Sparse Crowds

While the team is looking stronger this season, I am still disillusioned by the sparse crowds drawn in Hamilto, as well as Toronto. It would seem that sports media has adopted the position that the NFL athlete is superior to the CFL athlete. TSN itself features a number of broadcasters who have allowed trend and hype to shape their opinion. Far from true. For those falling prey to hype, allow yourself a moment for the following consideration.

Premise: NFL players are better.
First, theoretically, let's assume the statement is accurate. US colleges graduate 10,000 football players every year? If 8 - 10 new players are added to NFL rosters yearly, only 300 of that 10,000 will find employment in the NFL. If the CFL has access to the next 50 best players that means only 350 of those 10,000 players will play football at a top, professional level. Can the drop off between player number 300 and player number 350 really be so dramatic? No, of course not. Such a fine line would bring many other factors into play. And there are indeed many other all too often ignored factors at play.

The CFL is a different type of game played by different types of players at positions with different responsibilities. I have heard broadcasters pshaw this argument saying "a football player is a football player". Yes, someone paid to comment on sports said this! How about look at a football team itself - how different are the players at various positions? Different rules and different demands call for different athletes. The NFL is the best marketed sports product in the world. It practices the hype that and sells. The NFL game is very, very structured. They require players who can play a highly structured game. There is not a lot of improvisation. Frankly, there is no room for it. It's like the pre-lockout NHL - the game became dominated by big men dedicated to positional play. The NHL of the recent past was about the denial of improvisational play using traps, locks and structure. In the NFL, there are huge bodies on a relatively small field. There is no separation between down lineman making athleticism secondary to size in line play. Running backs, linebackers and even quarterbacks need to be of a certain body type in order to succeed.

CFL players are selected on the basis of talent. The large field opens the game up and allows improvisational talents to be utilized. We have seen running backs of all shapes and size in our league. Do you remember Robert Mimbs? He did not look like a running back. He did not hit the line hard or run with power. He could move laterally like no one else and he could read the play. He could pick and slide his way through the line of scrimmage. This was his talent and few could match him in this regard. The CFL is a game that allowed Robert Mimbs use his unparalleled lateral abilities. In the NFL, these skills are useless. It's all about hitting the line and hitting it hard. The CFL is more talent focused.

Gizmo Williams and Pinball are players the NFL would consider too small. Their talent and athleticism were superior to any NFL returner. The CFL provided a game that enables talent to overcome size. That is what the CFL game does. You cannot claim that the athletes are inferior. That is far too simplistic and ignores so much. How many times have we seen NFL players come to the CFL and fail miserably? Often! Particularly quarterbacks. Vince Ferragamo, Eric Kramer, Lee Saltz, Tim Rosenbach and many more. Tim Rosenbach signed with Hamilton some years ago. He was supposed to be the next great quarterback. He is an NFL style passer. He stands in the pocket and waits for plays to develop before throwing. It does not work in the CFL. You don't have all day to sit in a shallow, static pocket and wait for a play to develop. Rosenbach was a flop. CFL quarterbacks need more skills. The only NFL style QB to ever have success was David Archer who succeeded because he adapted, he developed a quick release. Doug Flutie succeeded because he is a CFL style quarterback. Doug could improvise, create and execute. He was the best I've ever seen. Noone could match what he did in the CFL. The CFL still has access to many of the best athletes at quarterback because of the size requirements of the NFL. An NFL quarterback needs to be tall enough to find passing lanes through between linemen. A CFL quarterback can move the pocket and use his mobility to create his own passing lane.

I could continue a position by position breakdown but the bottom line is that CFL athletes are second to none. When Ricky Williams came to the CFL he was fine, but on no occasion could he go outside and turn the corner. CFL linebackers are smaller, but so quick. The NFL has all the hype but you must look beyond hype to substance. Rod Rust was a very successful NFL coach. He says many of the best athletes he coached were CFL players. Different game played by different players at different positions. Highly structured vs. continually changing.

The NHL has removed the red line and cut down obstruction, you have seen personnel changes galore in the NHL. As it stands now, the commitment to enforce the rules of the "New NHL" have already rendered behemoths like Rathje and Hatcher ineffective. They need different players. As contracts expire, more of the large old grinders will be replaced with more dynamic, improvisational players. This is happening.
When selecting a team to compete on an Olympic sized ice surface vs North American size, managers and coaches consider players skills in context to the playing surface. The CFL has a different sized playing surface than the NFL. A different game requires different abilities. There are similarities and constants, but we cannot assume that differences relate to quality. Furthermore, we cannot look at the salaries involved and expect that to be an accurate barometer of quality, it doesn't work.

The NFL is hugely successful and offers player salaries no other league can compete with. True. But Britney Spears draws endless attention, sells out arenas, and has 10 times the radio play of Diana Krall. Is Britney a better artist than Diana Krall? Of course not, it’s a far too simplistic to infer from superficial means of assessment. Diana Krall is several times the artist Britney Spears is. Similarly, the athletes of the CFL are second to none. Just take a look.

Do you really believe that Trent Edawards and his endless littany of heavily pre-programmed 3 yard passes to proto-type players is more exciting? Wow - unreal that hype is so overwhelming that it obliterates what lies right before our eyes. But hey, Britney will continue to sell out shows and have many more electronic, formulaic hits. So Sad. CFL players are second to none as athletes playing an amazing game and so many are so overwhelmingly blind.

matamc, good post. This has been discussed here forever. Bottom line for me, once the Argonauts get into their own football specific stadium and I think this will happen not too long into the future, things will change. Remember even "NFL only counts" fans didn't want to pay big money for the Bills in RC as most people look at the RC, rightly so with the sightlines, as a baseball specific stadium.

Right now Toronto doesn't have a football specific stadium and that is a lot of the problem.

I think you are misinterpreting the cause for sparse crowds in Hamilton.

1.the team has been terrible and people have given up finding other things to do

2.unemployed and working poor numbers are rising so the lower budget options are being hit hard

3.ticket prices have risen significantly in the face of the above

I really think the NFL has nothing to do with the CFL attendance. The only NFL option is Buffalo and their attendence hasn’t risen significantly and the Toronto experiment is failing to live up to expectations of the promoters. The fleeing fans aren’t flocking to the NFL.

You seem to have a real problem with tthe NFL. Get over it

I agree AKT. Toronto is a CFL city with a 25,000 football specific stadium. Once that happens there will once again be a real football atmosphere in Toronto. Look at TFC, I think a lot of their success as beena all this "soccer specific stadium" aspect, not the fact the MLS is in town, put them in the RC and you would see 10,000 at most at games IMHO.

And along the lines of what AKT is saying, I don't see an NFL type stadium in Toronto for a long time, who will pay for it? Only maybe if the Olympics come to Toronto but that is a long way off. Or if Rogers is adamant and successful in buying the Bills once Ralph Wilson passes on but I'm not sure that will happen at all now that Rogers sees the Bills, Toronto Bills or whatever, are a tough sell at the prices they want to charge, or need to charge. I think the only real premier money for pro sports in Toronto at this point are the Leafs.

I wouldn't worry too much about sparse crowds just yet, games in the summer months here have always been tough sells, some years more than others. If it persists after Labour Day then I would start to become nervous. I wish the league would start a little bit later and run a few weeks longer really.

I really think as I said the problem is the Rogers Centre. It's not geared towards football enough and people realize that now and are reluctant to pay to go there, at least a lot of people. Hey, even if the Cats are playing well, I don't want to go there for a game as I'm not keen on football games in the Rogers Centre. They have to start thinking about plans for a new football specific stadium in Toronto.

