I'm really starting to like this columnist. My favourite part is (quite fittingly) in bold red.
There's nothing big about this game
[url=http://www.nationalpost.com/sports/story.html?id=1039300]http://www.nationalpost.com/sports/stor ... id=1039300[/url]
Bruce Arthur, National Post
Published: Friday, December 05, 2008
[i]When it was announced that the National Football League was coming to Toronto for the first time in its incredibly lucrative history -- the NFL's, not Toronto's, though the description could apply to either one -- it was considered a Big Story. It was the kind of Big Story that spun the wheels of talk radio on both sides of the border, and demanded that newspaper columnists weigh in to predict success or failure, brilliance or farce. It was the kind of Big Story that prompted very rich men to say things like, "I think that's a lot of exaggerated hooey."
That last quote came in response to worries that the Buffalo Bills in Toronto could eventually hurt or kill the Canadian Football League, as well as hurt or kill the idea of the Bills actually staying in Buffalo. The remark was seen as a little disingenuous then, but given what has since transpired -- or in the case of the man who spoke those words, expired -- it might be right on the mark.
Sure, Buffalo's game against the Miami Dolphins at the Rogers Centre on Sunday will be a sellout, though belatedly, and not without some sleepless nights in the offices of Rogers Communications. Yes, plenty of media and patrons will attend, and the game will be on television, and so forth and so on. There may even be a degree of hullabaloo to the whole thing. Yes, yes.
But from what we have seen so far, the prospect of NFL games played in Toronto has done nothing to advance the cause of an NFL team moving to Toronto. If anything, it's hurt the idea. And not just because Ted Rogers was the most likely local billionaire to make a play for an NFL team, and his death this week at age 75 leaves that title vacant. This has become exactly what everyone in front of a microphone said it was: A way for the Bills to make some extra money on the side, and not much else.
(Eyebrows might have been raised when USA Today reported that Bills owner Ralph Wilson, 90, has a chest virus, and that he had been coughing for two weeks. This is of course significant since when Ralph follows Ted to the great beyond, the Buffalo Bills go up for sale. When the Bills go up for sale -- and despite the love of the good and stout people of Western New York, who hardly deserve the pain involved with being fans of this heartbreaking team -- the team is almost certainly going to move.)
The credit crisis, the plunge of the Canadian dollar, the embarrassing pre-season game here in August that featured an estimated 15,000 tickets being given away -- it all diminished the significance of this game.
Buffalo's plunge -- a 5-1 start transformed to a 6-6 lump, including a 10-3 home loss to San Francisco last week -- didn't help, either. Buffalonians get excited for their Bills, but does anybody else? J.P. Losman's starting at QB! We can tell our kids we saw him play!
Unless you're a fan of the Miami Dolphins from their long-gone heyday, or of the so-called Wildcat formation, or of Ricky Williams, the visitors aren't exactly A-list draws, either.
And so here comes the NFL, whispering into town. If it was important, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would surely attend, wouldn't he? Well, instead of spearheading the regular-season foray into Toronto, the commish will take in Philadelphia and the Giants, in scenic East Rutherford, N.J. The explanation, from an NFL spokesman, was that "he was just in Buffalo on Nov. 18 for their [Monday Night Football] game."[/i]
Obviously, he couldn't return to the same general neighbourhood three weeks later. Or maybe he can't locate his passport just now. As one source familiar with the game planning puts it, "Roger Goodell went to London [where the NFL has twice played for the English crowds], and he went to Mexico City [where the NFL played a pre-season game in 2005], but he's not coming to Toronto. What does that say?"
[i]It says the rumours of NFL unhappiness with the way these games have been planned, marketed and sold are more than mere rumours. The NFL boosters in this city have forever been trumpeting the hunger in this market for the National Football League, for the big time. People here believed it, too. Even the Toronto Argonauts finagled a deal that would give any new Argonauts season-ticket holder first shot at the sure-to-be-coveted Bills tickets, and at the Rogers-Wilson news conference here on Feb. 6, Argonauts co-owner David Cynamon said "I'm guessing ... we might gain 5-10,000 season-ticket holders."
That season-ticket base, as of June, was approximately 14,000, and the Argonauts admit that demand for season tickets relating to the NFL gambit was less than expected, which is a bit of a mixed blessing. That would make sense, since demand for tickets to the Bills game, which averaged $183, has been less than expected.
This was supposed to be an audition for an NFL team in Toronto. This was supposed to be a Big Story, an epic event, a date between the biggest sports league on the planet and the so-called centre of Canada's universe. It was supposed to be a show.
You know what this is? It's just a game.