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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


AV Podcast: Episode 4

podcast_squarePodcast Episode 4: September 11, 2015

In this weeks show we circle the wagons in honor of the return of football. Pete talks with WKBW’s Joe Buscaglia about his career as a Buffalo Bills beat reporter and making the switch from radio to TV. Also on the show we play a segment from a 2006 interview with the late Bills Play-by-Play man, Van Miller. “Progressive Rap Cinema Artist” Chae Hawk is in our music spotlight, and Mothers’ Head Chef Matt Conroy is our food feature.

For those interested in hearing the entirety of Tony Maggiotto’s 2006 interview with Van Miller, click here.

 

 

Listen to Episode 4:


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.

 


Bills Voice: Fredex’d? Reaction to Jackson’s comments about his roster spot.

Welcome to Bills Voice a new blog on Artvoice.com featuring input and analysis of all things Buffalo Bills. Don’t miss at the end of each post where we will put a Fantasy Football spin on everything covered.

written by Peter Soscia

Photo courtesy of Syracuse.com (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

There was quite a bit of reaction from both fans and media members last week when Bills running back Fred Jackson commented on his roster status for this season during a radio interview with The Howard Simon Show. When asked if he was worried about his roster spot Jackson responded with: “We’ve got to compete every year. This year’s no different than any other year, I’ve got to go out and compete just like any other year.” A lot of the reaction on social media may have led you to believe that Jackson is worried about his future in Buffalo, but that was a pretty vanilla response that Jackson has probably given every offseason since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent when he actually was competing to make rosters.

While it seems that Jackson’s roster spot is safe for 2015, at least one of the five running backs currently on the Bills roster will not be by the start of the season, and at 34, it would not be shocking if Jackson was the odd man out.

The Bills currently have LeSean McCoy, Boobie Dixon, Karlos Williams, Bryce Brown, and Jackson in their RB stable. It’s not unheard of for a roster to carry five RBs, but that won’t be the case with the Bills adding fullback Jerome Felton this offseason. McCoy is a lock for the roster as the feature back, Dixon and his bruising running style bring a different look compared to McCoy and his special teams play make him likely safe on the roster. That leaves Jackson, Williams, and Brown. It’s pretty easy to say Jackson is most talented back on the team behind McCoy, and it seems unlikely for the Bills to spend a 5th round draft pick on Williams only to have him cut in training camp. This leaves Brown on the outs. 

This is the most likely scenario, and it would be the best case for the Bills as well. Jackson had over 1,000 total yards last season, is a great pass blocker, and not to mention a great leader. With all of the new additions over the last year from ownership, coaching staff, to players, it is important for the team to have a locker room presence that has been through it all with the team and the city like Jackson has. 

Despite best case scenarios, Jackson will stop defying Father Time eventually. If that happens this season, and Bryce Brown finally pulls it together and displays some of this potential that made him the number college recruit out of high school, it may be mean the end to career in Buffalo that was almost unimaginable eight years ago when Jackson joined the Bills.

Fantasy Spin: In the past you either love or you hate Fred Jackson depending on whether you owned him or CJ Spiller/Marshawn Lynch. No matter how good the other back was projected to be at the start of season in the end Jackson was the Bills RB you wanted to own (Expect in 2012 when Jackson was actually projected as the starter, but got hurt and CJ Spiller had his best season.) With that in mind I still like LeSean McCoy a lot this season, and Jackson could hold some value if the Bills end up running the ball as much as we think they will. I wouldn’t want Jackson starting in my week 1 lineup, but I’d draft him as a low end flex/ RB 4 with upside if he can stay healthy.


Bills Voice: Don’t sleep on Tyrod Taylor

Welcome to The Bills Beat a new blog on Artvoice.com featuring input and analysis of all things Buffalo Bills. Don’t miss at the end of each post where we will put a Fantasy Football spin on everything covered.

written by Peter Soscia

Tyrod Taylor throwing at Bills OTAs earlier this month/ Photo courtesy of Getty Images

A few years back I visited one of best friends who was away at college at Virginia Tech. We were walking out of bar in downtown Blacksburg, when a group athletic looking guys walked past us. I’m 5’9 and it seemed like they towered over me, I assumed they were basketball players. Outside the bar my friend informs me that one them was Tyrod Taylor (at that time the starting QB for VT.) I was shocked because watching Taylor on TV, he looked short and almost scrawny. Taylor is actually 6’1, 215 lbs, but only seeing him on TV standing next to his 6’5, 275-plus pounds linemen, of course he looked small. 

