The 2012 gameday experience for the Buffalo Bills only serves to prove how little the team cares about many of its fans.
The team implemented new security measures for this season that require every fan to go through hand-held metal detection. This in and of itself is fine, but the team has grossly understaffed the gates, leading to a scene outside the entrances that makes Mad Max look like a kindergarten nap time.
Entering Ralph Wilson Stadium 45 minutes prior to Thursday's win over the Miami Dolphins, more than 300 people crowded around each entrance waiting to get in. Being safe is fine, but the chaos created by drunken ignorant idiots pushing to get through the security check is more dangerous than anything that could have been taken into the game.
The mass of people was completely without organization. Security was doing nothing to help guide people through the process, instead allowing everyone to continue pushing forward, causing people to be pushed over security gates and to be forced off their feet amid the mass of belligerent humanity. At least two kids entering through Gate Five were nearly trampled; only the kindness of two strangers who risked their own safety by putting the kids atop their shoulders saved them from being swallowed by the mob, as the mob was so tightly packed their father was literally swept away from them.
Fans at the back of the mob mocked those in front imploring them to step back, telling those getting hurt to "grab a beer." Multiple fights broke out between people frustrated by the lack of movement, including one in which a security guard dove off a light fixture to tackle an unruly fan. Most other male fans threatened to start a fight – some out of frustration, others too jacked up on Jack and testosterone to think straight in what could be a dangerous situation.
Women were felt up by jackasses who used the occasion as an excuse to get a cheap jolly; one woman had a male fan pull up her sweatshirt and put his head underneath it, with only her husband's actions stopping the man from doing who knows what. Plenty of accidental kicks and smacks ensured everyone's discomfort, as did the forced pressing into compromising positions that many people faced.
Many fans missed the first quarter of the game, but that's not even the bad part. What's so awful is how callously fans entering the game were regarded. No one working for the team seemed to care at all, with security blocking the entranceway coldly putting up their hands and offering only a, "We're trying to get you in," when begged for relief from the crush. Thee was no rhyme or reason to who would enter next so fans literally tossed each other aside to be next, and no one wearing a yellow jacket or badge cared in the least.
The kicker: Some fans weren't even wanded. They were literally just allowed to pass through, in some cases without even showing a ticket.
Nobody is going to knock safety – although anyone who goes to games knows "safety" is a buzz word the team uses to offer a mirage of comfort, as drunken fans make being in the stands a truly unpleasant time between dodging puke and fists. But the means by which the Bills achieve this safety is a joke. If they're going to force people to go through this, they really need to establish single-file lines to prevent events like Thursday. If it's clear who will be next to enter the stadium, there won't be any need to push.
Perhaps, too, there needs to be even more of an alcohol crackdown. Granted, anyone who wants to get drunk at a game will, but by keeping more drunks out and restricting beer sales more heavily, fewer fans will have to endure drunken idiots ruining their nights.
Thursday night was a prime time sell-out, which might have brought out the worst in some fans. The late start also allowed fans to drink a full day before entering, surely resulting in more drunks.
And the festive atmosphere isn't necessarily duplicated on Sunday afternoons, which might make for less of a mess at other games. But still, a sober person would be hard-pressed to find a reason to go through anything like that to watch three-fourths of a football game.
The Bills have a chance in 2013 to show they care about fans, invest in tweaks to the entry system and make the experience safer, faster and less stressful all the way around. Their bottom line could depend on it. Here's hoping they do.
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