Monday, February 25, 2008

NFL in Toronto

This one again goes out to long-time Rider Prophet fan Steve who wanted to know my thoughts on the NFL coming to Canada.

It was recently confirmed that the Buffalo Bills will play 8 games in Toronto over the next 5 years. Whether we like it or not, the NFL is coming to the Great White North. The question is, what effect will this have on the CFL? Allow me to explain.

When the CFL launched its American expansion in the 90's, our league did the honourable thing by avoiding established NFL markets (obviously a foray into Green Bay would have spelled the ultimate demise of the Packers, and the last thing Larry Smith needed at the time was thousands of angry cheeseheads coming after him). By contrast, the NFL is launching its Canadian invasion in Toronto, a market that is widely thought to be the key to the CFL's media exposure and advertising dollars. That's right, rather than picking one of the many viable Canadian markets that is not currently occupied by a professional football franchise (such as Gimli or Grande Prairie), the NFL has decided to tackle the CFL head on. Which, as we all know, is a 15 yard penalty under Canadian rules.

Will these 8 NFL games be devastating to the league? No. While it's hardly a "positive thing" for the CFL as the NFL commissioner would have us believe, it's not going to hurt us short-term. The games are even supposed to be held in December so as not to conflict with the CFL season.

Hamilton has already voiced their disagreement with the situation and another group is joining them in expressing their displeasure... Buffalo Bills fans. Who can blame them for being pissed? Their season ticket packages will not include tickets to Toronto games so they get 7 home games for the price of 8; they are not given first crack at tickets, and ticket prices (of which Buffalo enjoys the lowest in the league) have been grossly inflated. Can you imagine the outrage if they moved a Rider home game to Saskatoon, didn't include it in the season ticket package and jacked the price up? Anarchy would ensue!

Well, not really... knowing the hardcore nature of the Rider Nation, fans would head to Saskatoon and patiently wait in the parking lot all night for tickets to go on sale. Once they slowly came to the realization that the game was sold out due to the large demand from those who chose to remain warm in their homes while purchasing tickets online, then anarchy would ensue.

But I digress...

I am actually surprised Hamilton decided not to cross-promote the Buffalo games by offering an incentive to their season ticket holders. I mean the prospect of offering something of value with their season tickets should have been very appealing since, let's face it, having to watch Hamilton play 9 times is more a punishment than a benefit. I can picture the marketing campaign now - "Buy Bills tickets and get 9 Hamilton games for free".

Speculation on which other NFL team will make the trip to Toronto has already begun. While no decisions have been made, I will tell you this... A major consideration in which team it will be is the ability to have the players clear customs. So that pretty much rules out any chance of the Bengals coming north. I actually hope the first game features Dallas, then we would get to see the headline "TO to TO".

While an 8 game schedule over 5 years is not immediate cause for alarm, the bigger concern for the CFL is that this trial run could be a stepping stone to an NFL team moving to Toronto permanently. What if after 5 years the Bills end up setting up shop up north?

Personally, I have no idea why they would want another sub-500 team in Toronto, maybe they need something to fill the gap in the Blue Jays off-season or take the pressure off the Maple Leafs' never ending failures but nonetheless the interest appears to be there.

Roger Goodell is trying to present the NFL's interest in Canada as beneficial to both leagues. I tend to see the NFL in Toronto benefiting the CFL in the same way that a cow "benefits" from the opening of a new McDonalds restaurant. Let's face it, if given the opportunity, the NFL will chew up the CFL and spit it out faster than a bulimic at a 4th of July hot dog eating competition.

If you have topics that you would like the Rider Prophet to comment on just send me an email. Quite frankly given how little CFL news there is right now, if you ask me to comment on your grocery list, I'll probably devote an entire post to it.


Govind said...

There is a lot of debate raging about whether the Riders will trade one of their two vets and which guy gets dealt. I would like to hear the Prophet's jokes..err....comments on this topic.
I know discussing QBs is not something Rider fans like to do but I hope you can indulge me

Anonymous said...

Ask and you shall receive. This is a great topic and I will have my thoughts up shortly.