I’m telling this story because my perception of Taylor was complete off, and your perception of his chances to win the starting quarterback role for the Bills this season might be off as well. When you compare Taylor to the other quarterback the Bills brought in this offseason, Matt Cassel, it would seem like the Cassel is the front runner for the job, or at least the lead competition for EJ Manuel.

The Bills traded for Cassel, while swapping some late round picks with the Minnesota Vikings earlier this offseason. Cassel has started over 70 games in his ten year NFL career. While he hasn’t done anything overly impressive, he does have 96/70 touchdown to interception ratio, and is the kind of game manager QB that would work with the Bills plan for winning with a strong run game and a bulldog of a defense.   

Taylor on the other hand was signed as a free agent out of Baltimore where he played back up to Joe Flacco for the first four years of his career. Through out that time, he’s only attempted 35 passes, completing 19 for 199 yards, with one TD and two interceptions (he also rushed for one TD in 2012.)

Typically when a team brings in (much less trades for) a veteran QB like Cassel, it’s to compete for the starting job with a young QB like Manuel, who is struggling to develop. When a team signs a player with a resume like Taylor’s, he’s competing to just make the roster… But that’s not the case in Buffalo. By now we’ve all heard about Head Coach Rex Ryan’s love of Taylor since his days at VT, and that it’s going to be an open three-way competition with Cassel, Manuel, and Taylor for the starting job.  Earlier this month at Bills OTAs, Taylor and Cassel split the first team reps and ESPN’s Mike Rodak reported that Taylor looked “sharp completing 12 of 14 passes in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.” 

“Okay, So if Taylor is so good why didn’t he play in Baltimore?”

Listen, I’m not saying the guy is the next Jim Kelly, and he certainly isn’t better than Joe Flacco, but does that mean he’s not good enough to start in Buffalo? We’ve seen what Cassel is and it’s nothing impressive. He’s not going to lose a lot of games for you, but he’s not going to be the reason you win either. You also have to imagine that at 33, Cassel’s best days are behind him.

As for EJ Manuel, I will say that 15 starts is not enough games to fully judge a quarterback. He’s had his moments but overall he’s developed much slower than what you would want from a first-round pick, and has struggled to stay healthy. 

Taylor is an unproven commodity with a lot of the same skill set as Manuel which leads me to believe that this could be more of a two quarterback race between Taylor and Manuel, with Cassel being brought in as a bandaid if things go off the rails.

Taylor also has the legs to run the ball. In his senior season at VT, Taylor rushed for 659 yards and 5 touchdowns. That talent could be intriguing for Buffalo’s new Offense Coordinator Greg Roman, who in San Francisco had one of the best rushing QBs in the NFL with Colin Kaepernick.  

Only time will tell if having three quarterbacks competing for a job will end up hurting the Bills, but at least for OTAs and into the start of the preseason it may truly be the best way for the new coaching staff to know what they have in all three players. Being the most unproven, Taylor certainly has the most to gain from this strategy, and based on what Cassel and Manuel have shown the past, it won’t take much for Taylor to unseat the preconceived notions that most of us had at the start of the offseason and become the Bills week one starter.    

Fantasy Spin:

This is a tough topic to put a fantasy spin on this early in the season. I wouldn’t touch any of these quarterbacks on draft day but I will say that because of Taylor’s rushing ability, and knowing what Manuel and Cassel have to offer,  I think he has the most to offer in fantasy out of the three players. If Taylor does win the starting job, I would keep an eye on him through the first few weeks of the season, as he has the potential to be a legitimate bye week replacement and startable in two-quarterback leagues.


Forty-One Questions The Bills’ New Owner Should Ask Their Coach And General Manager

 

With all the pageantry of his first weekend as the second-ever owner of the Buffalo Bills out of the way, Terry Pegula finds himself settling into the less-glamorous reality of owning the Buffalo Bills this week.

It only makes sense that one of the first orders of business would be holding a meeting with the company’s top executives, especially the guys who run the football team itself, general manager Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone. Particularly after their creation managed to look an awful lot like a Buddy Nix-Chan Gailey production during Sunday’s biannual flogging by the New England Patriots.

Pegula is historically more of a hockey guy and appears most comfortable working from a script (and we do not just say this because Kim Pegula seemed to be mouthing the words to Terry’s midfield remarks before Sunday’s 37-22 loss to New England along with her husband, evoking images of the couple running through his lines at the breakfast table). So We Want Marangi respectfully offers the following pertinent questions:

— So, you two do have some sort of plan, right?

— Did that plan involve Kyle Orton playing quarterback?

— Had you ever watched him play quarterback before?

