Mother Nature isn’t going to throw a wrench into Ken Johnson’s 21-year streak of attending every Buffalo Bills game — no matter where they play.
Johnson has every intention attending his 336th consecutive game on Monday night, even though the ”home” game against the New York Jets will be in Detroit because of heavy snow in the Buffalo area.
”You think I’m not going to Detroit!?” he asked incredulously by phone on Friday. ”Close, personal friends and stuff are worried that I might not make the game. I just wouldn’t expect that from them, like this is a big deal.”
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It isn’t to Johnson, a Rochester-based software developer who was formulating contingency plans before the snowstorm began hitting the region on Monday. When the NFL on Thursday night announced the game would be moved to Detroit, Johnson was left with several easy options.
He can fly standby direct from Rochester. And if that fails, he’ll make the relatively easy 5-1/2 hour drive.
”A lot of plans I make at the last-minute anyway,” said Johnson, who intends to travel on Sunday. ”And Detroit was like the best case.”
Dorsey Rembert Sr. of Detroit is a diehard Lions fan, but that’s not stopping him from trying to get tickets to the game. The fact that it’s free certainly is a big factor but the 59-year-old Rembert has other motivations.
”It’s just the excitement of the NFL coming to Detroit on an extra day,” he said. ”I’d like to see Michael Vick also, and the Jets are good.”
Whether Johnson is joined by many Buffalo fans is an open question. Not everyone has such flexible hours as Johnson, who anticipates a mostly quiet crowd. He doesn’t care.
”This is a cool twist. Sometimes I like stuff like this to happen because it breaks things up,” Johnson said. ”Twenty years from now, when we’re all sitting around a table having a beer and stuff, you have to have things like this happen or you won’t have good stories to tell.”
Here are some other things to know about this unusual situation:
BEEN DONE BEFORE: Since 1992, the NFL has been forced to relocate games out of the team’s home community twice, not including the New Orleans Saints, who spent the entire 2005 season on the road after Hurricane Katrina damaged the Superdome.
The most recent switched happened in 2010, when the Minnesota Vikings’ home game against the New York Giants on Dec. 12 was moved to Detroit a day later after the Metrodome’s roof collapsed. The Giants won 21-3 before an announced crowd of 45,910. Admission was free, with holders of tickets of the scheduled game in Minnesota offered opportunities to sit behind both team’s benches.
MARRONE’S MEMORIES: Bills coach Doug Marrone was an assistant with the Saints in 2008, when the team evacuated New Orleans in advance of Hurricane Gustav. The Saints spent the week practicing in Indianapolis before their opener against Tampa Bay.
”I think it’s tough. You don’t want to compare it to other things and say `This is worse than that,”’ Marrone said. ”It’s very difficult. This is very challenging for me.”
The worst part, Marrone said, were the worries Saints players and staff had about leaving their families behind.
INDOOR COMFORT: The chance to play indoors at Ford Field means less equipment the Bills have to ship to Detroit than if the game was played outside. The Bills will practice at the Lions indoor facility starting on Friday night and through the weekend. The storm forced Buffalo to cancel practices on Wednesday and Thursday.
JET-TING OFF: Jets coach Rex Ryan isn’t concerned with the change of venue.
”It wouldn’t affect us,” Ryan said. ”We’d just aim our plane in a different direction, I guess.”
Off since a 20-13 win over Pittsburgh on Nov. 9, the Jets get an extra day of practice on Saturday before flying to Detroit on Sunday. New York will be playing on consecutive Monday nights. The Jets host Miami on Dec. 1.
REFUNDS: Bills season-ticket holders will either receive a refund or have their accounts credited should they renew for next season. Those who bought single-game tickets through the team, Ticketmaster or the NFL’s TicketExchange are also receive refunds, including fees.
ON THE AIR: CBS was scheduled to broadcast the game on Sunday and will air the game Monday but only the teams’ regional markets. DIRECTV announced the game will be available as part of its national Sunday Ticket package. ESPN is airing Baltimore playing at New Orleans at 8:30 p.m. EST on Monday.