Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Column on the CFL - You May Now Send in Your Abusive Comments

Before we get down to it today - I should point out that the Calgary Flames beat Minnesota last night (coming back from a 3 goal deficit no less), handing the Wild their first regulation loss of the season. I should also point out that the Flames were the first team to beat Anaheim in regulation last season. So you know what that means - another 8th place finish and an ignominious exit from the playoffs for the Flames.

Also Jacksonville's back-up quarterback is Quinn Gray - not David or Quentin Grey as reported yesterday. And speaking of Fantasy Football - how did I not know that Rams running back Steven Jackson writes a weekly Fantasy column for I'm upset with myself for not knowing that sooner.

And little wonder Colorado got crushed by Boston last night - the Rockies had a 13-year old starting pitcher on the mound last night.

But enough of all that...

I finally want to deal with the CFL, the Hamilton Tigercats and the NFL coming to Canada - I'm going to do it all together because I think they're all related to one another. It's taken me awhile because I'm slightly hesitant to write about the CFL now, as every time I do I get accused of being something between a traitor and a heretic. But let me lay it out for you in simple Chapter and Verse:

Do I hate the CFL? No.

Do I hope to see the league collapse? No.

Do I enjoy writing by asking myself questions? No.

Do I prefer the NFL? Yes, absolutely - I always have and I always will. Somehow my preference of the NFL gets taken as a hatred for the CFL. I don't think the two things are mutually exclusive - I can prefer the NFL and not hate the CFL.

And I'm writing because I'm worried for the CFL's future.

I'd heard that the NFL Board of Governors approved the Buffalo Bills plan to play a regular season game in Toronto next year or the year after. I actually can't confirm that story anywhere but what I heard was that Buffalo will play one regular season game in Toronto every year - and a preseason game in Toronto every other year.

Suffice it to say that the NFL is coming to Canada whether anyone outside of Toronto wants it or not.

As an NFL guy you would probably expect me to be overjoyed by this - but I'm not, really. It's still going to be closer and cheaper for me to see an NFL game in Seattle, Minnesota or even Green Bay or Chicago. So I don't really have any personal interest in the NFL coming to Toronto. It was going to happen sooner or later though.

I think the CFL has lucked out and the NFL migration into Canada appears like it is going to be gradual, at least at first. And I say lucked out because the CFL needs to have a plan in place to deal with how the league is going to co-exist with the NFL, at least in the Toronto market. As it stands now, it looks like there will be an NFL team in Toronto full-time within the next few years - and as I see it, the CFL needs to be a part of the group, whoever it is, that brings a team to Toronto.

On the surface it would seem like this is akin to knowingly letting the Greeks into your impenetrably walled city. However, the NFL is coming whether the CFL wants it or not. So the CFL better make sure that it is active in that process - so that a team is moved into Toronto on the CFL's terms, not the NFL's. Which is why I think its a smart move by the owners of the Argos to try and play a role in all of this. I think if the CFL tries to stonewall the NFL or bury its head in the sand, Canadian Football will be far worse off than if it was partners with the NFL in bringing a team to Toronto.

Now what does this have to do with Hamilton you might ask? Well with an NFL presence in Canada - the CFL better make sure that every Canadian Football team is as strong and well-run as it possibly can be. In Western Canada this is not going to be an issue - and never will be. Fans in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta are fiercely loyal to their teams and will support the CFL regardless of what the NFL is doing. I didn't include B.C on that list because I've heard fans of the Lions could be considered 'suspect' in terms of level of support - that's not a partisan comment, simply word of mouth. I don't think the NFL would affect Vancouver a great deal anyway (unless a team was to go there somehow) because Seattle is not all that far from Vancouver - and those who want to see the NFL probably go to Seattle anyway.

The problems, perhaps obviously, would lie in Eastern Canada. Montreal would probably be unscathed by all of this as their fanbase seems to be pretty loyal - unless of course Jim Popp continues to be the coach there. I honestly can't believe some of the things that have reportedly come out of his mouth - now that's throwing your team under the bus.

I don't think anyone knows what will happen in Toronto - how or if the two leagues could co-exist. So we'll leave that for another day.

So that leaves Hamilton - and maybe I'm overstating this (I don't think I am) but Hamilton needs to start fielding a competitive team... and soon. And not only if the NFL comes to Canada but just for the good of the CFL in general. With only 8 teams in the league I think it's necessary for all 8 to be competitive.

