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Have mercy. Please.

Somebody tell Jamestown native Roger Goodell – who is one of us, no less – and the sadists who devise the NFL schedule to give us a break.

It is bad enough that our football team has not sniffed the playoffs since the Clinton presidency. It is tough enough when the December winds come howling off of the lake. It is hard to relax under the cloud of anxiety that comes with a 94-year-old owner, an expiring lease and NFL-lacking Los Angeles lusting for a team.

The league, with Commissioner Goodell at the helm, insists on adding to our misery – and undercutting the Bills' profits – by loading the schedule with December home games. Four of the Bills eight home games this season (including the Toronto tilt) are, you guessed it, in December.

This all but ensures that the games will not sell out, which hurts the team. Games that do not sell out are not televised here, which ticks off fans and deprives advertisers of “eyes.” It's a vicious cycle that the NFL seems intent on perpetuating.

If I were a grassy-knoll type, I would suspect the league is back-loading home games in Buffalo as part of a larger conspiracy. Purposely creating “evidence” of dwindling fan support gives the league some cover if the team moves. Maybe the whole thing is a set-up.

For the record, I don't buy the conspiracy theory. But burdening the Bills with December home games only waters the seeds of suspicion.

Local restaurateur Russ Salvatore last week bought the remaining tickets for today's game, lifting the TV blackout. But the NFL could have spared him the trouble if it stopped sacking the team's profits – and chop-blocking its fans – by overloading late-season home games in a smaller-market, cold-weather city with a chronically bad team and a flat-lining economy.

Now that December has rolled around, the Bills' playoff chances are slim or none. Which makes the games less appealing than in, say, October, when hope – however false – still beats in fans' hearts. Beyond that, December home games “reward” the blind faith of fans with the risk of frostbite. The December sell is especially tough in prosperity-challenged Buffalo, where the Bills compete against Santa Claus for disposable dollars. We know who wins that one.

This month is not a one-year exception. It is the fourth season in the past five that at least three home games were played on or after Nov. 30th. The Bills should play no more than two late-season home games, one in Toronto.

The NFL's Brian McCarthy, in an email, said the league is “aware of the Bills' preference for limiting late-season home games ... [but] we are not able to make every team happy every year.”

It is bad enough that we have to annually suffer with a lousy team. Worse is a schedule that leaves us out in the cold.

email: desmonde@buffnews.com