As we all know Doug Brown plays for the Bombers and he wroter this article regarding the Eskies and the CFL.
In the wake of the Edmonton Eskimos' Grey Cup victory, we have been forced to stomach a week's worth of stories exalting the character and fortitude the Eskies displayed in winning yet another CFL championship.
Well, it's high time we stopped pretending we were surprised and impressed with the result. If this league were anymore geared towards the success of the self-anointed "City of Champions," we would hand out first-round draft picks based on prospective drill sites.
The CFL has always been a cash-driven society and everybody knows that the Green and Gold are flush with it. In most other sporting associations it doesn't necessarily matter how much revenue your team generates because there is only so much you can allocate to your roster.
A salary cap levels the playing field for member clubs that don't have equal footing when it comes to market size or population. When there is no salary cap (like in the CFL) competitive balance is merely an illusion that those with all the money and power hope you will buy into. Of course in any given year, any team in the CFL has a chance to compete and win it all -- this is not a column with a defeatist spin, just a realist one. Yet when you look at performance trends over time and see that the Eskimos haven't missed the playoffs in 34 consecutive years, there are more processes going on here than simply "Organizational Excellence."
The influence of money and power from a single franchise in the CFL is best evidenced by how it channels the unsolicited recruitment of all-star players. Scott Flory, a non-import guard in Montreal who is one of the premier linemen in the CFL, is soon to become a free agent in February.
Speaking casually with some of his teammates during the 2005 season, they were already somewhat resigned to the fact that he would end up in Edmonton in 2006. Of course the Alouettes still have several months to re-sign Flory and technically, if he makes it to free agency, all nine teams would be able to bid on him. So why would some of his teammates think he was already destined for Edmonton? Because whether it is Grey Cups or all-star players or league policies, Edmonton gets what Edmonton wants. Trying to argue this point with anyone will only make you look foolish and uninformed.
Money can also apparently make you sound cock sure, beyond belief. Have you ever heard of a player talking about next year's championship trophy before he has even had his name inscribed on this year's prize? Joe Montford knows what makes things go round in the CFL and that Edmonton has the capacity to buy their way into post-season contention on any given Sunday. Why else would he tell the Edmonton Sun "We're going back to Winnipeg (next year) so I can get my Grey Cup in Winnipeg." He never used to talk like that when he was in Hamilton or even Toronto.
Montford could also become a free agent this off-season and not many teams wouldn't be interested in acquiring a man with his resume. But it's a good thing he wants to stay in the city of black gold because he would have to sneeze at a big bag of cash to go anywhere else.
Hugh Campbell, CEO and president of the Eskimos, told the Edmonton Sun that, "We want him back and we will get him back." That would normally be a pretty presumptuous thing to say if the CFL was a place where all of its teams could compete equally for its resources, but Hugh knows better. Without a salary cap nobody can tell Campbell who he can and cannot sign due to salary constraints.
In 2005, Edmonton was once again tops at the box office, averaging just under 10,000 fans more per game than their next closest competitor (B.C.), and over 16,000 fans per game than the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Multiply that by an average ticket price of $20 and 10 home games and you come up with well over $3 million just from selling tickets.
Nothing is wrong with this kind of profitability of course, except when a disparity in revenue translates into disparities on the field. This is why I am less than impressed with the accomplishments or accolades of the Eskimos. After all, as it was put to me by a retired CFL veteran, any team in the CFL can win if the stars align for them, but when you have that kind of dough and no cap on spending, you can afford to align the "stars" yourself.