Now as I said on Monday, I realize that Hamilton has been hit hard by injuries this year (Jesse Lumsden especially) and that Casey Printers hasn't been there a full season yet - so at least there is hope for them. Hamilton also seems to have a pretty solid run defence (at least statistically) and it's always fun to watch Zeke Moreno fly around and smack people in the mouth. But their pass defence is at or near the bottom of every statistical category. Saskatchewan has lit them up like the 1st of July over the past two weeks.

Hamilton's win totals for the last six seasons are: 2 (so far this year), 4, 5, 9, 1, 7. That seems like a culture of losing to me. If I live in Hamilton and have the choice of watching a morbid Tigercats team or driving an hour or so into Toronto to see an NFL game, I'm probably not going to watch the team that has won a grand total of 28 games in 6 years. Of course I am biased in that regard and would want to watch a NFL game anyway but I do think there is a valid argument in there somewhere.

I fully admit that I do not have an intimate knowledge of the Hamilton organization but it does seem like there are some management/coaching issues there. Corey Holmes, at the time he was traded there was one of the most dynamic players in the league - only to disappear for two seasons. And now that he's back in Saskatchewan he almost looks like that same player again - at least at times. Take D.J Flick as well - suddenly out of Hamilton, Flick has become a serious threat on offence.

Obviously Saskatchewan has more talent on offence and that helps Holmes and Flick look good - but the situation in Saskatchewan should give the people of Hamilton hope. Because it's amazing what can happen when you put passionate, knowledgeable people in charge of a franchise - instead of recycling people that have been around the block 100's of times. As Kent Austin has proven, sometimes a person just needs to be given a chance (like how about Brian Towriss of the U of S Huskies).

I probably have no idea what I'm talking about, discussing a team that is 1000's of kilometers away from me. But these are the things I've been thinking about while watching Hamilton get eviscerated 2 weeks in a row - and admittedly, these are the only 2 Hamilton games I've seen this season.

Hamilton and NFL expansion might not seem connected, even after all this, but I think its all interrelated. NFL or no NFL, all 8 CFL teams need to be competitive every week. And I think that if NFL expansion is handled in an intelligent manner I don't see why the CFL and NFL can't find a way to coexist in Canada.

Perhaps the only thing more surprising than me writing a full-length CFL column today, was finding out that James Lipton used to be a French pimp.


Trevor said...

The Buffalo Bill playing in Toronto has not yet been approved, though it was brought up in the owner's meeting.

As for the CFL, while I agree they are lucky that they have some time to come up with a plan regarding the NFL in Toronto...But do you really see the league office coming up with one?

One thing to consider is that tickets to an NFL game are substantially more money than a CFL game so I think you'll still see a lot of families going to Argos games in Toronto.

As for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats I agree 100% they need to be better. Bob Young is an excellent owner(in that he has money and will spend it on stadium improvements, etc..) but he keeps hiring the wrong guys.

Marcel Dejardins has got to go. Just look at the trades he has made with Saskatchewan...Rocky Butler, 2 draft picks for DJ Flick and Wayne Smith. DJ leads the league in TD receptions and Smith is starting Canadian O-Lineman. Butler is holding a clipboard in TO.

Thyron Anderson & Jason French for Tad Kornegay. Anderson is who knows where and French, well quite simply he SUCKS big time and we get Tad Kornegay a starting DB.

Then there was the trade that we got Corey Holmes and Chris Getzlaf for a washed up player named Jason Armstead. Armstead is absolutely brutal, he is no return specialist, unless you want him to make poor decisions and lose yardage. And while he's fast he is very medium at best as a receiver.

Eric Tillman totally bent Marcel Dejardins over when he made those trades.

But Hamilton does have some good players left, they have a good coach and I think with some good offseason scouting they could be a much better team next year.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick comment to Trevor about ticket prices. If you compare season ticket prices of toronto and buffalo you will note that there is not a significant price jump from the cfl to the nfl. Toronto's prices range from 145 - 569 for seasons tickets, while buffalo starts at 270 - 600 for season tickets (individual tickets go from 38 - 70 in buffalo...reminds one of rider ticket prices do they not?). This is not just a buffalo thing either, I am going to a redskins game in a few weeks and 15 yard line tickets were 64. Not actually that big of a price differential. Plus people in toronto already spend large amounts of money going to raptors, blue jay and leafs games. No I don't think that price would be that much of a consideration in a large city like toronto. They have already shown that they are willing to pay money for entertainment.


I do agree that the ti-cats have great potential for the future (a year or two under their belts and they could be a grey cup contender).