— Kim and I have been busy running the Sabres, so I could be wrong, but doesn’t he play a lot like that guy with the beard who was the quarterback a couple of years ago?

— I keep hearing you say he gives us (use of finger quotes recommended, but not absolutely necessary with the right voice inflection) “the best chance to win.” How so?

— There were a couple of plays Sunday when Orton stood perfectly still while a Patriots player ran at him as fast as he could. Was that intentional? Like he thought the pass rusher might think the whistle had blown if he didn’t try to get away, or become transfixed by his eerie calm — which could be mistaken for obliviousness — while under duress and run right by him?

— Why didn’t you draft somebody better?

— I see. With the very first pick you made after getting hired, you say? Well, I know the rest of the team hasn’t been very good in a while, either. Why didn’t you draft somebody to give the poor kid some help?

— Ah. And where was this Watkins fellow on Sunday?

— Wait a minute. You’re saying that if the other team assigns its best player to guard our best player, we just sort of give up on getting the ball to him?

— Even Kim and I knew the Patriots like to throw to that Gronkowski character, but they still did it an awful lot, didn’t they?

— Anyway, my hockey people tell me that by losing a lot, we can get a really good player in the next draft. And they’re doing a great job at that. So at least we can get another quarterback come spring if this Orton thing doesn’t work out, right?

— What do you mean, we don’t have a first-round pick? Doesn’t everybody get one? That doesn’t sound right. Hold on while I call Bob Kraft and see why we …

— Oh. Let me make sure I’m keeping up here. So you spent your first first-round draft choice on a quarterback, then the next two on a receiver to help him out. But we’ve already ditched the quarterback for somebody that four other teams told to hit the bricks and we don’t throw to the receiver when other teams think we’re going to do that. Have I got this straight?

— But you do have a plan, you say?

— What about that other receiver, the one you got for a sixth-round draft choice? Where was he on Sunday?

— That’s right. I remember seeing something about that on the Twitter. Seems like a bit of a jerk. Didn’t you throw him off your team in college?

— But then you traded for him?

— I see he wants to be traded again already. What can we get for him?

— Well, let’s not get bogged down on one side of the ball. I keep hearing that we have a great defense. Do great defenses usually give up 37 points at home?

— Yes, Tom Brady is very good. But I noticed that after we got within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and absolutely had to stop New England to have a chance to tie it up, Mario Williams wasn’t on the field. How much am I paying him again?

— So why wasn’t he, or that No. 55 who had sacked Brady twice, on the field for the most important series of the season?

Rotation? Isn’t that a baseball thing?

— Yes, everyone needs rest to be at their best. Even I like a nap once in a while. But in a spot like that, don’t you want our best players out there?

— It sure did seem like a running situation. But haven’t the Patriots been throwing in spots like that since Brady has been Brady?

— So you’re telling me that one of your assistants makes those decisions?

The guy who asked his players to carry him off the field in Detroit?

— Isn’t that kind of like throwing a birthday party for yourself?

— Who is this Duke Williams person?

— Is he an actual duke?

— That’s too bad. Has anyone told him that he is allowed to turn around while he’s covering a receiver?

— Are you sure he knows that he can try to catch the ball, or bat it away, or do something besides shove the receiver with both hands?

— And that when an opposing receiver runs by our cornerback, like on that last New England touchdown, he is supposed to cover that receiver, instead of sort of standing there, then half-heartedly chasing him into the end zone?

— Who do you have to check with? Schwartz? Is that the birthday-party guy?

— Back to the offense for a minute. On that play where C.J. Spiller gets the ball and runs out of bounds behind the line, is that the way it’s supposed to work?

— I didn’t think so. Why don’t you try some other things, like throwing to him down the field a little?

— I know he’s not much of a blocker — I saw him almost get Orton killed in Detroit. But Fred Jackson’s pretty good at protection. Why not use them both at the same time more, and split Spiller out or something?

— So you’re telling me we’re better off having another first-round pick on the bench and a guy you traded for in street clothes while that No. 15, who nobody drafted, plays. What’s his name again?

— Ha! Hogan’s Heroes always cracked me up. Is that still on in re-runs anywhere?

— But seriously. You’re absolutely sure you have a plan?

— Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground here. Good talk. Just one more thing before we wrap up. So did you guys buy houses around here, or are you renting?


Can tailgating work at a downtown Buffalo stadium? Absolutely!

Back in August, we presented The Artvoice Stadium Plan, a bold blueprint for how a replacement stadium for the Buffalo Bills could be placed in the middle of the downtown core. The article received a lot of praise, a lot of critique, and generated a great deal of discussion throughout the community.