Wonder what happening with the Caretakers discussions with the Bill,s, Many Ontarians in the Ticats territory go to Bill,s games, How about some W.N Y,rs heading to Hamilton, maybe a combined ticket package??? The CFL has 8 strong teams on the field(better than a majority of nfl teams!!) and at the gate, , The same arguments against the cfl in the 80,s cannot be made in 2009, Cis is producing ncaa level 1 players ,All cfl teams have depth at qb, reciever, rb, and in Canadian football a strong leg kicker is a good thing lmao

Great idea, but you run into the problem of competing more with that behemoth known as the NFL. While there is nothing better than watching football OUTSIDE in November and December, that is also prime NFL time too.

Yes, one of the issues in Hamilton and Toronto is that age group 18-35 who want to get their football fix with a big party atmosphere with booze in Buffalo and tailgating there in the big parking lot, that's how they see football unfortunately. Once or twice a year and they have the "football fix". Hey, I did it too for years.

The TiCats represent a bit more of a family atmosphere I think, which is good and is what I like now but doesn't cater to the testosterone young group as much who is looking for the party.

I wouldn't worry about it at all. For some pretty suspect football, there were great crowds early on in the Young era. Near sellouts every night.

But, the play on the field has basically beaten these people away at the door. Not many other franchises have been this futile. Yet, we're still averaging a solid 21,000. They were giving cars away if we got that many in during the Grant ownership.

Bob knows marketing. He knows that you just don't swing open the doors and crowds just appear. It takes time and effort. You could argue that it took time and effort to drive the fans away in the first place...now comes the ultra-difficult task of re-selling a product that previous customers have deemed ineffective/ unsatisfactory.

With most brands/ products, this would be impossible. Luckily this is different.

One thing the Ticats have done well (IMHO) is impeccable customer service and relations. The goodwill within the community is banked for times like this. I think people are wanting to give this team a second chance -- but some, understandably -- are still in the 'wait-and-see' mode at the moment. And it comes at a time when a lot of people are worried about disposable income.

Given these issues -- plus the fact that we live in a very busy/ cluttered market -- I think it's pretty good that the crowds are as big as they are. I don't think it will be long (provided our relative record on the field stays the same) that we'll be up in the 25,000 territory. Anything remotely resembling a playoff race may push it even higher.

The only thing, I think, that could accelerate this process is if the Argos got their stuff together and got competitive (...why, oh why we can only have one competitive team in southern Ontario at one time is a head-scratcher). That would turn the focus of the media even more on football and get the rivalry stoked even more.

I'm definitely not worried about these so-called 'sparse crowds'.

sigpig, agreed, it would mean a longer time going up against the NFL. If we stuck to Friday night and Saturday games it might work. As big a football fan as I and many on this site are, I find that June and July are a little hard to get into the game and season. I can see starting in August just to stay out of the real severe weather at seasons end. Football in the fall is just so much better anyway.

Heck, I have a Ti-Cat Parka that is probably 15 years, and between the nice autumn weather and the fact that we haven't been in the plays-offs all that much lately, I have probably only worn it a dozen times, looks like new. Try to remember how many cold weather games we have had to attend over the years.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the later season start would lead to better crowds anyway.

See I love the start time of the CFL season. For me, the time between the NHL playoffs being finished and the start of the CFL is agony. Nothing to cheer for. Plus, my (former, maybe?) favourite team, the Leafs, are usually out of the equation by April.

The Canada Day start seems pretty good to me. And, I do think that the less head-to-head with the NFL is beneficial.

