The Lions could be second cousins to the Bills. There's a vague resemblance, and something like familial recognition in losing. On Monday night, Detroit pulled out the hideaway bed from the couch, made it up quickly but as nice as it could, and told Buffalo to make itself at home. Buffalo gave profuse thanks, said it had a great time and meant it. The Jets don't fit in this metaphor. To justify their level of awful would be a misuse of creative license.
The ratio of Bills fans to Jets fans may have been even greater than it would have been had the game taken place at Ralph Wilson Stadium, which makes sense. It was a Bills home game, technically, and though it's weird to think of Michigan and New York as being geographically close, the drive through Canada should only take a little more than four hours. A pair of 20-something fans said they planned to drive back that night. If they had planned to go back to New York City, they would have had to anticipate 10 hours on the road or worse -- essentially, showing up to work in jerseys and puffy winter hats.
The surprising part was that crowd was real. An announced attendance of 56,044 didn't seem like a gross exaggeration. It outstripped the number fans who showed up to Vikings-Giants at Ford Field in 2010 after the roof of the Metrodome collapsed. The split:
50 percent: Honest-to-god Bills fans, well-versed in the subtleties of Scott Chandler and butchers of "Shout."
45 percent: Lions fans or neutral gawkers. About a quarter of this subset showed up just to heckle Jim Schwartz.
5 percent: Poor damn Jets fans. They were few and unhappy, because their team was so very, very bad on that night.
The Bills' blocked punt for a touchdown symbolized the Jets' listless effort. Anthony Dixon out-muscled his man well enough to get his forearm on the ball, then the ball sat in the end zone long enough for the Jets to goober about until Manny Lawson came and fell on it. No need for a dog pile.
The Jets managed just 218 total yards of offense. They had 70 yards at the half. Michael Vick completed 37 percent of his passes before giving way to Geno Smith, who entered the game to laughter from all demographics. And even in the whitewashing, unaffiliated fans didn't show the Jets any sympathy -- because of their New York City-ness perhaps. The row of fans behind me rooted for the Bills from kickoff, so I asked them if they drove in.
"Oh no," one man said. "We just dislike the Jets sort of naturally. We're from here."
He was a jolly man. It was a jolly crowd. Free tickets will do that. Free justifies paying $30 in parking to be near the stadium, and the cost of concessions and multi-colored margarita tubes. It removes most of the tension from the NFL Gameday Experience. The Jets made sure there would be zero drama on their end. To call it a game would suggest that the Jets had some interest in competing. From kickoff to final whistle, the players were getting dressed in their locker rooms in under three hours.
This game was a respite for a lot of people -- for Detroit fans who love live football but hate the cost, and for Buffalo fans who aren't used to easy wins and made it to Michigan from homes buried in nearly eight feet of snow. They came in their own vehicles or charter buses. Bills fans stayed well after Jets fans fled and Detroit fans had gotten their fill, and sang that bastardized version of "Shout" as they shuffled out onto the concourse.
Some complained about the bitter cold and wind gusts on their way out of Ford Field. Someone within ear shot shouted back "just thank god it's not snowing."