Monday, February 14, 2005



Toronto, Canada the town we all love to hate. Called Hog Town back in the 18th century, it lives up to its name, if it isn’t happening in Toronto who cares! It loves to hog the glory. And what’s more important to a Torontonian than, well Toronto. Heck they don’t even think being part of Ontario is important, so they have postcards that say Toronto, Canada. As if there weren’t ten provinces and dozens of other cities across the country. Now those of us in the rest of Canada (ROC) love to hate Toronto for their egocentric focus on themselves.

They like to call their town, Toronto the Good. And for a moment last fall it was, for all of us, even the most ardent hardcore Toronto hater. We set aside our disgust with the city that only thinks of itself, and cheered when they won the Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League (CFL) championship.

It was a great Grey Cup game between the Argo’s and the B.C. Lions. The Toronto Argonauts under coach Michael “Pinball” Clemons, the only black coach to ever win either a Grey Cup or the Super Bowl, were an awesome team, and even the most hard bitten fan or sports journalist gave Clemons and his team their due. Clemons has once again been nominated for ‘Coach of the Year’.

But now once again rumblings from the powers that be, the sports elite and well healed businessmen in Toronto are talking about getting an NFL franchise into the city, or at least hosting an NFL game to test the market. Now that’s the rub.

“Toronto Blue Jays president and chief executive officer Paul Godfrey, a long-time proponent of the NFL in Toronto, continues to believe in the city as a viable market. He said yesterday that the decision by team owners Rogers Media to purchase a new Field Turf surface for the Rogers Centre in time for the Blue Jays' opening day has removed one obstacle to staging an NFL game. In 1997, the only NFL exhibition game ever in Toronto was played, with the Dallas Cowboys meeting the Buffalo Bills at SkyDome.” Globe and Mail , Saturday, February 5, 2005

In the U.S., New York is the Big Apple something you want to take a bite out of. In Canada, Toronto is hog town, where pork barrel politics rules the professional sports market that looks south for its existence, instead of East or West. Oink. Oink.

Paul Godfrey, publisher and creator of the Sun Newspaper chain, owner of the Toronto Blue Jays, and dealmaker is talking about an NFL franchise for Toronto. It makes the average Torontonian slaver with excitement. They always wanted to be American; you know the city North of Buffalo that has an NHL franchise, a MLB Franchise and a NBA franchise, what better to have than an American Football franchise.

I remember visiting friends in Toronto, who may not be my friends after reading this, who insisted on watching the NFL and dishing crap on the CFL. In Canada it’s the great divide, the CFL IS FOOTBALL, to those of us outside of Toronto, and the NFL is that other game. But to the “want to be recognized as a major Metropolis by the Americans” fans in Toronto, anything Canadian is second rate compared to the USA.

Well wait a minute, without the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays the so-called MLB “World Series” would be nothing of the kind. Actually it really isn’t a World Series it was, until the expansion into Canada, an American Series despite all the MLB players from Santa Dominica, Cuba, etc. And even now it’s only a Continental Cup. But hey Americans like to think the world revolves around them, just like Torontonians.

And despite their Professional American baseball and basketball teams, it’s only the Argos who have brought them glory. Let’s not forget that “The 2004 Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts are North America's oldest professional football club, having celebrated their 130th anniversary in 2003. The Toronto Argonauts have 21 Grey Cup championships to their credit.” (

Canadians have been playing football longer than Americans. The Grey Cup is older than the Super Bowl, this was the 92nd Grey Cup Game in Canada compared to SuperBowl 39, and it was the 50th Grey Cup game since it became the prize of the CFL!

“In 1909, Earl Grey, the Governor-General of Canada, donated a trophy for the Rugby Football Championship of Canada. The trophy, which subsequently became known as The Grey Cup, was originally open to competition only for teams which were registered with the Canada Rugby Union. Since 1954 only the teams of the CFL have challenged for the Grey Cup”. ( Soudog, CFL/Edmonton Eskimos website)

The very first Grey Cup in 1909 was played in New York City's Van Cortland Park at the invitation of the New York Herald newspaper. The Hamilton Tigers downed the Ottawa Rough Riders 11-6 before 15,000 fans.” (Dan Ralph - Canadian Press)


While Super Bowl 38 was ended up in controversy over the half time show with Janet Jackson’s nipple exposure on national TV, in Canada for the Grey Cup this year our half time show had the granddame of Canadian Feminism, June Callwood , former editor of the homemaker magazine Chatelaine, teach us how to kick a field goal.