I actually lose interest in watching CFL football after Labour Day. The Cats have my attention but a game between 2 CFL clubs I don't care about takes a back seat to several NFL clubs

In Regina, they make it an event. It is a party atmosphere. Many say there is nothing else to do in Regina but I was there this summer and they get twice as many concerts as we do! It's a busy place but football distinguishes itself by being an all-round event. You have to take a page from the NFL notebook and make your game presentation a spectacle as well as having an event like atmosphere surrounding the game. Let's face it, the NFL overcomes it's lack of on field drama by making everything around the game as shiny as possible. The CFL could have shine and on field drama! In the NFL, the games are won on Monday's when coaches devise their game plans and draw up plays 1 thorugh 60 for offense and defense. In the CFL - the game plan is dynamic and must change. I mean - it's the unkown! The NFL is the predictable. I clean house in sportsline every year because the NFL is so predictable. So, highlight the atheltes and improvisation and make the game an event! That way maybe we keep the attention of AKT.

In Regina, they gather outside the stadium on the practice field where there are bands, beer, games and green jerseys everywhere. You can mix family entertainment with a loud event. It really is fun, there's nothing else like it in Canada. We can have that!

Actually they have my attention in Hamilton. I attend the Ticat games, its watching you guys on TV play Calgary Edmonton BC et all that I lose interest in. No amount of Regina hype can sway me in Hamilton to watch your game on TV . I love both leagues but the NFL gets my viewing vote in head to head situations most Sundays

what an unnecessarily long post...

Hamilton drew HUGE crowds even a few years ago, when new ownership took over the team and the future looked 'brighter'.... but losing season after losing season equals less and less fans (even this season.. theres really only been one 'sparse' crowd... the BC game and still it was 20k + people)

Put a decent team on the field and the butts go in the seats.. all this cfl vs nfl nonsense is bullcrap and makes no sense at all.

Do you not understand how HORRIBLE this team has been consistently?? Its literally depressing to think about. Am I going to pay $40 bucks to go to a game I know hamilton will get blown out of the water at?? Where they probably wont even score a frigging touchdown?? This is what goes through people's heads the last few seasons. Ill go to the waterfront.. go out to one of the million restaurants...shopping...go to a bar...maybe go spend the day in toronto.. cn tower.. even more restaurants..bars...shopping...TFC game...blue jays...movies...the beach...maybe down to the falls...casino... wine tasting...play golf...up north camping or to a cottage.. fishing...this is what people mean when theres nothing to do in regina.

And ive been to regina too.. there truly is nothing else there to do. Even during hockey season, the greenrider flags are flying at the grocery stores and on cars, etc. (your concerts comment seriously got an eye roll from me)

Toronto needs a 'rebranding' of sorts. Smaller, football friendly stadium and a little more pimping of the name in that city.. thats all... but you have to understand the demographics of the cities as well.

Sorry but I dont agree with this topic's point whatsoever, what a waste of time and bandwith. (and i HATE being 'one of those guys' especially with new posters.. but agh its frustrating.. your nfl vs cfl player comparison is noteworthy but just in no way correlates to hamiltons 'sparse' crowds)

Regina has more concerts than Hamilton/Toronto/Kitchener :roll:

Maybe its time to start the CFL season much earlier say in April and get it over by September, how about the Grey Cup on Labour Day. We wouldn’t be going head to head against the NFL. Could start having Sunday football again. It would aslo silence the crowd that says they would rather watch NFL.

Remember though, there were a lot of discounts and freebies in the early days of Bob Young. They have taken those away the last 2 years and the crowds we have been getting, (20K) is more realistic of what we have been getting.

Some corporations were getting 1,000 seats a game and Dofasco was getting tickets for $5 or $10 a piece.

There are still some good discounts but the HUGE crowds you are talking about doesn't truly represent ticket buyers.

But true sports fans support their team no matter what!!
Even the "losing teams" in the NFL put bums in the seats.
In Soccer fans support their teams through thick and thin, they don't abandon their team and put their teams in jeopardy of folding like they do in Hamilton and Toronto. They are "true" fans that want to see football.

I think that Hamilton fans always think that they are teaching a lesson to their owners by not buying tickets and always think that a rich owner will step in to bail them out and football will go on and on.
A loyal fan will buy tickets no matter what, not just because their team is winning.