My father was was a diehard Buffalo Bills fan. He had season tickets at War Memorial Stadium, affectionately nicknamed”The Rock Pile” and when Rich Stadium (currently named Ralph Wilson Stadium) was built in Orchard Park my father continued with the tradition of being a season ticket holder.
My father would take my uncle, my mother’s brother to the games. My father was a metaphoric surrogate father to my uncle Naulbert; I was a baby so I was too young to accompany my dad to the games. I did not attend my first Buffalo Bills game until I was 22.
Since my family lived in Cold Spring, my father and my uncle would walk to The Rock Pile. After my Uncle Naulbert graduated high-school and left for college, my father began attending the games with his buddies that worked with him at Harrison Radiator. Eventually The Buffalo Bills moved to Rich Stadium. My father hated driving and refused to get a driver’s license so on game day he hitched a ride with one of his friends.
My father and his buddies would don seasonable game clothing, put together some light refreshments for the game and head to Orchard Park. Light refreshments dutifully prepared by my mother, consisted of informal and varietal fare. My mother would pack the boys a thermos of a hot toddy, a bag of hard candy, a bag of pretzels, a couple of sandwiches or fried chicken.
His buddies thought I was cute and would give me a dollar or some pocket change when I was palling around with my father on most days. However, I learned at an early age that on game day, grown-ass men reverted to prepubertal behavior at the thought of seeing the Buffalo Bills play. I was a cute yet an invisible little being who would not receive penny candy or piggy bank funds that day. Harumph!
Today The Buffalo News reported another story about the drunken debauchery of tailgaters, many of whom are Canadian fans, season ticket holders and consequently invaluable financial assets. Excessive drinking is obviously the problem. However, I think The Buffalo Bills value the franchise’s profit margin above the recreational and public safety value of its fans.
Although my father and his buddies were devout and enthusiastic fans, they were not hard-core tailgaters. Arriving at the stadium five hours before the game and getting sozzled by kickoff was not part of the pre-game ritual. I don’t want to begrudge anyone for being an avid Bills fan nor the Buffalo Bills from selling tickets but I think public enjoyment and public safety should be responsibility by the franchise as well as the fan base.
Several NFL franchises such as the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and the Chicago Bears have reevaluated, rewritten and enforced a more stringent tailgating and fan behavior policy. The Buffalo Bills franchise is reluctant to adopt some of the changes which include franchise based intitiatives:
- Prohibiting fans without tickets from entering stadium parking lots during the game.
- Establishing designated spaces on the perimeter of parking lots for passenger vehicle tailgaters.
- Limiting tailgating hours to 3 or less hours before kickoff.
The practices that David H. Wheat, The Buffalo Bills Sr. Vice President of Business outlines are not without merit but they are fan-based initiatives:
- SMS alert capability to report violators of the Fan Code of Conduct( which is not clearly identified on The Buffalo Bills website).
- Increased state police and sheriff DWI checkpoints.
- Prohibiting beer sales after half-time.
What about employing franchise-based initiatives? Shouldn’t the franchise do more to strengthen the recreational value, improve the behavior standing and improve the public safety of their fans?
Hey executives, let Coach Dick Jauron and his staff devise a strategy to win some games. That is his responsibility.
When will you establish a Franchise Code of Conduct? That is your responsibility.