Get ready CFL, four-down football is coming
Tuesday, October 30, 2007 | 10:29 AM ET
Weeks ago, when The Globe and Mail first reported that the Buffalo Bills were considering a move to Toronto, the story was met with condescension and laughter.
It came from other media. It came from (mostly West) teams in the CFL. It came from hard-core Canadian football fans. It came from everywhere. No way. Not a chance. Or, even more absurdly, “Bring it on!”
Now that the Bills are just awaiting a rubber stamp that will allow them to play one exhibition and one regular-season game per year in Toronto, apologies are coming in from everywhere. And, the people who should be apologized to the most are the Argonauts’ owners, David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski.
It was the fall of the 2003 when these two stepped in to save football in Toronto. The Argonauts had been run by a series of doofuses who almost ruined the goodwill created by the 1997 & 1998 powerhouse. If it wasn’t for those two, there wouldn’t be one football team in the Ontario capital, never mind the possibility of two.
And, let’s not forget the fact that these two guys aren’t exactly quitting their other jobs because they’re making so much money running this team.
So, what do they get in return? Well, what do you say when someone on the street asks you for money?
Commissioner Mark Cohon warned the other owners for months that this was coming. So did the Toronto owners. But, when it really mattered, when the three of them said it was time to come up with a plan at a league meeting, they were treated like the guy who shows up at Stampede wearing penny loafers.
This is the CFL’s biggest problem: That the eight franchises only care about themselves and no one else. God forbid one team ask the other seven for financial help to battle the NFL money-making machine. And there is something else here: The fact that it was Toronto doing the asking. Look, I’m from Toronto. I know how annoying we can be and superior we can seem. But there are many of us who love the country just as much as someone from the smallest area of Saskatchewan. Yes, it’s aggravating that it’s the one city in the league where the NFL is more embraced than the CFL. But, there are some of us who love our league. And two of those guys are losing a lot of money keeping their football team afloat.
The way the other owners treated them was a disgrace.
So, now it’s Apology City. Too late. The NFL announced its plans and everybody, most embarrassingly the commissioner, was caught by surprise. The league is less prepared for this than Britney Spears is to have children.
What’s the solution?
There’s one, and it’s not telling fans to throw away their Rogers’ cellphones. It’s called begging.
Edmonton native Pat Bowlen, owner of the Denver Broncos was on our pre-game show last weekend. He made two things very clear. One, the Bills are coming. Two, anyone who thinks the NFL would not be interested in Toronto because it doesn’t help U.S. TV networks is dreaming. As Bowlen basically said, What are they going to do? Ask for their money back?
(The other flimsy put-down of Toronto is that there’s no stadium. Let’s say it would cost $900 million to build one. Okay, here’s what will happen: the team will offer 30,000 seat licenses for $30,000. Make no mistake, they will get them. Presto, stadium paid for. In the interim, there are discussions about lowering the field at Rogers Centre to create room for more seats.)
Bowlen did say that he helped write the previous NFL/CFL deal - one which helped the Canadian league financially - and that he is open to the idea again. And that’s what Cohon, Cynamon, Sokolowski and the rest of the CFL owners have to do.
Go to the NFL on bended knee, and ask for financial help. Whether it’s a portion of those ticket sales or another series of transfer payments, the CFL has no choice but to ask for and accept whatever they can get. The CFL owners were never dealing from a position of strength, but there could have been some kind of plan to deal with such a nightmare scenario. And this is a nightmare for Toronto, Hamilton and, by extension, the rest of the league. This is, by far, the greatest threat the league has ever faced.
Who’s laughing now?
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About the Author
Elliotte Friedman is the host of the CFL ON CBC. Prior to being named host in 2006, Friedman worked on the CFL on CBC broadcasts for the three seasons as a sideline reporter. A Toronto native, Friedman is well known for his additional work on Hockey Night in Canada, as well as his presence on the Torino 2006 Winter Games telecasts as a hockey reporter. Prior to joining the CBC, Friedman worked at The Score network and was widely regarded as one of the best reporters in the country. Friedman used his reporting skills to break stories and file feature reports for high profile events including six Stanley Cup Finals, four Grey Cup Championships, two World Series and one Olympic Games. He is also a regular on the nationally syndicated Prime Time Sports radio telecast, hosted by Bob McCown.
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