It was part of Rick Mercers Monday Report (Week November 15 ,Video: This week's Celebrity Tip with June Callwood ) a comedy program on CBC, which broadcast the game. At the end of the field goal the 81 year grandmother turned to the camera and told us all that the difference between our game and the Americans is that our balls are bigger.


Because our balls originated with the British sport of Rugby anywhere in Canada, the regulation size balls are wider and longer than those used in the NFL whether you play high school, university or professional football.

Our football fields are longer and wider than American fields.

We have three downs, sudden death football, unlike American football with four downs.

We pass, what is called the ‘Hail Mary’ pass in the NFL is called a regular passing game in the CFL

We play in winter at up to -20 below Celsius. In snow and Ice, not just the final game but most games from the end of October till the Grey Cup at the end of November, unlike the Americans who wince and prance around in the cold when they have to play the Patriots or Greenbay in January.

A Canadian holds the NFL, Highest Field Goal Percentage, Career (100 field goals) 87.88 Mike Vanderjagt, Indianapolis, 1998-2003 we kick balls better.


In 1987 a crisis engulfed the CFL. The longstanding Montreal Alouettes franchise was sold and within a season they ceased to exist, forcing Winnipeg to move out of the Western Conference to play in the East. The political economy of sports, the greed of owners doomed the Alouettes. Someone had pocketed millions in the transfer of the Alouettes from the Bronfman’s to former Edmonton Eskimo Coach Norm Kimball, and it wasn’t the league or the players. It looked as if the CFL was doomed.

“Several other interviewees were convinced through personal knowledge or from what they heard, that Norm Kimball

and Jim Hole collected anywhere from $500,000 to the full $2 million when the Alouettes were terminated. There are hints that as early as March 1986, when Norm Kimball was appointed team COO, he and Bronfman struck a deal. Kimball would take over the franchise to try and revive it. In exchange, he would be compensated later. If he could not save the team, he was free to shut it down. According to ex-Edmonton Journal columnist Cam Cole, who was familiar with Kimball from his days with the Eskimos, the one certainty was that Kimball would not spend a dime of his money to keep the Alouettes alive.” The Canadian Football League: The Phoenix of Professional Sports Leagues by Steve O'Brien

In 1995 the CFL worried about low support from fans, and the loss of money associated with small market teams, following the collapse of the Alouettes, the Ottawa Roughriders collapsed that year. The CFL looked at expansion into the US, with hopes of attracting a larger TV audience to bring more money in for the remaining teams. If that failed Larry Smith was intent on selling the League to the highest bidder in US dollars. It was not the success he had hoped for. 1995 saw one of the American expansion teams won the Grey Cup for the first and last time.

Money was the crucial problem in the CFL’s nine team small market, players make substantially less in the CFL than the NFL. They make a tradesman’s salary compared to the superstar salaries in the NBA, NHL or the NBL. And that was part of the problem not only were the teams losing money but so were the players.

Larry Smith the commissioner who pushed expansion wanted to make the CFL competitive with the NFL, which was a sure fire formula for failure for the small community owned teams in Canada. He based his hope on Americans love of football, where they pull 60,000 bums into stadiums to watch high school football championships. But our game is different and did not attract the attention of sports broadcasters he had hoped for.

“The premise of expansion into the United States may have been the only real hope for CFL survival, but the execution of the plan was so inept that failure was the obvious result. So the expansion commissioner couldn't pull off expansion, leading him back to a leaner CFL - again. In his time in the CFL, Larry Smith has watched club salaries drop from a high of $4.1 million in 1992 to $3 million in 1994 to $2.5 million in 1995 and $2.1 million for this season. Next season, if there is a next season, the $2.1 million will include the cost for injured players which account for somewhere around $500,000 on most team’s budgets. He says his restructuring plan, if followed, is the only salvation for the league. "The issue is `Will we be here in 1997?' If everyone follows the plan, we will be,'' Smith said. This is the new plan, as opposed to the old plan. The expansion plan was going to eliminate the Canadian players. That was different from the plan to go to only Canadian players. Then there was the plan to have all private owners. Now, they want mostly community ownership.” By Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun, November 21, 1996

Despite having US teams in Birmingham, Shreveport, Memphis, and Baltimore, despite having to play at 40 above instead of 40 below during a game in Las Vegas, despite having a shorter season than the NFL ,a CFL season runs from June to November, the money was made, expansion ended in 1996 a failure except for the Baltimore Stallions.

“The Baltimore Stallions were the first and only U.S.-based team to win the Grey Cup. One player on that team -- O.J. Brigance -- went on to win the Super Bowl in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens, becoming the only player to win both a Grey Cup and a Super Bowl with teams from the same city, a feat likely to never be repeated!” (Soudog, CFL/Edmonton Eskimos website).

