Sep 8), Tinsley Ellis @ The Waiting Room (Sep 11), Sophistafunk @ Iron Works (Sep 10)

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!

You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook as well for Buffalo event updates.

 


BillsVoice: Position by position fantasy outlook for the AFC East

Filed under: Buffalo Bills, Sports
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LeSean McCoy courtesy of usatoday.com

LeSean McCoy courtesy of usatoday.com

Saturday night the Buffalo Bills host the Pittsburgh Steelers in their third preseason match up. It will be an important one for the Bills, as the third game is regarded as the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, but more importantly, the game will likely decide (or show to the public) who the week one starter will be at quarterback. 

But this weekend also marks peak of fantasy draft season. Starting Friday night through Labor Day, more fantasy football drafts will be held than any other time of the year. To help get you ready for the big week let’s take a position by position look at AFC East and what it has to offers for your fantasy team. Today we’ll look at quarterbacks and running backs, tomorrow, we’ll see wide receivers and tight ends. This won’t be your typical sleeper, bust, or rankings column. We will look at the best player at a position (“Best in Show,”) Best Value (“Boom for your Buck,”) Sleeper (“Don’t forget about…”) and NO TOUCHING (Self explanatory, and a joke for you arrested development fans.) We won’t talk about every player, and there can be multiples players from one team listed in a category.

Quarterbacks:

Best in show: Tom Brady

Things are bleak in terms of fantasy quarterbacks in the AFC East. We don’t know who the Bills quarterback is yet, Ryan Tannehill has looked good but still fairly unproven in fantasy, Geno Smith got knocked out, and then there’s Tom Brady… Deflated balls or not (side note, shot out to Mighty Taco for the terrific parody,)  Tom Brady is the best real football QB, and still likely the best fantasy football QB in the division. You could make a case for Tannehill here as well, but whenever Brady does take the field his safety is what put him here over Tannehill. 

There is of course Brady’s four game suspension still undecided, and honestly I think at this point he’s just as likely to get a stay of execution and play the entire season, as he is to serve all four games. The suspension may actually be helpful to Brady because it’s lowering his draft value. Brady finished with decent numbers 2015, but they was largely inflated by a strong middle third of the season, he was very hot and cold. I’m not targeting Brady this year even if his suspension gets reduced. However, if you’re waiting on quarterbacks on draft day and you miss out on the player that you are targeting, think about getting Brady in round 10 and taking a high upside player like Sam Bradford later as a solid plan B strategy.

Boom for your buck: Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill finished 2015 as a top 10 fantasy quarterback. He’s getting love from all over that fantasy community as a potential breakout player, but don’t we do this every year with a young up-and-coming QB? In the past it’s been Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, or Sam Bradford’s year to breakout and become a top-5 fantasy QB, and they’ve almost always disappointed. We absolutely shouldn’t place lofty expectations like that on Tannehill, but still, it’s where you can get him in your draft that earned him the “Boom for you buck” title. On NFL.com he’s going in Round 7 and on ESPN he’s going in round 10. In a lot of drafts you can get him after guys like Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford, and Tom Brady. Guys like Ryan and Brady may be safer, but Tannehill has a lot of upside, and if you want to be the last person in your draft to take a starting QB he’s a got a great chance to give you a positive return on your investment.

Don’t forget about…: Ryan Fitzpatrick

I wouldn’t draft him unless you’re in a two Quarterback league, but Fitz has been starter worthy plenty of times through out his career. If you are streaming QBs keep an eye on Fitzpatrick’s match ups early on in the season, at least until Geno Smith gets healthy.

 

The Bills Quarterback/ Jimmy Garoppolo

Look I do think that if Tyrod Taylor wins the starting job he’s got a chance to have value because if his running ability, but I’m not willing to bet my season on it. There are way better options at any point during the draft. Keep an eye on Taylor during the season if he wins the job, but otherwise stay away. It’s not even worth drafting any of these players keeping them on your bench. Also, don’t feel like you have to draft Jimmy Garoppolo if you draft Tom Brady. As I said before there are much better, more reliable options available at any point in the draft that you can bide your time with until Brady gets on the field.   

