Saskatchewan Roughriders season tickets could be tougher to sell than a "Best of Abe Vigoda" DVD.
After all, the Riders are coming off a disappointing season in which expectations and ticket prices escalated without a concurrent upgrade in performance.
So how do the Roughriders respond? By increasing the prices of prime seats by an average of four per cent and announcing the controversial decision to move the university section from the east grandstand to the north end zone.
The time has arrived for the Roughriders to give something back to the fans. Otherwise, how can the team expect to flog tickets to the masses?
"I think it'll be a tough sell if we don't improve the team, to be very honest," Roughriders president CEO Jim Hopson says. "If we make the kind of changes that we're trying to make and are planning on making, I think people will say, 'We get it. We see that you've got a plan and you're reinvesting the money back in the organization.'
"If we come out and it's pretty much status quo, I think people are going to say, 'Well, what's going on?' Obviously, we need to deliver now on our plans to upgrade the team. It's not a lot of change we need, but certainly there's a couple of key positions.
"If you're going to go after marquee players, then you're into your higher salaries. Is it trades that you do? If it is, that can happen sooner rather than later. If it's waiting for the free agents, that won't happen until February. A lot of what happens on that front will impact on our ticket sales, I believe."
There are always diehards who will purchase tickets even if the Riders announce a Sammy Greene comeback.
However, there aren't enough blindly loyal fans to enable the Riders to conduct a profitable ticket blitz. Hence, GM Roy Shivers and his staff must make meaningful moves -- and soon, in light of the Dec. 23 pre-Christmas ticket deadline -- to placate customers who are discouraged over the stagnancy of 2005.
The climate can change so quickly. After all, the Riders are hardly starting from scratch. There is an assortment of talent on a Saskatchewan team which finished fourth in the West Division with a 9-9-0 record. Consider the presence of six all-Canadians, eight West Division all-stars, two CFL award winners (offensive lineman Gene Makowsky and returner Corey Holmes) and the runner-up for most outstanding player (Holmes).
But, clearly, alterations are required.
Shivers has been negotiating with the Ottawa Renegades to acquire quarterback Kerry Joseph. Great idea.
While burning up the phone lines, Shivers should also be in the hunt for a burner. The Riders fielded the CFL's slowest receiving corps in 2005. The inability to stretch defences impeded Saskatchewan throughout the season.
The return of Matt Dominguez, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2, will enliven the offence. But even with Dominguez, the Roughriders' offence lacks a pure speedster.
Shivers has found plenty of impact receivers during a generally successful career as a CFL player-personnel man. Two of Shivers' finds -- Mervyn Fernandez and Allen Pitts -- are among the premier pass-catchers in CFL history.
The time has arrived for Shivers to work his magic once again. How about a Derick Armstrong clone or a baggagefree equivalent of Curtis Marsh?
Despite all the disappointment the 2005 season produced, the Roughriders are not far removed from contender status. Consider the fact that the Edmonton Eskimos and Montreal Alouettes, who recently met in the Grey Cup, each had only one more victory than Saskatchewan in the regular season.
"At the end of the day, what people want to see is a good team," Hopson says. "That's our focus -- making sure we've got the right players. We're looking to sign a couple of key players and Roy's working very hard on that.
"I think any announcements in that regard would be seen in a very positive light by our fans. We've tried to put together a budget that would allow us to be aggressive in going after those players that we feel we need. This isn't a team that needs a lot of players."
It is a team, however, that desperately requires an infusion of impact players who can create excitement long before they don the Green and White.