Niagara Gazette


November 1, 2009

SCHMITT: Football-loving fans losing patience

Jim Burns needed a boost. Nervous and wind-swept, standing smack in the center of the Bills logo at Ralph Wilson Stadium’s midfield on Sunday, Burns pulled a false start as egregious as any Demetrius Bell has committed.

A Buffalo native and U.S. Army major, Burns drew a blank during the first few bars of the national anthem and stopped.

Silence. Crickets.

That’s when the slightly less than 70,000 diehards stepped in, giving Burns the next line in unison. He listened, collected himself, then re-started as the crowd chanted loudly behind him.

Apparently, it takes a community to raise a child, and sing the Star Spangled Banner.

Unfortunately, it takes a real football team to excite that community, even one that’s so passionate it waits with bated breath to hear the team’s first-round draft choice, mentally carving a spot on the Wall of Fame before they’ve played a single snap.

Buffalo loves football. Maybe that’s why it’s not enamored with the Bills.

For the first time in recent memory, the attendance at Sunday’s 31-10 drubbing started with a six. Large pockets of empty seats scattered the corners of the upper bowl. They had company in the fourth quarter, after a failed fake punt and a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception pushed the franchise closer to yet another losing season.

That’s not to say those in attendance weren’t boisterous; they sustained their singing through the anthem to give Burns a rousing send-off. It was one of the day’s loudest cheers.

Unfortunately, little about the on-field product warranted such enthusiasm. The Bills’ defense was good through the first quarter and a half, but couldn’t keep Matt Schaub and Co. from eventually getting its engine revved up.

And on offense, a team geared for one big stab at a playoff berth continued to stab itself in the leg.

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