Season ending thoughts that could grow up to be articles.
-I hope Ricky Ray plays well in Edmonton this weekend. And that he walks off the field a winner. He’s been nothing but class his whole career.
-Despite a league-worst record heading in to the final week and a national drubbing at how the team was run, there were a few bright moments as fans. The tailgating really is fun. We met loads of new people and put faces to social media tags. The stadium is a great place to watch football. The Twitter trolls were constantly up in our face about the 10000 empty seats, but hardly any mention was made that the 15000 fans that were there had a good time. Except maybe the Saskatchewan loss, that game had all the entertainment value of watching construction on the Gardiner.
-Up until November 1, I was a long-time small business owner of a cafe in a small town. I spent many years quietly convincing customers that my business model and those of the multinational corporations based out of Brazil and the United States that market themselves as Canadiana were completely different creatures. For all intents and purposes, the CFL and its teams are small businesses in the world of professional sport. A five million dollar team salary cap barely registers as a single player’s earnings in the upper stratosphere of professional athletes. Small businesses can’t charge big business ticket prices. And they need to reward the fans they have. Loyalty goes a long way in creating a sustainable and profitable small business plan.
-It’s important to separate the good people from the bad business. Like most season ticket holders, I seem to have spent a lot of time in correspondence with account managers this season. Whether by email or telephone, my interactions with the Argos ticketing staff have been positive in nature and productive in their results. I’ve also met the people at the top of the Argos food chain; for all the mistakes that occurred this season (documented ad nauseum elsewhere by everybody) they seem open and genuine in their passion for the game. I applaud their ability to acknowledge and correct the series of mistakes in marketing the Grey Cup and in the days that followed the change in ticket prices. Let’s hope that lessons learned lead to better things in the future.
-Grey Cup hosts were spoiled from 2011-2013. Only six teams in CFL history have won the Grey Cup at home; the 2013 Saskatchewan Roughriders, the 2012 Toronto Argonauts, the 2011 BC Lions, the 1994 BC Lions, the 1977 Montreal Alouettes, and 1972 Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It was always going to be along shot that the Argos would make the Grey Cup this season, and even longer odds to win at home again. So now we look at possibilities, as an Edmonton native do I cheer for the Eskimos to represent the east, maybe against Calgary? Or do I cheer for the REDBLACKS to end Ottawa’s long drought? Can I cheer for Hamilton and hope I don’t cry when Caretaker Bob finally gets to hoist the Cup? What about the Blue Bombers? There’s a city that could use a win. Or just cheer for ABC, anybody but Calgary.
-We’re going to the Grey Cup. Six of us. We’ll have fun. That’s what it’s for. We’ll stay off social media and eat too much, and see friends from across the league and give high-fives to other teams’ fans and stay up late and complain about Toronto’s traffic and hopefully not freeze our butts off in the November wind. And enjoy the game. Monday morning we’ll have brunch and do something touristy and then drift off to our respective homes across the country.
-Not all downward spirals are permanent. Look at other teams in professional sports. A few years ago the Blue Jays were drawing flies, a crowd of 10,610 was announced in 2010. In September 1966, the last-place Yankees announced a crowd of 413 people. The current marketing success that is the Saskatchewan Roughriders once had to hold a telethon to save the team. In 1985 Calgary held a “Save our Stamps” fundraiser to sell 22,000 season tickets and keep the team afloat. The trials and tribulations of Ottawa, Montreal and Hamilton are well documented. The NHL’s Oilers, Flames and Senators have all struggled with attendance issues at times and required subsidy allowances from their leagues. It takes good management, strong on-field performance, and deep pockets to build a good organization. Let’s see if the Argos can build on their deep pockets.
-In all fairness, Toronto doesn’t make it easy to go to events. The television numbers for the Argos are up this season. And the Argos remain a strong draw on the road. It requires some devotion to negotiate traffic and parking and inconsistent GO train service after the game. A couch, a remote, and a pizza do have their attractions sometimes. Cheers to the fans that make the trip.
-One of the reasons there’s an off season is to let the optimism grow back. It’s okay to be a fan, even if the trolls tell you it‘s not. It’s okay to be a fan, even if the team performs poorly. It’s okay to be a fan, even if you’re outraged at the mistakes both on and off the field. It’s okay to be a fan, even when you swear they’re never getting another of your hard-earned dollars. It’s okay to be a fan, even when you don’t make the playoffs and you don’t know if you’ll be cheering for or against someone at the Grey Cup game. It’s okay to be a fan; the organization will or won’t make some changes on lessons they did or didn’t learn and the winter will pass and the players will come to training camp and the seeds of optimism will sprout and there will be a good crowd at opening day and maybe, just maybe the season will go as hoped and crowds will grow and we’ll stomp our feet and we’ll be catching a train to Ottawa to take part in the 105th Grey Cup in the Nation’s 150th celebration and it’ll be good to be an Argo fan.
Until then, see you at the Grey Cup Argos Fans. We’re not all Nutts, but we’re all family.