From today's Toronto Star.
Ghost ship Argo foundering under absentee ownership: Cox
An absentee landlord is rarely good news for tenants.
Likewise, an absentee owner is rarely good news for a pro sports franchise.
After almost two seasons of being controlled by David Braley, who also owns the B.C. Lions, the Argonauts are anything but rejuvenated as a franchise, anything but in a stronger position than they were.
The team, despite playing in the weak East Division, is somewhat better, but attendance has declined. Even now, with an NHL lockout theoretically freeing up discretionary sports dollars in the GTA and the lure of a Grey Cup game at the Rogers Centre in November, the stands are half-full and the profile of the team is distressingly low, lower than it was during the days when the club was owned by Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon.
Having Braley own 25 cent of the league was always a bad idea with little upside. It still is.
His blue team crashed to its fourth loss in five outings on Sunday, delivering a dreadful performance with first place on the line in a 24-12 setback to the similarly struggling Montreal Alouettes. Creative counting put official attendance at 25,348, which is considered a very good gate for this football team these days.
Back in 2005 under Sokolowski and Cynamon, that crowd would have been a disappointment. Then, they were drawing more than 31,000 a game. In 2009, the final year of the old regime, an average of 26,374 turned out to watch a horrific 3-15 squad.
That looks like heaven now.
Since Braley “saved? the team — Sokolowski and Cynamon wanted other CFL owners to pitch in dollars to keep the Toronto franchise viable — it’s been pretty much downhill as far as both the profile of the team in the city and the willingness of fans to attend games.
That can’t be what Cohon was hoping for.
Sokolowski and Cynamon, whatever their shortcomings were as owners, did produce a championship and certainly cared about the team, maybe too much.
Braley, by contrast, is seldom seen, never heard from. Beat writers who follow the team every week have never met him.
Bob Nicholson was thrown overboard as team president in the last off-season, ostensibly because he had failed to excite the market. Well, it’s no better now. There’s less media coverage of the team and the promised increase in pizzazz through the hiring of head coach Scott Milanovich and acquisition of quarterback Ricky Ray simply hasn’t materialized.
Before Milanovich and Ray arrived, the Argos were among the lowest-scoring CFL teams. They still are.
With Ray out with an injured knee, the Argos, now 7-8, have won only one game. But even with him this was a team that had a difficult time scoring from the red zone.
The team’s struggles are about personnel and coaching and consistency and all the things that separate good teams from bad.
But Braley promised to turn a deteriorating situation around. He has not. The team has a losing record, the fans aren’t being turned on to the team.
His impact has been neutral, at best.
At least the 100th Grey Cup match at the dome is sold out. But it was the last time here, as well, so that’s not exactly a major accomplishment.
The Argonaut game experience is about the same, nothing great, although it was distressing to see that the enormous banners of past Argo stars that used to adorn the empty upper-bowl sections were gone on Sunday. In their place were ads for athletic gear, cars, coffee and media.
Roughed up by Hamilton and Saskatchewan the last two weeks, Montreal on Sunday looked nothing like the perennial powerhouse that has dominated the East for years, but it was still more than enough for the win.
The Argos led 9-7 in the third quarter, at least until Milanovich made the odd decision to have Noel Prefontaine, playing his first game in months, fake a punt and try to throw on third-and-six to defensive back Jordan Younger.
A gamble with a guy who hasn’t played throwing to a guy who doesn’t catch for a living. Shockingly, it failed, and the game was never in the home team’s control thereafter.
The Argos, fortuitously for them, would have to literally not win another game to miss post-season play. But they’ve already missed a chance to re-engage the interest of this market with the NHL on hiatus and the Blue Jays having experienced arguably their worst season.
This is like a ghost ship now. Pilot-less, aimless. At least Sherwood Schwarz liked to drop by for a chat once in a while.[url=http://www.thestar.com/sports/football/cfl/article/1271403--toronto-argonauts-suffer-24-12-setback-to-montreal-alouettes-cox]http://www.thestar.com/sports/football/ ... uettes-cox[/url]