PHOENIX – Well, it was a nice thought. If a huge long-shot.
That is, the idea that the NFL could kick off its 2013 season in Toronto. Seriously, in Toronto. With the Buffalo Bills as one of the teams.
But I’m told it won’t happen. Of course.
Follow along for fun anyway.
As reported Monday, NFL’s tradition of opening the season on Thursday night of Week 1 at the home of the defending Super Bowl champion is in peril.
This year, that’s the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 5.
But that same night the Baltimore Orioles baseball team is scheduled to play a home game against the Chicago White Sox.
The logistical conflict is that the two Baltimore teams’ venues — Camden Yards (Orioles) and M&T Stadium (Ravens) — are adjacent and share parking lots, thus the two teams cannot play at the same time.
For various reasons, moving the Ravens game to another night that week in Baltimore is not an option for the NFL. So if the Orioles’ don’t budge in the next two weeks or so, the NFL instead will have the Ravens open the season at the stadium of one of their already-determined eight road opponents.
The Bills are one of those opponents.
And each season, the Bills play one of their eight ‘home’ games at Toronto’s downtown domed stadium, the Rogers Centre. The Bills don’t determine which game that is, as team officials will tell you. The NFL does.
And with each passing year, the league falls deeper in love with expanding its brand internationally. From 2007 to last year, the NFL staged one game annually at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
This year there are two games over ’ome: Minnesota plays Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, and Jacksonville faces San Francisco on Oct. 27.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has publicly discussed the idea of some day expanding the league to Europe, and talked about maybe even holding a Super Bowl in London.
So why not an opener in Toronto?
Hell, half the fans probably would have rooted for the Ravens, judging by what has happened at previous Bills-in-Toronto games. And do you think that’ll happen if the Ravens wind up opening on the road at the Broncos, Bears, Steelers, Bengals, Browns, Dolphins, or Lions?
Or at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park?
And what Americans don’t like spending a couple days in Toronto? Well … outside of Bills fans from Western New York on game day, understandably.
The Rogers Centre is free that night, too. Baseball’s Jays are on the road, the CFL’s Argos play at home earlier that week, and there’s nothing else booked for that night.
But then there are the howevers.
And the biggest one is the Bills. The rest of America wants to watch the Bills play in that marquee opener like they want network prime-time programming pre-empted for a week by Congressional filibusters.
If football fans were asked to choose the Ravens’ opponent in an online showdown poll — Bills or Broncos? Tarvaris Jackson or Peyton Manning? — we know who loses.
But, as mentioned, I’m told there isn’t any chance the Champs vs. Chumps game can happen anyway.
So, Torontonians must await the second week of April — when the full NFL 2013 schedule is released — to find out which of the Dolphins, Patriots (uh, won’t happen), Jets, Bengals, Chiefs, Falcons or Panthers will play in the sixth annual Bills-in-Toronto game, and when.