This upcoming Wednesday the Toronto Argonauts take on the Ottawa REDBLACKS in a battle of Ontario. Yes that’s right Hamilton there can be a battle of Ontario that doesn’t revolve around you and hate for most things Toronto. My apologies if you feel slighted in some way but the reality is Toronto vs Ottawa has the potential to grow into a rivalry even greater than the one between the two ends of the QEW. Here are my 6 reasons why it’s possible.
2015 Got the Ball Rolling
First off, let me say as of right now the rivalry doesn’t really exist at all. Any sense of competitive rivalry stems more from geographic proximity than anything else. The REDBLACKS are only in their 3rd season and far removed from any history when the team was referred to as either the Rough Riders or the Renegades. The Double Blue while they are the oldest professional sports team in North America is going through a re-birth of their own. A new ownership group with a new stadium are going to need some time to replant seeds in a local market before any hate or tension can develop outside of Toronto. But the 2015 season did help to establish some talking points. The Argonauts swept Ottawa last season winning all three games. And while Toronto was ridiculed for playing a home game at TD Place against the visiting/host REDBLACKS it was still a game they won. That had to piss off Ottawa fans. Also that Ottawa made it to the 2015 Grey Cup had to anger Toronto fans who couldn’t help but think given the Double Blues success over Ottawa in the regular season a Grey Cup birth could easily had been the result if the two teams met in the playoffs.
Competition Fuels Anger
Right now both teams are good. You can’t have crappy football teams playing each other and expect it to mean much. The Banjo Bowl is great but two struggling teams fighting for superiority over the other loses some lustre when neither is in playoff contention.
Every team has players fans of other teams love to hate. Argo fans want their team to stop Chris Williams. The International wide receiver has dominated the first three weeks of the season and that star quality puts a bullseye on a REDBLACK jersey for players and fans to take aim on. Williams has 6 touchdowns in 3 games and the Argo secondary is banged up. A star player dominating on your home field definitely adds gasoline to the fire. Add to that Ottawa fans maybe still not sure why Shawn Lemon isn’t wearing red and black spending their night watching the defensive end create havoc against Ottawa’s offensive line and you have another reason why your team needs to win this game.
Even more than Chris Williams former Argo quarterback Trevor Harris can further the rivalry all by himself. Trevor Harris’ signing in Ottawa was one of the biggest signings of the free agent season. As much as people hollered about Chad Owens signing in Hamilton the Harris signing in Ottawa can potentially hurt Toronto so much more should Ricky Ray get hurt and Logan Kilgore not replicate what Harris has been able to do since Ottawa starting quarterback Henry Burris went down with a finger injury. Beyond the game itself the result in either direction can likely fuel conversation and debate. If Harris lights up the Argos there will fans who undoubtedly will play arm chair quarterback and state that “we should have brought him back.” Those water cooler debates and opinions is the type of conversation the Argonauts need to further establish the fan base and get fans intrigued about the league as a whole.
When teams are good in the CFL their fans travel along with them. Hopefully there will be a healthy contingent of REDBLACK fans at BMO Field and contribute to the eventual angst that develops during a football game. Going forward is it hard to imagine that all those Toronto civil servants working in Ottawa invade TD Place and cheer on the Double Blue? Let it be known that I’ve already got my tickets for July 31 and can’t wait to hang out with other Argo fans in our nation’s capital.
Leafs vs Senators
Finally, and admittedly this is a bit of a cheat but you have to admit that a Toronto Ottawa football rivalry gets a bit of a boost from each cities hockey brethren. Repeated Maple Leaf playoff victories and or playoff collapses by the Ottawa Senators against said Maple Leafs made Toronto, Ottawa one of the more premier match ups in the NHL. Does it help fuel the fire? Of course it does? Can REDBLACKS fans hope to cure some of their frustration on the ice with a victory on the field? Can’t see why that wouldn’t be the case.
Football in Southern Ontario is on the verge of exploding. And yes Ti-Cat fans that includes your team. The truth is you aren’t being left out. You’re just being asked, for the good of the CFL, to move over and make some room. It’s a long season so the more storylines that exist the better. And this Wednesday, REDBALCKS vs Argonauts at beautiful BMO Field with former players going against each other and fans of both teams outduelling themselves in the stands can mark the beginning of a beautiful friendship or should I say rivalry.
written by: Anthony Ciardulli
Follow Anthony on Twitter @comicanthony