The irony was that the success of Baltimore brought them a new NFL team, which they had lost when the Colts were moved to Indiana, and that brought doom to both the CFL franchise in Baltimore and Smiths idea of expansion into the US as an alternative league. CFL expansion helped owners in the U.S. get back into the NFL, while doing little for the CFL

“On November 4, the day before the CFL playoffs got underway, word leaked that Art Modell, owner of the NFL Cleveland Browns, was moving his team to Baltimore for 1996. Modell made it official at an outdoor media conference in Baltimore on November 6. After a twelve-year absence, the NFL was returning to town. The news struck Baltimore Stallions’ president Jim Speros like a thunderbolt. One thing was abundantly clear. Once Modell opened his mouth, the Stallions lost both corporate and fan support as well as media attention. The reappearance of the NFL was going to dominate anything on the Baltimore sports scene. Despite owning one of the most venerable NFL franchises, Modell claimed that he could not make a profit. Cleveland Memorial Stadium, with a capacity of more than 80,000, was antiquated and lacked the amenities which Modell felt were imperative to make money. Modell had threatened on numerous occasions to move the Browns, but no one took him seriously. He shopped around to bleed what he could from the most receptive bidder. What he got from Baltimore was probably the richest incentive ever offered to an owner of a pro sports team. It also demonstrated how serious Baltimore was about returning to the National Football League.” The Canadian Football League: The Phoenix of Professional Sports Leagues by Steve O'Brien

For example, in its analysis of the new stadium being built for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development estimated an annual economic benefit to the Baltimore metropolitan area of $111 million and the creation of almost 1400 new jobs. According to Leeds and von Allmen, independent analysis found a much smaller impact on annual income ($33 million) and jobs (534). In general, independent studies by economists suggest that the value of local multipliers is at most 1.25, less than one-half of the value suggested in some impact studies. Should cities be ready for some football? Assessing the social benefits of hosting an NFL team Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia), summer, 2004 by Gerald A. Carlino, N. Edward Coulson

One gain the league made was that the Baltimore Ravens moved to Montreal and became the new Alouettes in 1996. Expansion had been all about trying to get back both eastern teams or selling off the league to US owners, the later failed and the former meant Smiths demise as League commissioner. In 2002 Ottawa was resurrected as the Renegades. Today when the CFL talks expansion it is talking about Halifax.

(See SKYDOME: Political Economy of Sport)

(For Doug, a die hard Edmonton Eskimo’s Fan)

NFL Game in Toronto?
By David Naylor
with a report from Jeff Blair
Saturday, February 5, 2005 - Globe and Mail

National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue says the league is exploring the possibility of holding NFL regular-season games outside of the United States.
While specifically mentioning Mexico City as a candidate, he neither included nor dismissed Toronto.
"We're giving consideration right now to see whether we, in the next year or two, can play a regular-season game outside of the United States to continue to develop the interest and be responsive to fans," he said Tagliabue made the comments yesterday during his annual address at the Super Bowl, saying that Mexico City was a candidate to play host to a regular-season game because its "time zones and travel would be compatible with what you want to do with the teams."
Based on that criteria, Toronto would also presumably be a possibility. However, Tagliabue said the first hurdle to be crossed was to ensure that having such an event was "possible in terms of taking a game away from the fans of a team in its host city."
NFL teams, unlike those in baseball, hockey or basketball, play only eight home games a season.
With the 2005 NFL schedule already out, the earliest date for the league to play a regular-season game outside U.S. borders would be 2006. The NFL, which has already played exhibition games in Japan and Europe, would like to play some in China leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Tagliabue said.
The National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball have played games outside of the United States and Canada.
Toronto Blue Jays president and chief executive officer Paul Godfrey, a long-time proponent of the NFL in Toronto, continues to believe in the city as a viable market. He said yesterday that the decision by team owners Rogers Media to purchase a new Field Turf surface for the Rogers Centre in time for the Blue Jays' opening day has removed one obstacle to staging an NFL game.
In 1997, the only NFL exhibition game ever in Toronto was played, with the Dallas Cowboys meeting the Buffalo Bills at SkyDome.
Tagliabue said the league is still interested in one day having a Toronto franchise, although there was no timetable for such a move.
"I said before and I still feel this way that I think it could very likely be that the next franchises in the NFL beyond the 32 are outside the United States," Tagliabue said. "Toronto would certainly be a candidate."







No comments: