Tagged: Toronto Argonauts

There’s no excuse whatsoever to not go to the Argos CFL games!


It was a sorry sight on TV this weekend at BMO Field. Today the Toronto Argonauts were playing their home opener of the Canadian Football League season against their fiercest rivals, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Except there was hardly anyone at this game! The attendance was a crummy 13,583!

Folks, the Saskatchewan Rush lacrosse team regularly does better than that. In fact, half the National Lacrosse League does better than that! That’s how far the Argos have fallen in Toronto, folks.

And once again, everyone is coming up with the excuses for why they didn’t draw better. Last year, there were weather-related excuses and the competition from Duran Duran concerts and Blue Jays games and Indycar races and what have you. 

The big excuse I am hearing about this weekend is that it was Pride Weekend in Toronto, so that was the reason why people didn’t show up. This has surely got to be the most creative excuse I’ve heard yet.

Bottom line is, if there were football fans in Toronto, they wouldn’t care about any of the multitude of other stuff that goes on in the city, they wouldn’t even care about the gridlock traffic. They would find a way to be at the effing games, dammit! And they would surely be at a game involving the Tiger-Cats! 13,583 for the home opener against your arch-rivals is sad, ladies and gentlemen. 

And I don’t want to hear about how people in Toronto would rather enjoy the good weather than go to the CFL game. You can enjoy the good weather while sitting there in the seats, drinking a beer! But clearly, not enough people took advantage of that opportunity today at BMO, because there was row after row of empty red seats, on television.

You know what’s even sadder? It looks like the Argos might be fielding a better team than the Saskatchewan Roughriders this year, in spite of the fact that it took the Argos all offseason to find a coach (Marc Trestman.) Yet even if they have a winning season, the Argos will probably be a drag on the attendance for this entire league, and create more bad publicity about how poorly the CFL is doing — all because people in Toronto don’t care and won’t show up. Last fall’s Grey Cup in Toronto was also a debacle, by the way, with tickets practically being given away, and it turned out to be one of the best games in history with Ottawa winning in OT!

Come on, Toronto people, get with it. Give the CFL and the Argos a chance — especially after this game today. There, that’s my soap-box rant for this week.

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The CFL is finished in Toronto! My freak-out reaction to Wednesday’s Argo attendance


Relax, this headline is simply to get everyone’s attention. But this will be the headline if nothing changes in Toronto any time soon with respect to interest there in the CFL. Quite honestly, I’m alarmed at what I witnessed on TV this week.

Announced gate for Wednesday’s Toronto Argonauts contest against Ottawa was 12,373. That number seems generous given what I saw on TV on Wednesday. I would have put the number closer to 7,000.

I’m seeing a fair amount of excuses online for why the gate was so bad, and while some make sense others don’t.

One excuse was the problems with the road closures due to Indy. Fair point, which raises this question: why the heck did the CFL schedule the game at BMO Field for this week? They should have known about the road closures and the havoc that would cause in Toronto, a city infamous for its gridlock.

Second excuse was that people stayed away because it was 35 degrees Celsius. Well, the Blue Jays have played in 35 degrees before and the place was usually packed. When the Rolling Stones played that massive outdoor concert in Toronto in 2003 there were over a half million people there for that, and it had to have been at least 35 degrees then, too.

If it were 25 degrees, the excuse from people would have been that they wanted to enjoy the good weather at home, and if it were 15 degrees or less there would have been complaints that it was too cold. And if rain is in the forecast people would have complained about that too. So I don’t buy this explanation at all, this is total baloney. “I didn’t go to the game because it was hot out!” Right.

Then the other excuse was that the gate was low because there was a concert for Duran Duran the same night. First of all, who cares about Duran Duran, it’s not like the Argos were up against Paul McCartney or Madonna or somebody like that. Second of all, this still makes no sense because the Saskatchewan Roughriders are going to be up against the Craven Country Jamboree this weekend with all these major country stars showing up there — traditionally the toughest concert competition of the year in this market — and yet the Riders are expecting around 30,000 at home! 

There are other excuses, but I think what it really comes down to is that few people in Toronto care anymore about the CFL. I think the bottom line is that the Toronto Argos are simply seen in Toronto as an inferior product — not only to the NFL but to all the other Toronto pro sports teams. Moreover, there is the distinct perception in Toronto that the CFL is “yesterday’s sport” — the league your parents and grandparents followed, but not you.

That’s the cold hard fact of the matter, but there are ways to deal with it through rebranding, better marketing, better fan experiences, better ticket prices, whatever. But that will take time and effort. You simply can’t expect all the problems to go away with a change of stadiums. Anyway, the new owners of the team clearly need to make more of an effort than what they are doing, just to right the ship. It sounds like a lack of marketing is still an issue there. 

As for moving to BMO Field and how it was supposed to solve all the Argos’ problems — it’s now apparent that all this is doing is giving the Argos a chance at a fresh start in the market, nothing more. 

The move to BMO Field solves some problems — at least the Argos won’t be kicked out of their stadium like they were before — but other problems have been created. Instead of being second-fiddle in Rogers Centre to the Blue Jays, the Argos are now second-fiddle at BMO Field to Toronto FC, whose fans are still hopping mad that the Argos have moved in to their beloved soccer stadium. Also, while BMO Field is good for tailgating, it isn’t really a convenient location. It’s way off the subway line, for instance, and even when you drive there traffic is usually terrible off the freeway. I know, I’ve lived there.
Bottom line — this new stadium is great, but more must be done to convince people to go there. I mean really, that was a sad scene on Wednesday, all those empty seats.

Here are some other stories and opinions about the Argos attendance debacle from the Toronto Star, from the CBC, and from Toronto Mike. Also, here’s a piece from Steve Simmons on a slightly different topic: the ridiculous ticket prices for the Grey Cup at BMO Field, with tickets running upwards of several hundred dollars. Seriously, some of these tickets are going for $899! 

Seriously, you’re better off simply using that money to buy two new big-screen TVs — one to watch the Grey Cup, and the other to watch the NFL game at the same time on the other station! As big a CFL fan as I am, I gotta say ‘no way’ to these prices, too.

Argos are still a flop in Toronto. Attendance at BMO Field tonight is terrible!


I can’t believe what I am seeing in the stands on TSN tonight. There are empty seats all over BMO Field at tonight’s Toronto Argonauts-Ottawa RedBlacks CFL game. To give you an idea how bad it is, in one grandstand you can easily see the white maple leaf in the middle of all those red seats. 

This looks really bad on TV — it’s as empty as Rogers Centre used to look. To be honest, though, this reminds me more of Sam Boyd Stadium for Las Vegas Posse games in the Nineties.

I don’t know what to say about this. Moving to BMO was supposed to solve the Argos attendance problems, and schedule problems, and all the rest of their problems. Now, it looks like the CFL is stuck with the same problems as before in Toronto. Unbelievable.

What boggles my mind is there’s literally no sports competition to speak of. This is All-Star week, the deadest sports week of the year in North America! Baseball is on its break, and while there are MLS soccer games on, the fact is Toronto FC is out of town in Columbus! 

Moreover, this Argos game is against a division rival who played in the Grey Cup game last year. This ought to be a good marquee matchup for the league. You would think there’d be a captive audience for the Argos tonight in Toronto, but no.

As for why this game is not being held this weekend instead, keep in mind this is Indy weekend in Toronto and this is always a big deal with streets blocked off and so on. In fact, it sounds like a lot of streets around BMO were blocked off tonight, too, because of the Indy races coming up. 

So why is attendance so bad tonight? Is it the location of the stadium? Is it ticket prices? The street closures? Perhaps it is simply because at the end of the day football is a fall sport, not a summer one, and sports fans simply aren’t going to be as excited to see a football game played in the middle of July. 

It could be all these things, for all I know. All in all, as a longtime fan of this league and as a former Toronto resident myself, this is discouraging to see.

A few words on Toronto Argos attendance: I don’t get it!!!

  
Read a story at the CBC website this week about the crummy attendance the Toronto Argonauts drew for their game against Ottawa this past weekend at Rogers Centre.

It was a little over 14,000. This gate for one of the CFL’s most storied franchises, my friends, is sad. 

What’s worse, this was a game against a division rival, and the Argos were fighting for first place (and in fact are in first place as of today). And according to the story, the roof was open and it was a beautiful day for football.

