INSTEAD OF INGESTING the myriad pre-game shows in the days leading up to home contests, a few Buffalo Bills ticket holders would do better to study the National Football League's anti-drinking ad.
A few clones of the disheveled TV drunk who makes life miserable for all around him found their way to the field after Sunday's big win over Miami and started a mindless vandalism spree. Some of the other fans who joined them out of a more innocent exuberance were left shaken -- as was the stadium.
The result is the Bills' plan to ban beer sales at all playoff contests this season and to come up with a new game plan for security. Both moves are justified by Sunday's attack on the field and the security staff's inability to stop it.
The beer ban will not, of course, prevent ticket holders from getting soused before entering Rich Stadium. But turning off the stadium taps will at least make it harder for drunkards to sustain the inebriated state that undoubtedly helped spark Sunday's mayhem.
It is, thus, a wise move on the part of Bills' administrators, who already ban beer sales during night games and during the second half of day games.
Granted, the ban denies responsible fans the privilege of having a beer while watching the team. But the innocent pay whenever society takes steps to control those who cannot control themselves. Not being able to have a cold beer on a cold day is a small price to pay to help maintain peace and safety inside the stadium.
The beer ban is not, however, the only
move the team will make to prevent a recurrence of Sunday's idiocy in which some ticket holders stormed the field to tear down both goalposts, tried to cut out sections of the turf with knives and overran more civilized fans and security personnel.
While refusing to be specific for strategic reasons, the team plans to enhance security and deal stringently with vandals after any of the Bills' upcoming playoff games.
Team General Manager Bill Polian rightly rejects the contention that nothing can be done. The team should guard against an overreaction to what is still a tiny minority of patrons -- the typical fan, after all, is not a "thug," to use Polian's word for the worst of the rowdies. But the Bills should do whatever is required to prevent Rich Stadium from becoming a zoo every time the players win an important game.
A stronger, better equipped security force that can head off the initial burst of rowdyism and nip the problem in the bud by collaring instigators is the first step.
That should be followed by the well-publicized prosecution of the most over-zealous. Though they are few, their behavior can have a disproportionate impact. Buffalo does not need that kind of publicity as national cameras focus on Rich Stadium during the playoffs.
Security will hardly be a turnoff to the real fan, who wants to see a football game and celebrate in a harmless, good-natured way. If it does stop a few drunks and trouble-makers from going to the games, so much the better. They won't be missed, and someone else will surely fill those seats.