Sunday, August 17, 2008

Leave BMO alone; no middle ground on TFC's ground

Being immersed in the Olympics has unfortunately meant being late getting a post up about the Toronto Argonauts surveying fans about a move to BMO Field.

In a just Toronto sports world, Argos owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski would each get stink-palmed for merely suggesting someone should dare trifle with the TFC fan experience. It's only been the best development on the city's sports scene since oh, Dec. 17, 2004, look it up if you don't get the reference.

All I can really do is violate a personal aversion on using the first person and relate an experience from a weekend in T.O. last month.

TFC had a Saturday home game, which was a main reason for me getting on the train to head down to Toronto and crash at a friend's apartment.. The Argonauts were playing on the Sunday afternoon vs. the Edmonton Eskimos (Maciocia!), but here's the kicker: The fact the Argos were also playing a home game might have completely sailed by me if I hadn't been flipping through the Toronto Star sports section over lunch on Front St.

Regardless, what a bonus -- a chance to feed two birds with one scone, right? On Saturday, it was over to BMO, where TFC engaged in a somewhat desultory 0-0 draw with (I think) the San Jose Earthquakes. On the way out after meeting Rollins for a pint at a pub up on Dufferin Ave., we happened across an only-in-MLS moment.

TFC midfielder Rohan Ricketts had pulled up outside the Bank of Montreal branch across the street to use ABM. About eight TFC supporters, to a man in red jerseys, composed an on-the-spot football chants -- "Ro-han Rick-etts! You're fuck-in' wick-et!" and "You better ... fuck up ... the Impact!", referring to an upcoming Nutrilite Canadian Championship vs. Montreal (who, alas, were the ones who did the effing-up).

Any Leafs player who would have been recognized like that would have hopped in his SUV and peeled rubber. Rohan Ricketts, though, ate it up, darting across the street against the light to shake hands with the fans.

That might not seem like it has anything to do with where the Argonauts should play. The next day, though, with a full day alone in a strange city, I went out with the full intention of heading to Rogers Centre for the Argos and Eskies, but got no farther than an independent bookstore on Front St. E. It was almost as if, after being out in the sun the previous day, soaking up the TFC vibe, watching a game that was actually being played in a stadium designed with one game in mind (save for BMO not having real grass) instead of a multipurpose mausoleum, sitting indoors at Rogers Centre to watch Kerry Joseph overthrow open receivers didn't seem so appealing. Even being able to see the accumulation of mental mistakes caused by Danny Maciocia's flop sweat on the Eskimos sideline couldn't produce a strong enough tractor beam to pull me a couple blocks farther west.

Please bear in mind that this is coming from someone who's been a CFL follower since about 10 and only acknowledged within the past two years that he had come around on soccer. Yes, my name is Neate S. and I'm a failed soccer hater.

Understandably, the Argos are househunting in order to be ready when kicked out of Rogers Centre to make way for the Toronto Teddy Bears or whatever the Bills will be called. If Cynamon and Sokoloski are so smart that they can figure out how to compete with that, well, they'll be smart enough to figure out how to find, and maybe finance, a suitable stadium .

The point is that on that weekend a month ago, it seemed best to let that first TFC game stand alone. In a roundabout way, that's the rationale (maybe irrationale) behind the gut feeling toward any talk of the Argos moving to BMO. Sometimes, it's best to let something stand alone.

Argos ask ticket holders for opinion on potential stadium swap; Fan survey 'an exploration' to gauge support for possible move from Rogers Centre to BMO Field, CFL team co-owner says (David Naylor,, Aug. 12)
The battle of BMO Field (Ben Knight, On Soccer, Aug. 15)


Duane Rollins said...

Not to mention that the Argos had not one, but two chances to get in on the 20,000ish outdoor stadium at the ground floor and on both occasions they pulled out after the project had been annonced.

And by bailing on the York deal they very nearly caused Canada to lose the FIFA u-20 championship.

So, you can understand why a lot of soccer people aren't that empathetic.

sager said...