I’ll tell you, folks where I live now would pack the stadium for a game like that! And quite honestly, here in Saskatchewan, fans are really worried about the Argos. Fans are deathly afraid the problems in Toronto will continue right into their new stadium next year, and ultimately drag down and ruin their beloved CFL. 

The big excuse for the low crowd Sunday is that folks in Toronto were more interested in the Blue Jays game versus the Angels on TV. But that still makes no sense, because surely there are TVs on in the Rogers Centre where fans could still watch the Blue Jays. And people have smartphones these days and can follow the Blue Jays live from their seats at the Argos game. I still don’t get it.

Now, the reality is there is intense competition for the pro-sports dollar in Toronto, more so than anywhere else in Canada. Moreover, this the only CFL market in the country that has to compete directly with Major League Baseball. It’s tougher than ever now that the Blue Jays are on such a roll. I get that. 

I also get the fact that the Argos will be moving to BMO Field next year. But the Argos haven’t even been outdrawing Toronto FC, either! 14,000 people is a low CFL number whether at BMO or Rogers Centre, or anywhere.

I personally think the Argos deserve a second look from Toronto sports fans. Among other things, this franchise has managed some winning seasons and even a Grey Cup title in recent years. That’s more than what Toronto has gotten from the Maple Leafs. Not only are still selling out games, but they are still charging an arm and a leg for it, far more than what Argos tickets go for. 

Yet the Leafs’ product is terrible! I’ll say this about the Argos: their product is not terrible. Not this year.

Moreover, the point must be made that the CFL is worth supporting. It is a longstanding tradition in this country with a rich history and some name players. The Grey Cup is a national tradition as well. On top of that, the product is exciting. Also, I know there are lots of football fans in Toronto. The problem is many have this snooty attitude to the CFL. They say they prefer the NFL, but even when the NFL was holding games in Toronto fans wouldn’t go to those, either.

I am starting to ramble on, but the point is that there are lots of selling points for the Argos in Toronto. So go out there and sell, darnit! The CFL is still a great product and there is no reason for the Argos to languish like this. There, that’s my football rant for today.

The Toronto Argos are a mess on and off the field

What a mess for the Toronto Argonauts. Not only do they get hammered 37-9 by the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but their lineup is so depleted by injuries that I question whether they can win against anyone, anytime soon. Quarterback Ricky Ray was getting shelled by the Riders D. It was an ugly scene in Regina.

On the one hand I am very happy Saskatchewan won the game. The Riders needed a win, and they got it. On the other hand, though, the final score is not going to convince people in Toronto, already a tough crowd as it is, that the CFL product is worth supporting at the Rogers Centre.

In fact, there are still people down there who think the NFL is coming. There was more news in the papers this week about that Bon Jovi-led group trying to buy the Bills. Never mind that the Bills-in-Toronto series was a flop — people there still believe Toronto is close to getting an NFL team.

Moreover, it looks like the Toronto “Bills” are closer to a new stadium than the Argos are. All in all, these stories do nothing to enhance the Argos in the Toronto market. People are already worried about the crowds at Rogers Centre and a 1-4 start is going to simply make it worse.

People out West don’t want to see this going on because they know the value of having Toronto in the CFL. They want the CFL as a whole to succeed and a viable Toronto franchise is a big part of that. But the situation right now is a mess — for the Argos, and the league.

More thoughts on the CFL: Toronto fans, where the heck were you?!

The only thing more embarrassing than the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 48-15 drubbing to the Toronto Argonauts was the lousy attendance at the game in Toronto. Only 17,700 showed up at the Rogers Centre, which is pretty bad.

Seeing all those empty seats in the stadium on TSN was a sorry sight for the CFL. Now, granted, only 19,000 turned up at the Riders’ home opener the week before, but it was pouring rain in Regina and half the province was dealing with major floods that day! From the looks of it, it was perfect weather in Toronto, the roof was wide open, and there was no flooding to speak of. Yet fans in Toronto couldn’t bother to show up for a game between the reigning Grey Cup champs and the team that had won the Grey Cup the season before — which just so happened to be the Argos.

I guess the big excuse was that the important World Cup game was on between the Netherlands and Costa Rica,  which leads me to ask why the football game wasn’t scheduled for Sunday, instead, when there were no World Cup games going on.