One of the biggest objections, if not the biggest, which detractors of a downtown stadium raise is the issue of the tailgating. Since Ralph Wilson Stadium opened its doors in 1973, a suburban venue surrounded with 17,000 parking spaces and 200 acres of asphalt, the robust tailgating tradition has been synonymous with Buffalo Bills football. Along with such teams as Green Bay, Houston and Kansas City, Buffalo fans rank amongst the elite in the NFL when it comes to throwing a tailgate party.

What would happen to tailgating if the Buffalo Bills relocated to a downtown location, sited amidst a dense neighborhood of existing structures and where vast seas of open parking are at a premium.

The answer. Nothing bad. To see how things could work, perhaps Detroit could be looked at as a template.
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In 2002, the Detroit Lions left their old stadium, the Pontiac Silverdome, for a glitzy new stadium located right in the middle of downtown Detroit and directly adjacent to a newly invigorated Greektown Historic District. Like us here in Orchard Park, the Silverdome was located in the exurbs, and surrounded by little more than huge acreage of open parking lots. People in Detroit loved to tailgate, and lamented the lack of suitable tailgate venues upon the move downtown.
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The team responded by setting up a designated “tailgate lot”, but it was too far, too small, and well off the beaten path.

But tailgating came back to Detroit, with a vengeance, and grew organically in creative ways as people sought venues and settings to enjoy football gamedays. And eventually, Detroit’s Eastern Market became tailgate central. On any football Sunday, the neighborhood comes alive as thousands upon thousands of fans name the streets and the neighborhood to engage in their football pastime.
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During the week, the Eastern Market is the hub of farmers produce and other food items sold in kiosks and stands throughout a six block area. The neighborhood looks much like Buffalo’s own Cobblestone District, with many post industrial structures, some warehouses, a bit of new infill, loading docks, a few quaint shops and restaurants, and while many of the buildings bear a strong architectural and historical heritage, others are way past their prime dreck.

Here is a map of the Eastern Market Tailgate, just a long touchdown pass away from the front doors of Ford Field in Detroit

Here is a map of the Eastern Market Tailgate, just a long touchdown pass away from the front doors of Ford Field in Detroit


On game day, everything changes. Fans descend by the thousands with their cars, RV’s and campers. Radio stations and other media outlets set up their kiosks, food trucks abound, stages with live music are in abundance, the streets come alive and people fill every nook and cranny in a big community celebration.

The scene is not unlike that of game day surrounding Ralph Wilson Stadium, except that at the Ralph the scene is set in massive open lots, while in Detroit the same scene unfolds amidst a multi block setting of industrial and commercial buildings.
Hans Steiniger is a passionate Buffalo Bills fans now living in suburban Detroit, and he has attended football games at all 31 NFL venues as well as many college football games. He chronicles his journey at his web site, Questfor31.com Hans was on hand this past Sunday at the Eastern Market Tailgate, dressed in Bills attire while holding court with his many Detroit friends, and marveled at how the Detroit tailgate scene has evolved. “Water always finds its level,” explained Hans. When the Lions moved here things were kind of dead, but over time it picked up here, and what you see here today is one of the coolest NFL tailgate scenes anywhere, right here in Motown.

Could tailgating work at a downtown Buffalo location? “For sure,” says Hans. “Buffalo people have to get out of that mindset that you need big oceans of asphalt to have proper tailgating. Anyplace where you can set up a grill and a canopy and share the experience with others becomes a proper tailgate venue. A little out of the box thinking is all you need. Buffalo is party city and that party will move from Ralph Wilson Stadium to a downtown location with no problem.”
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So imagine if you will that some incarnation of the Artvoice Stadium Plan comes to fruition come 2021 or so, and community sentiment right now certainly seems to favor that if a new stadium is to become a reality, that it be located in Buffalo and preferably downtown.

Would it be feasible that the Ohio Street corridor, Riverfest Park and Father Conway Park in the Old First Ward would come alive with tailgate revelers? Would properties along South Park, and Perry Street, and Scott Street, and Exchange Street, be lined with cars and campers and these corridors become a massive street party on game day? Could you see the Cobblestone District with music stages and food truck courts and vendors hawking their wares? Would Canalside and the soon to be opened HarborCenter become energetic centers of activity?

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The answer. Absolutely.

The photos contained in this article were taken this past Sunday prior to the Buffalo Bills vs Detroit Lions game in Detroit by Artvoice sports columnists Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell. Follow on twitter @akulykUSRT and @pfarrellUSRT




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