When the NFL announced Monday that the Buffalo Bills’ Week 15 game would be rescheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m., it didn’t take long to feel the aftershocks.
Dec. “The phone immediately started ringing at the box office and people wanted to exchange their tickets,” Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra President and Executive Director Daniel Hart said of the 17 Holiday Pops concert. “Saturday night is the biggest night, of course, but we have four shows of Holiday Pops, so all is not lost.”
In Babeville, a caller asked if “A John Waters Christmas” scheduled for that Saturday night could be moved to an earlier time so the man could watch the Miami Dolphins play at Highmark Stadium.
“Buffalo is a small market, and the bills are a common denominator that crosses racial and economic lines and musical genres,” said Scott Fisher, owner of Babeville. “Our experience is that any show that competes with Buffalo Bills wins because people are crazy about the bills.
People also read…
“Maybe we should do a split screen with John Waters on one side and the Bills on the other,” he laughed.
From birthday and cookie-decorating parties to live events, the schedule change a week before Christmas wreaks havoc on people’s plans.
Jeremy and Brenna Sniadecki had already planned to celebrate their two sons’ birthdays, four days apart, that Saturday. Since their sons live out of state, they already have their travel tickets, so they keep the date.
The Rochester couple, who are Bills fans, can’t watch the game for free right now. While they consider themselves part of the Buffalo market, if they want to watch the game, they have to sign up for the NFL Network.
“Obviously we love our kids and we’ll be there, but I’ll be looking at my phone,” Brenna Sniadecki said with a laugh. “I guess we’ll catch up on the highlights later.”
The game day change also uprooted the family cookie decorating ritual.
Rain Hauser said her family decorates cookies every holiday season, made with an old family recipe. December 17 seemed like an ideal date. Why?
“Because the bills don’t play,” she said.
When the schedule changed, at least one of the relatives who had season tickets and wanted to tailgate wouldn’t be there.
“We knew he wouldn’t have gone,” she said. “It threw a big wrench in everybody’s plans. If it was an away game it wouldn’t have been a problem because we could have just kept the game.”
After several phone calls and emails, family members decided to meet that Sunday at a relative’s home in Clarence.
The Buffalo Bills often play on Sundays and use their schedule to clash with the Bills. So Nate Oliver, the team’s general manager, was looking forward to Saturday’s game against the Toronto Six.
“Let’s face it, any time we have the schedule to ourselves, it sets the stage for a lot of fan attendance for us,” Oliver said.
She said that beauties have ardent fans who show up anyway, but that’s not for everyone.
“As far as being a causal fan, especially in the season the Bills are in, I think Buffalo sports fans need to witness that,” he said.
Samantha Rae Hughes of SM Events, who hosts the Black and Gold Holiday Party at Sto Lot Bar Events at Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence, said the first thing she did when she heard about the schedule change was take a deep breath.
She began answering the 15 or so phone calls that came in over the next 10 minutes, people asking her if she had heard the message.
Hughes said he decided to embrace the Bills playing that night rather than looking at it negatively.
“We immediately made calls to make sure we had tables and chairs set up to watch at least two or three big screen televisions,” Hughes said. “People always go to bars to watch the games, so what better way to celebrate than by toying with 400 people?
The sold-out event has prompted two refunds to date. Both are from Bills season ticket holders.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described how the game was originally listed in the NFL schedule. The Bills-Miami Week 15 game was listed as TBA until Saturday’s primetime slot was announced last Monday.
Mark Sommer covers conservation, development, waterfront, culture and more. He is also a former art editor at The News.