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Three and a half downs

My signed column runs a day early this week: it asks the penetrating question "If 50 million Englishmen can support seven thousand soccer teams, why the hell shouldn't it be possible for Toronto to support two teams playing two slightly different kinds of football?"


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Comments (19)

George Skinner:

Fascism is a term that gets kicked around far too much, but a collectivist policy based on nationalist posturing seems like it might justify the moniker...


Umm... because most of the time Toronto can barely support one team?
While I don't see any valid national purpose in interfering in an NFL team playing in Canada (or CFL teams playing outside the country), I wouldn't bet on TO supporting both the Argos and an NFL team.

Good call DC, Toronto is notorious for not supporting the Argos as it is. Imagine the poor NFL when the fad wore off and the Buffalo Bills became the Vancouver Grizzlies.


The Bills would not become the Vancouver Grizzlies. They would be a huge success. That is why there is so much panty twisting involved. I would absolutely love an NFL team in Vancouver.


"Fascism is a term that gets kicked around far too much, but a collectivist policy based on nationalist posturing seems like it might justify the moniker..."

So, Macdonald's "National Policy" was fascism? As was a position taken by one of the main parties in every election since Confederation?


That actually makes perfect sense to me, Ty, though of course I'm not exactly the guy to ask on this issue. Years ago I was taught that Fascism was rule in the interest of the non-productive classes, and I've had that bee buzzing around my bonnet ever since. A hell of a lot of things Canadian look fascist to me.


So, ebt, who would this rule be in the interest of? I imagine that as a capitalist Ted Rogers would be in a 'non-productive' class, and this is a rule aimed directly at his interest in owning an NFL team. The class "protected" by this rule are CFL fans (and less-wealthy CFL owners), and if the CFL fan-base matches the demographics of the country (albeit skewed towards males, I suppose) then I would have a hard time putting them in anything other than a 'productive class' in aggregate... so how, exactly, is this Fascist?


Oh, capitalists are definitely a productive class, Mr. Cardno. Old Ted has pumped out more widgets than I ever will. I don't see this bill as particularly fascist; of course, as I've indicated, I don't think everything stupid is fascist, or even vice versa.

I think you'd actually have to see clear evidence that Canadians really don't want to buy CFL tickets at all, and that the sport cannot be profitable or even break-even viable in the market, before you can conclude that these guys really aren't producing anything, and that protecting them is therefore fascist. In other words, something like the situation with theatre or the cinema, where we simply pay the unemployable to wank. And I think Mr. Cosh has demonstrated admirably that we aren't anywhere near that point yet.

As far as I can see, the only unproductive elements who would benefit from this bill are the parasites that would pass it; and they don't benefit materially, only in the vanity-filled bubble between their ears, so it doesn't count. And we're all materialists here, surely. So, no, it ain't fascist, I just don't like it. And I feel like a rebel just making the distinction.


Few markets in Canada could support an NFL franchise, and most of those wouldn't be interested even if they were given the option. Moving a single team into Ontario is not going to have any noticeable impact on the CFL.

As for the argument that Canadians can support more sport - well, Colby, we're not the british and we're not the americans. We already have quite a lot of varsity and minor league sport that nobody pays any attention to.

Consider hockey, far and away our most beloved sport, and the difficulty the CHL leagues have in attracting fans. Even the most diehard hockey nuts seem to have no interest in these leagues. We could never support a vast, multi-tiered system of hockey leagues as the british do with soccer.

We canadians simply aren't as serious about sport as people are in those countries. We don't even support our top teams, once push comes to shove.

Warmongering Lunatic:

What the CFL should do is launch a league in the U.S. as an insurance policy.

Not, mind you, an expansion; a league. Call it the United States Football League, since that name is available again, and is nicely parallel. Have it play a spring schedule — that is, no direct competition with either U.S. college or pro football. Launch the initial eight franchises in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland OR, and Salt Lake City, (Western League), San Antonio, Birmingham, Memphis, and Oklahoma City (Southern League) — places with no NFL franchises. Use Canadian rules, except for American-sized fields (for logistical convenience).

Maybe I'm wrong, but spring football, anchored by the Los Angeles market, starting with two built-in rivalries (Texas-Oklahoma, Memphis-Birmingham), operating out of towns without existing NFL affiliations, seems like it should be viable and profitable. And it might create some secondary interest in the Canadian-rules game in the U.S. that could spill over to increasing the value of CFL broadcast rights in the U.S.

Now, let's assume that the Bills move to Toronto, and the result is that the CFL takes a serious hit. Ouch. But you have the CFL move to the same spring schedule as its U.S. subsidiary, and then you schedule a "Freedom Bowl" between the Grey Cup winner and the USFL champion for the first Sunday in July.

You've thought through the details way harder than I have, but I always wondered why the CFL didn't just take that fenced-off CFL America approach to U.S. expansion to begin with. The gamble they settled on—devised, no doubt, by some of the same geniuses who are now waxing uneasy about an invasion in the opposite direction—did far more ongoing harm to the CFL than one NFL franchise possibly could.

Gord Tulk:

T.O. supports only the best professional teams. It sees sports franchises as a marketing mechanism for the city.

