2016 has been one of the worst CFL campaigns for the Toronto Argonauts Football club and the best part of it was that the 5 win -13 loss record was the biggest news making story for football fans in Toronto.
Finding an affordable home in the Toronto market
Do you remember the days when the news was about the doom and gloom of the Argos getting kicked out of their home? the home that wasn’t designed for football, the home that was cavernous and just a bad draw for CFL football. Thankfully that season ending story that would make headlines after every season is no longer a story. The Argos have a new home and its BMO Field. The new home was dressed for success for each game and the weather reminded everyone that football can be enjoyed in the open air where fans had a great vantage point from most sections that made you feel you were on top of the play wherever you sat or stood (more on this later).
Fill your home with love and wins!
Now back to the biggest story of the season and that was the team that failed to find consistency. The easy part would be to focus on the one aspect that seemed to improve after each game but when you only win 5 games in an 18 game season there wasn’t much that worked. The Argos were faced with an injury to Ricky Ray for the 3rd season in a row. Unfortunately, this year, they weren’t able to develop a future CFLer in Zach Collaros and Trevor Harris to win games and get them into the play-offs. It was tough to watch the offence struggle even with the quick signing of Dan LeFevour who won one game and a few fans only to see the Argos trade for Drew Willy during the post-game of a win over the Ti-Cats. There were some bright spots in Brandon Whittaker and Liam Hajrullahu plus Ricky Ray did return at the end of the season and he was mulling over his role for next season but the big question to ask was who would decide on the future of Ray and every other Argo?
Planting some seeds in the garden for next year…
Management left the last media gathering with a battered and bruised body of work and when Head Coach Scott Milanovich talked about the future he wouldn’t go beyond his return to family life for a few weeks in South Carolina. GM Jim Barker and Milanovich have CFL experience and very good experience but recently some big CFL names have re-appeared, it’s a name like Marc Trestman being available and the carousel of CFL teams recycling management teams has started with the vacancy in Montreal as GM Jim Popp was the first to step down. Barker, Milanovich and Stubler know the CFL and have a winning pedigree but will the relatively new owners be comfortable with the same management team in place when they try to sell the Toronto market on an exciting 2017 team?
Our first party at the new house…
As the oldest football club in North America gets prepared to host the Grey Cup, it’s under the cloud of having to fill the stadium. It’s unfortunate and yes it’s a business decision but the pricing of game tickets found the scourge of regular fans. The Grey Cup organizers did the right thing and in less than a week after admitting an error they were able to re-work and re-market the game. For those who buy tickets it will be a great event because it may be the most Canadian sports event you will ever find. The poor media coverage seemed to continue from those who have always treated the CFL poorly but really look at what took place and the Argos did more than just the right thing. My Grey Cup tickets have gone from sitting in the cheapies to now being in one of the best seats in the house, all done with class and humility from an extremely tired and talented ticket sales team.
Toronto’s best sports seat in the house.
As for standing at the games, I just loved that I could follow the play for any of the four sides of the stadium. The best spot was the north end zone, you were on the rail, less than a foot(ball) from the back of the end zone. I posted some pictures this year with my Argos Admirals articles and all of them were taken with my camera and a little bit of thought as I try to capture the game in an interesting moment. That’s really going to be the key for the Argos in the future to gain interest. We know the team will get better and it will have winning and losing seasons but gaining new CFL fans will have to be the focus, and when it comes to gaining new fans it’s one family at a time. The open air and great views will attract some fans, while others want to see winning, and others want to see heavy hits. Super fans will want all three but for now thankfully fans are focused on one thing in 2017 and that’s winning some football games and getting to host a play-off game at a home you love spending time in.
Enjoy some of my pictures from the 2016 Argos season and look for me at a few Grey Cup parties, just don’t take any pictures of me!
By Peter T. Kourtis