The other thing is that there was a Toronto FC game at home at BMO Field in the evening where 22,000 people showed up. That really bugs the heck out of me — the fact that Toronto FC is selling out their games when they’ve had such a crummy team for years. And it’s not as if MLS is such a big-time league, either.

Meanwhile, there’s the Argos who’ve fielded competitive teams and actually won a Grey Cup in recent years, with a Hall-of-Fame QB in Ricky Ray. Yet people in Toronto will stay away and go watch these other losing local teams instead.

Folks, you really do need to start supporting your local Argos. It’s a good product and they deserve better, and so does the CFL. That’s my rant on the subject.

NOW A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE GREY CUP, JUSTIN BIEBER, ROB FORD AND ALL THINGS TORONTO

I just want to say a few words about the Grey Cup game over the weekend, but first, a few words about the soon-to-be ex-Mayor Rob Ford.

Who else sees the irony? His beloved football Toronto Argonauts win the Grey Cup, and the next day Ford is ousted in a judicial decision for conflict of interest.

Ford’s offence: casting a vote at council that would have meant he didn’t need to comply with the integrity commissioners’ ruling that he pay back money to his football charity.

To be honest with you, I worry about the implications of a judge tossing out a mayor in a judicial decision. I simply think the punishment is a bit too extreme. My concern is this might open the door to lawsuits all over Canada by people opposed to politicians in power for any flimsy reason. Personally, the decision on whether some politician should stay or go ought to be up to the voters, not judges. At the very least it ought to be the council that votes non-confidence or starts impeachment proceedings.

Having said all that, I think Ford did it to himself here. He could have avoided this mess by simply adhering to these conflict of interest rules. Heck, I see local civic officials excuse themselves and leave council chambers regularly at the meetings I attend. If it isn’t so difficult for them to excuse themselves from voting on issues where there is a conflict, then it shouldn’t be difficult for someone like Rob Ford. Anyway, that is my comment on that.

Oh, and by the way, there are mayors all over Canada who are either in trouble or resigned, such as ones in Laval and Montreal. Even Joe Fontana, mayor of London, Ontario, faces criminal charges and a possible ouster. So these messes are happening all over Canada. As for Toronto, its city council is in chaos as of today.

Now, about the Grey Cup.

Much has been made about how the CFL really needed an Argos victory, and all the talk was about the implications this whole week had on boosting interest in the league in this city. I think the impact has been far greater, though, for the city itself, and more particularly for the psyche of Toronto sports fans. Think of it: the fans there have been flattened by the poor performances of their teams over the past few years.

It’s been years since the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays have been in the playoffs. In the case of Toronto FC, they’ve never been in the playoffs, period, and they’ve only been in the MLS for a few years. To top off all of it, the Argos haven’t been very good, either, until now.

For this team to win the Cup is pretty astounding. It ends years of misery for fans of all the Toronto teams.

I compare this Grey Cup week to the massive Rolling Stones concert held after the SARS epidemic flattened the city. The Rolling Stones concert, at the time, basically was Toronto’s announcement to the world that the city was back, and I think this Grey Cup, coming on the heels of all those Blue Jays signings and moves the previous week, is Toronto’s declaration that it is back as a winning, relevant sports town.

From a Toronto perspective this game was a tremendous success for the city and all its fans. For everyone else, though, it really was a letdown and no way to end a season. You had this expectation that because it was the 100th Grey Cup that it would be some great classic that would celebrate the heritage of the game, and maybe the various events leading up to the game achieved all that, but the game itself did not. That was no classic: a 35-22 shellacking. The Calgary Stampeders simply didn’t show up for this game and killed themselves with stupid penalties and stupid turnovers right from the start. I really expected better from quarterback Kevin Glenn, who finally got in a Grey Cup game after missing out due to injury in 2007, and his opportunity went right down the tubes.

In fact, the whole production was a letdown. Even the musical acts at the Grey Cup proved comical, starting with Burton Cummings forgetting the words to the national anthem. That was followed up in short order with the Stampeders forgetting how to play football during the first half.

Then, at half-time, came the big concert everyone was talking about with Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen.

While a lot of people out there were saying this was exactly what the CFL had to do to attract younger fans to the game, I kind of thought it was a pointless exercise. First of all, none of the football fans at home were interested in watching these two. At home, I personally switched the channel to the NFL, and I wasn’t the only one. In the stadium, Bieber was subjected to boos from the football fans in Rogers Centre. It reminded me of that time when somebody threw a bottle at Justin Timberlake during the big Rolling Stones SARS concert. Toronto people can be a tough crowd.