Thus the NBA and MLB and the NHL get good to great support while the Marlies, in what is supposed to be the cradle of hockey, can't draw flies during the playoffs. The CFL is not the premier football league and thus has struggled in T.O..

Nitus is incorrect when he says; "Moving a single team into Ontario is not going to have any noticeable impact on the CFL.". Nationwide corporate support would dry up overnight as it stampedes to the NFL team. The CFL would rapidly shrivel to a western rump that has attendance on par with CDN college teams.

Just ask any Expos fan (Colby, Me) what happened when the Blue Jays started-up.


Even if the CFL in Ontario lost a few dollars [and probably there's more than enough dollars to go around], Gord, it wouldn't kill the CFL.

Southern Ontaro is not Canada.

The Expos did exceedingly well for years after the Jays entered the AL. I do recall that one of the things that eventually helped kill them was that people got sick of watching big-league sport in a cavernous, obsolete venue and preferred to go watch CFL games (pas possible!?) in Molson Stadium. If you think this means the Argonauts couldn't possibly survive playing games in a small, intimate venue—a move for which plans were already drawn up and signed once—then you might be reading the evidence backwards. Right now the Double Blue are making more money than ever, despite the bite taken out of the entertainment dollar by the Raptors.

But maybe the Argonauts fold, the Hamilton and Ottawa franchises get to split southern Ontario between them, and the lucrative Grey Cup Week never again has to be shared with old York. The CFL's corporate backers are left with a choice: pay through the nose to market to Toronto plus the U.S. or go on supporting the three-down league. Maybe they'd jump ship, but it seems like a lot of them have no particular reason to pay for U.S. eyeballs or else they'd already have moved on. Would Purolator jump? Canad Inns? Canada Safeway? CanWest Global? Scotiabank? Rona? The Mosaic Co.? Seems like there are some sizable companies whose main business is selling things to Canadians.


That is one issue that I've found funny: The media thinking about how this will affect Hamilton. I mean, Hamilton's just as close, really, to Buffalo anyways, and tickets are a lot easier to get to a Bills game than a Toronto version would be.

A U.S. version of the CFL, though, is always going to be a tough sell, especially the further south you go. While College and NFL have different rules, marketing "3 down" football is like suggesting 2 out baseball there.

My problem with the CFL is that they haven't been aggressive with the territory they have, and are now complaining about inroads. Football is booming big time in Quebec, and they haven't really put any effort into putting a team in Quebec City, nothing in Windsor, which, considering anger/overpricing of the Lions, could attract a few people over the bridge, not to mention the perennial Halifax bait-and-switch.

Tickets to the Toronto Bills won't be easy to get. Especially if they don't blow up the SkyDome, although that prediction's a gimme if the Bills get sold. (GAWWWD, the thing's not only almost 19 years old—how can you people stand to look at yourselves in the mirror?—but its capacity is legitimately puny by NFL standards. Hope u got 1 billion bux.)

The CFL's marketing has been so-so since the failed expansion, as far as I can tell, but that was a big setback—essentially a matter of sitting out a decade of compounded growth— and there's still plenty of room for improvement. My view's a little slanted: in Edmonton (and Saskatchewan) football doesn't need a hard sell.


I have to admit, though, it was quite the experiment: Just adding that many teams to a sitting league into full competition.

The great "What if" to me will always be if the CFL decided to look east instead: Instead of NFL Europe, with constantly changing rosters and a dependence on 6'7/300lb NFL types; a Canadian style league that allowed for smaller, quicker players (read:Euros) and more kicking, along with being friendly with their soccer sized/track enclosed playing areas, and controlled costs and fan followings. You probably couldn't have an interleague until the playoffs with travel costs, but it could have been gold.

Dennis Prouse:

Sorry I am a few days late to the party. I thought this was a terrific column. My God, you would think the world was coming to an end if you read the histrionics on some of the CFL Boards right now. The funny part is, as Colby points out, the horse long ago bolted the barn on this. Between NFL Network, Sunday Ticket, and shopping online, the average Canadian has access to all the same NFL goods and services as their American neighbours. It is now 2008, although to read Bobby Ackles' column last week in the Post you would swear it was 1978.

Most of the NFL's income is derived from broadcasts and merchandise. Ticket revenue is just the cherry on top of the sundae. So to the extent that the CFL was worried about the battle for the hearts and minds of Canadian sports fans, guess what? That battle was fought, and lost, a long time ago, as evidenced by many of the comments here.

I enjoy the CFL just as much as I do the NFL, and I think the CFL gets an undeserved bad rap from people who, quite frankly, don't know the game that well. At the same time, though, the league has to stand on its on two feet and market itself in a positive manner, rather than hectoring, begging, and shaming people into supporting it. There is clear evidence, fortunately, that new Commissioner Mark Cohon "gets it", and understands that the raise the drawbridge approach is laughably outdated.

That is one issue that I've found funny: The media thinking about how this will affect Hamilton.

Seriously, if we Hamilton fans haven't jumped ship yet, after the dogshit-on-a-tin-plate we've been given the last 10 years, you think an NFL franchise is going to have any effect at all? By now, I'm pretty sure that those of us left wouldn't be driven away from Ivor Wynne by anything more than laser-targeted thunderbolts hurled by God Himself.

Jeez, that was a pathetic effort tonight.


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