Running Backs

Best in show: LeSean McCoy

Like most running backs that are going early in drafts, Shady certainly has his warts. He injured his hamstring in training camp and is coming off a year in 2014 where he battled through injuries. He also had his second straight 300+ carry season, and at the age of 27 many are wondering if he can handle that again. But most are sour on McCoy in 2015 because last season he was drafted as a top-3 back but didn’t finish in the top 10 (He finished 12th.) There has been much said about him doing too much  east-west running and enough not north-south runs up field. That’s a fair point, but let’s look at this numbers from 2013 to 2014. McCoy’s yardage was down from 1,607 in ’13 to 1,319 last season. Total TDs dropped from 11 to 5, and receiving yards from 539 to 155. The majority of NFL backs would be thrilled to rush for 1,300 yards so the glaring differences between the two season to me is in the touchdowns and receiving yards. I feel like Fred Jackson could vulture some short-yardage touchdowns from McCoy this season, but five TDs is tied for lowest number Shady has scored since become a lead back in 2010 so that number is likely to go up. I more certain that the receiving yards will  up. He’s never had less than 300-receiveing yards before last season, and think about the Bills QBs, now of them are gunslingers who will be throwing the ball deep on a consistent basis. Most of the time they’re going to keep it close and try and hit players in space close to the line, perfect for McCoy’s skill set. If I’m go WR in round one, I’m taking LeSean McCoy as my number 1 RB in round 2.

Boom for your buck: Lamar Miller

Miller quietly had a top 10 fantasy season 2014, and I expect him to grow on that this year. Miller is unlikely to win you a week (he only topped 100-yards rushing two times last year, one of which was in week 17,) but he was consistent as they come, rushing for over 45-yards all but one time. As quarterback Ryan Tannehill, along with young receivers Jarvis Landry and Devonta Parker develop, less and less attention can be focused on stopping the ‘fins run game. It should also be know that rookie RB Jay Ajayi has been very unimpressive during camp, making Miller a true feature back. Barring injury he certain reach top ten numbers once again, and you can get him in round 3. I like him more as my RB2 but for those picking around the turn in snake drafts, Miller is a safe RB1 likely available to you if you go receiver-receiver with your first two picks.

Don’t forget about…: Fred Jackson/ Chris Ivory

Before the start of training camp I wouldn’t touch a Jets RB with a ten foot pole, but as the preseason moves along, Chris Ivory is being featured in a lead back role. Going back to his early days with the Saints, the talent has always been there for Ivory but lack of opportunity and injuries have always dipped his value. Now the opportunity seems to be there for the 27-year-old back, and if he can stay healthy long enough he could have a huge return on investment for owners that take a mid-round flyer on Ivory. He’s currently being drafted as the 29 and 30 RB on NFL.com and ESPN respectively.

As for Fred Jackson, if you are going to invest a high draft pick in McCoy, do yourself a favor and handcuff him with Jackson. It seems no matter what we say going into the season, Jackson ends up as the back you want to own in Buffalo. I don’t see that being the case this year, but protect yourself if history repeats itself (again.)

NO TOUCHING!!!

The Patriot backfield

Don’t. You. Do. It. You will regret it. I know it’s tempting but remember: NO TOUCHING!!! Sure, Legarrette Blount it going to have his weeks…so is James White, so is Brandon Bolden, and so will  Jonas Grey and some other running back they pick up after roster cuts are done. Don’t do it. And when someone else beside Blount has a great game, don’t pick him up. If you do, he won’t do a thing for the next three weeks and just when you’re about to cut bait, he’ll have another good game and the whole thing starts all over again. I’m sure there are numbers to back up this statement, but we don’t need them, just ask anyone who  tried to own a New England RB in the last three years and they will wholeheartedly agree with me. 

 




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