But seriously, what audience is there for Bieber and Jepsen? That’s right: millions of teenage girls.

And that is really my point: these girls who are interested in Bieber and Jepsen are never going to be fans of the CFL, and I underscore the word never. There is not a single potential fan among these people. They probably don’t know the rules of Canadian football and aren’t interested in learning them, either. Justin Bieber fans and Carly Rae Jepsen fans are simply not interested in football, period. Okay, maybe a handful are, but most of them aren’t.

So why bother showing these two? It adds nothing to the game. At least during the Super Bowls they show people who have some semblance of broad appeal — you know, like Paul McCartney, or Madonna. At least those folks are worth showing.

What I would have done was find some Canadian act or acts that had that type of broad appeal to lure in exactly the kind of music fans that might turn into potential football fans someday — someone like  Tom Cochrane or Neil Young or somebody like that at halftime. Maybe there are better ideas out there; in fact, there probably are. I guess they did show Gordon Lightfoot, but he’s as old as the hills. And of course Burton Cummings was there, too, except he botched the anthem.

To me, putting Justin Bieber on the half-time show kind of made it look like the CFL was trying too hard to be hip and relevant to younger people, when in fact they really didn’t need to be so desperate. The reaction of the fans there said it all.

Next time the CFL hosts a Grey Cup half-time show, the first order of business is to get an act that (a) won’t be booed by the fans and (b) actually bring in new fans who might actually watch the game on a permanent basis.

Now, where is the next Grey Cup game again? That’s right: Saskatchewan. It shouldn’t be too hard for the folks in Regina to put on a better show than this one turned out to be. Better luck next time.

ON THE GREY CUP GAME, AND TORONTO’S INVOLVEMENT IN IT

This weekend marks the 100th Grey Cup game, and the combatants in the annual West versus East matchup are the Calgary Stampeders and the Toronto Argonauts in Toronto. It’s the Stamps’ Kevin Glenn versus the Argos’ Ricky Ray.

Already I am hearing about the festivities in Toronto and getting jealous about it all, wishing I was still in Toronto to enjoy it.

And then I remember: Saskatchewan is hosting the Grey Cup next year and so we are going to be enjoying the same thing anyway. So I really should not be jealous at all.

I really hope folks in Toronto embrace this game and embrace the CFL this week. But the team has been a tough sell there as this TSN article points out. The hope is that the Argos involvement might spur on some more fan interest there in the team and in the CFL.

Personally, I always enjoyed going to CFL games at Rogers Centre when I lived in Toronto, and the Argos do have some passionate fans, but I know from first-hand experience that the CFL kind of ranks somewhere below European soccer in the priorities of people in the city. I remember what it was like when the Argos won the Grey Cup back in 2004. No one in Toronto took to the streets or really cared, yet when Italy won the World Cup of Soccer two years later in 2006, people were dancing in the streets. That says it all.

What’s concerned me all year was watching these Argo games on TV from the Rogers Centre and seeing the attendance there, and all the empty seats. It was a sad scene all year. I gotta say, the Argos deserved far better than they got at the gate from the folks in Toronto , considering the product they put out compared to the other sporting options in the city.

Really, the other sports in the city have nothing at all to be proud of. The Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC are both absolutely terrible, the Maple Leafs have been terrible forever and a day, and until this past week the Toronto Blue Jays were in the same boat. And yet all of them do better at the gate and get more local coverage than the Argos do, even though it’s the Argos who have had more success and more playoff appearances lately. There is no good reason for this at all, and it makes even less sense when you look at the locked out Leafs and the long waiting list they have for season tickets. I just don’t get it. In fact, since 1967 the number of Grey Cups won by the Toronto Argonauts – five – has exceeded the number of lockouts the NHL has had. Think about it, fans.

Anyway, I hope this week in particular that people in Toronto appreciate what they have in the CFL and in the Toronto Argonauts, especially since those fools in the NHL still haven’t figured out how to solve their lockout situation. I think there is a growing appreciation across Canada for the fact that we have a CFL to cheer for and that these players give it their all year in and year out. I think that goes for Toronto sports fans, too.