Friday, August 14, 2009

Day 28: A New England Patriot in King Buffalo's Court

"What I seed was this whole raft of people sitting on two banks and staring at each other across this pretty little cow pasture and somebody had took and drawed white lines on it and put posts in it."
Andy Griffith, What It Was Was Football

Last night, was a special treat for me. The Buffalo Bills use the nearby fields at St John Fisher College for their team practices. Dave had tickets and invited me to come along.

That's right. You read it correctly. You actually need tickets to get into the stadium to watch the team practice. As you can see, it was a sell-out, too.

The practice session had all the air of a real NFL gameday, except for the disappointing absence of a tailgating party and the even more disappointing absence of cheerleaders (the Buffalo Jills, in this instance). It did, however, encourage fans to part with their hard-earned somalis by buying paraphernalia with a picture of a buffalo on it.

In this particular instance, you can see Dave buying a gift for Jordan.

He wasn't sure of the size, but I reasoned with him that if the t-shirt was too big, she could wear it as a nightshirt. That solved, we proceeded through the merchandise tent.

Just outside, we saw stands offering gourmet snacks for the hungry fans.

I was tempted by such traditional delicacies as fried dough and chicken fingers. However, since - unlike real NFL games - there was no beer being sold to wash down the tasty treats, I decided to give my cholesterol pills a chance to work and passed.

Also, it became evident that the Bills have not been enjoying great financial success lately, because they have had to abandon the team bus and stick the lads in the back of a pick-up truck.

(OK, I had to get one dig in since I am dyed-in-the-wool Patriots fan.)

Speaking of dyed-in-the wool, the Buffalo Bills mascot was in attendance.

Because the team comes from a city named after buffaloes (which probably never roamed there, by the way), it was fairly easy to assume they would choose a buffalo as a mascot.

Because the team's colors are blue, white and silver, it was probably a fairly lengthy debate as to whether the mascot would be a blue, white or silver buffalo. In the end, because this is the NFL, the voice of reason lost.

I myself kept thinking of the lonely guy stuck inside the costume. On a fairly warm summer evening, this guy was wearing a big furry thing with very few obvious places for air to cool him down. I suspect the most authentic thing about the buffalo mascot would be the smell at the end of the day.

Speaking of which, the players did some fairly interesting exercises during warm-up. At first, they were just stretching pretty much like I do with WiiFit. I was thinking to myself, I bet none of them get asked, "Do you often fall over when you run?" until I realized that, in fact, that pretty much defines what most of them do for a living.

After doing a bit of macho yoga and what-not, though, several of them engaged in a most unusual move. There's no delicate way to describe it, but as you can see, they pretty much started sniffing one another's butts. I will forever think of this team as the Buffalo Dogs after observing that. (OK, 2 digs from a Patriots fan.)

The sidelines were as much fun to watch as the on-field practice.

I was astonished to see eight cameramen filming the practice for the local TV news. Actually, there were seven TV news cameramen, and since this is the Buffalo Bills one of them was for the local radio station. (OK, OK, 3 digs)

And my favorite participant in last night's practice wasn't even on the field. She was standing on the sideline during scrimmages holding a marker to indicate which down it was.

She walked up and down the field as the ball moved, and she even changed the numbers from 1 through 4.

I'm not sure what having that marker contributes to the practice, but I guess the coaches want the practice to be as much like game day as possible. If I'm right on that, then I would have thought her marker should have more or less indicated 4th down the whole practice. (Oh dear. Is that yet another dig?)

And finally, I should add that we saw a little football being played, although no real blocking or tackling, of course. That was the most fun to watch, and I especially enjoyed the 15 minutes devoted to special teams practice with punts and field goals.

But in the end, it was just practice and the real test comes on the field.

As Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said last night after his exhibition game against the Eagles, "I need the work, we all need the work. You can't duplicate this on the practice field."

Did I mention the Patriots won that game?

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