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Bills being goofy on new parking rules

There are a few givens when Ralph Wilson Stadium opens to fans later this month.

The beer will flow. The grills will smoke. And the streak of stupidity that comes over some tailgaters in the hours before kickoff will return: Public urination. Vomiting. Drunken driving.

There's been plenty of evidence in recent years that there's a subset of Buffalo Bills tailgaters who seem intent on obliterating their minds -- along with any good sense they might have possessed -- before entering the stadium to witness yet another loss.

But the latest mandate to come down from One Bills Drive seems counterintuitive to improving the experience for the rest of the fans.

Come the first preseason home game, fans in Lots 2 and 3 will be required to park as directed as they enter the lot -- "one car, one space" -- in what appears to be the first step toward eliminating a long tailgating tradition of choose-your-own spot.

They call it "Disney-style parking" -- about the silliest bit of spin I've heard in a long while. Will they also add trams, fuzzy characters and a monorail to shuttle people across Abbott Road?

The proposal for Lots 2 and 3 is a trial, scheduled so far for just this season. Presumably it's about safety, and the only redeeming quality of this new rule is that it will eliminate the need for cars to wander through areas where tailgaters have already started to party.

It also appears a blatant way to squeeze more cars at $25 a pop -- still a deal by NFL standards, but pricey for Western New York -- into two of the stadium's biggest lots.

The problem -- as fans have pointed out in fierce reaction to the new policy -- is that this will not only break up tailgaters who have set up camp with friends in the same spots for years, but it will force other fans together.

If you can choose your own spot, you can also choose to avoid the groups that look like they'll get out of hand.

Bringing your children to the game? Good luck barbecuing next to the frat boys guzzling down beers by the funnel.

This is classic "a few ruin it for the rest."

Most fans are able to kick back, tailgate and safely enjoy the game. A few have brought on a crackdown with just plain stupid behavior.

Crowd control is important -- and at least two drunken driving incidents in recent years that left pedestrians injured and a passenger dead raised serious questions about the safety of the post-game exodus as fans disperse throughout the region.

Other new rules -- including a decision to open parking lots an hour later this season -- seem a better route to managing the type of drunken fan conduct that led one Wall Street Journal reporter in 2008 to conclude that the Bills had "some of the worst-behaving fans in all of sports."

The description was hyperbole, but if you've been to a game, you know there's a reason out-of-towners come off with this impression.

We should be able to be proud of the classic Bills fan image -- enduring the cold while sticking by the team -- without having to be embarrassed by unsportsmanlike conduct of a small number of fans.

But tailgating is an art for Bills backers, and forcing the rest of the fans to abandon their parking lot rituals is sure to rankle people at a time when the team is lucky it still has dedicated followers.

This seems better time for the Bills to focus on fixing this franchise rather than giving fans one more reason to stay home.


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