Thursday, February 07, 2008

WANTING THE NFL, IN THE WORST WAY

So it says in the paper that the top ticket for a NFL game in Toronto will be $350 ... and (whispers) between you and me, I hear you have to watch the Buffalo Bills.

You remember the Bills. They let Rob Johnson start a playoff game once. They haven't made that mistake since.

Step 1 in gradually reconciling oneself to the inevitable is to say, yes, Toronto deserves the NFL. It's the most high-dollar, big-money sports business in the world outside of Formula One and T-Dot is a high-dollar, big-money town. That's it. Don't pretend that the people have ever displayed any worthiness of snatching away Western New York's team all those years, save for the Argos drawing 30,000 in recent seasons, they've pretty much ignored three-down Canadian football in their own backyard.

Step 2 is for all the sports philistines is to give their heads a shake ahead of the shakedown that Dave Perkins outlined in The Star today: $10,000 personal seat licences, a raid on the public coffers to build a NFL-size stadium and the same reality hockey fans face: Your ability to afford tickets is likely in inverse proportion to your love of the game. (Another domino to topple is that Rogers might conceivably retro-fit the Rogers Centre for baseball and kick out the Argos.)

Step 3? Someone tell CFL commish Mark Cohon to nut up and start asking about a payment for invading his league's territorial rights -- the NFL could easily afford $50-60 million a year. Hey, after the NFL-AFL merger in the late '60s, the New York Giants collected a then-princely $6M for having the Jets invade their turf. There's a precedent.

It's going to happen, but remember no true sports fan really needed it and if you're such a big NFL fan, why aren't you happy supporting the team you already have from your living room on Sunday? 'Cause that's as close as you're likely going to get to the Toronto Bills.

4 comments:

mc79hockey said...

Your ability to afford tickets is likely in inverse proportion to your love of the game. (Another domino to topple is that Rogers might conceivably retro-fit the Rogers Centre for baseball and kick out the Argos.)

Yeah, I was a real sports fan until I graduated university and started making decent coin.

Dan R. said...

I think the point of that statement was that the people who buy the most expensive seats, epecially in places like Toronto, are often doing it as a tax write-off or aren't people at all but rather corporations. That's not to say that the people who occupy those seats, after they get handed down from the bosses or given to clients as a perk, aren't fans. But rather they probably aren't as devoted as most of the working stiffs heading out to their local to watch the game.

Also: I didn't see the press conference, but based on what I read in the columns by Perkins and Brunt, the principals in this deal - the ghoulish Wilson and Rogers, and FOD (Friend of Domi) Tannenbaum - came off like creeps.

sager said...

True, that was a gross generalization on my part, apologies for that ... good point, MC.

The bottom line, as DR hits on, is that the people who will have the most access to these Toronto Bills games are those for whom love of the sport falls after (a) having a tax write-off (b) being able to network and (c) being able to boast that you have the cash and the clout.

It's not a good thing when are (d) and (e) are the pure love of the sport and having an emotional stake in the team. Excuse me for being old-fashioned that way.

The CFL is kind of an aesthetic downswing right now, but maybe that's only because we expect so much more from it than the No-Fun League.

It's what we have, it's what we know. The fact that all the major players are being so coy about their NFL plans shows they know what they're doing to Canada's sports heritage all for a few (OK, a few million) dollars more.

Dennis Prouse said...

I know that CFL oldtimers like Bobby Ackles are running around like its 1974 with the World Football League set to "invade" Toronto. Really, I can't see what all the fuss is about.

Firstly, the NFL is already in Canada, de facto, via the internet, NFL Network, satellite and sports talk radio, the birth of all sports TV channels, etc. A fan in Moncton or Winnipeg can follow the NFL just as effectively as a fan in, say, L.A., because they have access to all the same media, fan gear, etc. Therefore, the CFL is already "competing" with the NFL for the hearts and minds of Canadian sports fans, and have been for quite some time.

Secondly, given the lofty ticket prices for the Toronto based Bills games, it is clear that the Argos and Bills will be chasing an entirely different demographic, just as junior hockey appeals to a different demographic than the NHL due to the huge ticket price gap.

Fans aren't dumb -- they know the CFL isn't the NFL. The growth in interest in football overall, though, leaves the CFL plenty of room to appeal to fans as an entertaining, quality product at a competitive price, featuring players who are far more accessible than those you see on TV each Sunday.

They used to think that junior hockey couldn't exist in a city with an NHL franchise, but now we know that isn't true. (With junior hockey coming back to Montreal next season, it now means every Canadian NHL city will have a CHL team in the vicinity.) The CFL can co-exist just fine with the Bills playing a couple games a year in Toronto, and even if they move there full time.