The time has come to debunk an urban legend that's been hanging around for some time.
Interest in the Canadian Football League, the legend goes, is restricted mainly to those who live in places like Corner Gas' Dog River and bear strong resemblances to Hank, that fictitious village's official idiot.
Football fans living in the Toronto area are far too sophisticated to care about the likes of the Toronto Argonauts, the legend says, and are focused more on the National Football League.
It's a good legend, but there's one problem with it: Like all urban myths, it's not true.
A look at detailed television ratings shows Argonauts games are substantially more popular than any NFL match-up among Toronto-area viewers.
But they also show that if the Argos don't win the East final on Sunday, CBC will have trouble improving on the 3.2 million viewers who watched last year's Grey Cup game.
According to BBM Nielsen Media Research ratings, the seven Argo games aired over the past two months averaged 138,000 viewers in the Toronto area. NFL games carried by Global and TSN averaged 97,700.
Both averages indicate a lot of interest, but certainly no lack of interest in the Argos.
It should be noted this is an unscientific poll. The fact there were only seven Argo games compared with 31 NFL games means there's much room for error.
Since American network ratings aren't tracked in Canada, nobody knows how many viewers are watching NFL Sunday night games on NBC instead of TSN.
But since only eight Sunday night games were played as of last Sunday, the difference wouldn't significantly alter the outcome.
There are many other factors that could warp the numbers a bit. The CFL is at the end of the season and the NFL is just starting, for example.
Two Argo games were on Saturday afternoons when ratings are at their lowest, while the NFL has a more viewer-friendly schedule.
Regardless, based on those numbers, it's time those CFL-haters started admitting the old league isn't just a prairie thing.
This doesn't come as a surprise to Reginald Bibby, a University of Lethbridge sociologist who has been tracking Canadians' sports interests for years. Bibby's studies have consistently shown interest in the CFL is higher than interest in the NFL.
And he always felt the media underestimate the CFL's power in Southern Ontario. Neither does it come as a surprise to the league.
In the west, next to the NHL, the CFL is the most popular by a long shot," says Chris McCracken, the league's vice-president of broadcasting and media assets. In the east, we're on par with baseball and the NFL."
But there is a downside to the ratings. They show there's little interest here in the rest of the league among Toronto-area football fans. Even if you factor in the number of 10 p.m. and Saturday afternoon games, interest here is basically limited to the home team.
The 24 non-Argo games played since Sept. 1 regularly outdrew the NFL nationally, but averaged only 40,000 viewers in Toronto. That's less than half of what the NFL drew here.
So if the Argos lose Sunday, the CBC won't be able to count on all those Toronto fans who helped push the Grey Cup ratings over 4 million the last time they were in the final.