ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - What was the NFL thinking when it scheduled the warm-weather Miami Dolphins to play their division-rival Buffalo Bills in the cozy confines of a domed stadium in December, and in Canada of all places?
That's the question numerous unhappy Bills fans have been asking since the schedule came out with Buffalo playing a "home'' game against Miami at Toronto's Rogers Centre on Dec. 7.
With that in mind, two Bills season-ticket holders, Andrew Petrinec and Al Keohane, decided to do something about shifting the climate-controlled playing field in Buffalo's favor by organizing a petition to have the domed stadium's retractable roof open for the game.
"We're just trying to make a difference,'' said Petrinec, who's gathered about 1,000 signatures on the Internet and in person. "We're trying to do anything we can to help out the team and make a little noise so maybe the league will recognize that fans aren't extremely thrilled with it.''
Bad enough that Buffalo fans were deprived of a game in Orchard Park against an AFC East opponent when the Bills secured a five-year deal to become the first NFL team to start playing annual regular-season games outside the U.S.
What's worse is the Bills losing their traditional cold-field advantage.
The Dolphins might have the edge in the series, with a 51-37-1 record against Buffalo. But they have certainly struggled at Orchard Park after Dec. 1, going 2-7, including two playoff losses.
"Having it in a domed stadium definitely does make it a little lopsided toward the Dolphins,'' Keohane said. "If (Toronto) gets the December Miami game against the Bills, then they should be in the cold, too.''
As novel as their proposal might be, the petition won't pry open the roof, said Adrian Montgomery, spokesman for Rogers Communications, one of the game's hosts.
One problem in the event of snow or rain is the field's lack of a proper drainage system, Montgomery said. Another factor: the roof is locked in place after baseball's Blue Jays end their season.
"I wish we could open it,'' Montgomery said. "But please let them know that we recognize how important this game really is. And we will do everything in our power to replicate the frenzied atmosphere at Ralph Wilson Stadium.''
What can't be replicated are the occasional snowstorms and biting winds that blow in off nearby Lake Erie at this time of year.
The mere proposal to open the roof sent chills through at least Dolphins defensive end Matt Roth.
"No! Don't do that,'' Roth said. "I hope it's closed for the fans' sake, for all those West Palm fans. We don't want them to open the roof.''
It didn't matter to Miami guard Justin Smiley, though. "I don't really care. I like cold-weather games. If they think that it would be in their favor by opening the roof in that game, I don't think it really matters.''
Even Bills players are split on the topic.
"Hell no. Are we not human?'' receiver Josh Reed said. "We might get an edge, but I think I can probably speak for a few players on this team that I'd rather play indoors.''
Guard Langston Walker would sign the petition.
"It's part of the game. You play in winter for a reason,'' Walker said. "I think it would make for an exciting game. The weather always adds an element to it. It's something that both teams have to combat against.''
The high ticket prices are the Toronto organizers' attempt to recoup the $78 million they're paying the Bills to essentially lease eight games, including three preseason, through 2012. Montgomery said there are about 2,500 tickets still unsold.
Petrinec was undeterred after learning the roof won't be open.
"I don't think that we have completely lost here. We have at least started a conversation,'' Petrinec said. "We want them to realize that fans are not happy with the situation, and that there is something that they can do for us to make it a little more bearable.''
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