Yep, they had their chance. There was a strong temptation to say that the old guard, so-called, who want to defend the CFL should be told the same thing that they said when soccer was trying to get a stadium built:

If the CFL is so popular, then it should be able to find the money for a stadium.

Of course, gov't money did pay for BMO. Unless the 2015 Pan-Am Games come to Toronto, that's probably not going to happen for the Argos (and even then; wouldn't Rogers just be home to the T&F).

Tyler King said...

Oh, come on - so the CFL is responsible to build its own stadium, but the supposed national sensation that is MLS can leech off taxpayer money? We wasted a crapload of money on a stadium that only one team is able to use, and which wouldn't be somehow ruined by becoming multipurpose considering how few home games Toronto has in the first place.

But for some reason we have to limit it to a team that draws next to no interest in its games among the people who aren't sitting in the stadium?

Look, I understand that Argo fans don't throw stuff at the opposing players, but that doesn't preclude a good fan experience.

Not to mention - did Argos fans bitch and moan and act like a bunch of spoiled prima donnas when the Blue Jays moved into "their" stadium in the 70s?

sager said...

Tyler, just remember different people have peculiar tastes. You're coming close to that territory of knowing the price of everything and vthe value of nothing.

Exhibition Stadium was an ugly, utilitarian, municipally owned stadium that wasn't missed 10 seconds after the Jays and Argos moved out of there. For the Argos, it wasn't "theirs" no more than nothing -- and I doubt anyone resented the Blue Jays, since that was a catalyst to build Skydome/Rogers Centre.

BMO Field is a beautiful stadium. Doing anything to mess with that aesthetic just seems wrong-headed.

Also, remember that Toronto's soccer fans, relative to fans of other sports, were underserved for decades while the business and political leaders in the city were building Skydome, while they were building ACC, and so on.

It's their time now. The stadium's built, and while I see your point about public money being built on a stadium, you can't put the toothpaste back in the bottle. Besides, there were a couple projects that the Argos passed on. It's tough titty for them from this point on -- especially if the economy continues to slide.

Duane Rollins said...


The stadium is widely used by the community year round--it's the reason TFC is stuck with FieldTurf. BMO is the GTA's only full size soccer pitch available in the winter months. If football was to come in it would have to do so in a way that wouldn't impact that.

So the community use argument isn't as black and white as you make it out.

Lastly, MLS/soccer bashing is *so* 1993. I know you like to emulate Rome/McCown, but you might want to rethink your blind bashing. I'm not sure there is going to be much of a market for it in a few years (if there is any now).

Tyler King said...

Seriously, Neate? "BMO Field is a beautiful stadium"? An open-air turf stadium? With generic stands on either side? Yikes, what's next, Tropicana Field being "cozy"?

Toronto's soccer fans weren't undervalued when Skydome was being built - they were (and still are) massively outnumbered by its baseball fans.

The two projects the Argos passed on were poorly planned, poorly designed, and in poor location. It's not a knock against them that they didn't want to play at freaking York University. They still draw way the hell more than Toronto SC both locally and on TV.

And Duane, I don't emulate either Rome or McCown. I find both insufferable. Rome is a catchphrase-spouting buffoon and McCown's opinions on baseball make you look like Dan Shulman.

Don't equate MLS and Soccer bashing either. Soccer is wonderful. MLS is a crime against humanity.

And saying there'll be no market for it in a few years... well I'll keep an eye on those MLS TV ratings and we'll see. The soccerheads have been saying for years that their time has come and it's just not happening in any way outside of Toronto.

Duane Rollins said...

I thought I *looked* like Shulman.

(it's a bald joke)

sager said...


I grew up attending games at Olympic Stadium, Exhibition Stadium, the Kingston Memorial Centre and Rogers Centre, so anything that's generic, functional and not too dank counts as beautiful.

Comerica Park in Detroit has been slammed as generic, but it was nice as pie far as this ruined Ontario sports fans was concerned.

(Well, most kinds of pie.)