It is likely that you have already read or at the very least heard of the comments uttered by the Buffalo Bills’ centre, Eric Wood, directed at the Bills In Toronto Series. This diatribe has much less to do with me feeling the need to come to the defense of the city of Toronto, but it has everything to do with the lack of professionalism exhibited by Mr. Wood. He, and quite possibly the Bills depending on their course of action, have caused my pint to runneth completely dry.
Wood was interviewed in the wake of the team’s horrendous performance against the Seattle Seahawks at the Rogers Centre (he didn’t play, and wasn’t on the trip). In the interview, he candidly said, “It’s a bad atmosphere for football. I mean, nobody wants to play there. I guess for opposing teams it beats the hell out of going in somebody else’s stadium and dealing with a bunch of crowd noise.”
The issue I take has nothing to do with whether I believe he is right or wrong, as I have my own thoughts about the environment which aren’t entirely different from him. My problem is that I believe his course of actions, the way he chose to share his thoughts, were grossly unprofessional. Had he voiced his opinions behind closed doors to Bills management might have been a much wiser decision.
See, the Bills need Toronto. They need the city, but more specifically they need the money, the corporate money, and television distribution that comes with one of North America’s top five markets. As a former Bills season ticket holder, I have been to Rich/Ralph Wilson Stadium many times, and love atmosphere (in fact, I’ve written about it several times), but there is no way around the fact that the franchise is in need of money. It is questionable at best as to whether the team can survive without the Bills in Toronto Series. The injection of millions of dollars is keeping the Bills in Buffalo.
Since airing his opinions, Wood has several times defended his comments. Basically he is saying that he isn’t backing down from his stance, and that the rest of the players feel the same way. Again, whether true or not, it is very unprofessional to discuss the issue with media. While he acknowledges the importance of Toronto’s money for the Bills, what he fails to see is that it is not his business. He has nothing to do with whether the team plays in Buffalo, Toronto, or Deluth. He is paid to play the game in any scenario.
What Wood needs to work on his own game. It was interesting to read how it directly affected their game. He said, “I mean, it’s a crucial third down for them in the first quarter, and they’re running just regular snap count, where I don’t care if we have a half-filled Ralph Wilson Stadium, they don’t do that.” So, that’s why you got the crap kicked out of you for sixty minutes? Okay, maybe the quiet crowd doesn’t help you, but it doesn’t hurt you either. If anything it’s a neutral site game, one in which his team was dismantled.
Wood felt the need to continue – ‘That game up in Toronto last year worked out in our favour. We got up on them (Washington) early and they pretty much fell asleep with no crowd noise. They gave in quick, too. It’s just not a fun game for us.” So, the quiet crowd helped you win one year, then it caused you to get blown out of the water the next? Which is it, helpful or hurtful? Excuses, excuses. Let’s call a spade a spade here – this is a guy who is obviously frustrated on a team which is sucking despite higher preseason expectations then they’d had in a while. His comments were out of turn, and inappropriate.
I am waiting to see how this plays out and am looking for an official reaction from either Rogers, the Buffalo Bills or even the NFL. I wholeheartedly believe Wood needs to face discipline from someone – anyone.
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