As most of you know, I have really only been following the Toronto Wolfpack and Toronto FC this summer season. You may think it is because of their spectacular seasons, but that is just coincidental. Trust me, I have been following TFC since day one and have been neck deep in ugly. Baseball has been touched on sporadically but more so on MLB rather than the Blue Jays.
One Toronto team that I have completely shied away from is the Toronto Argonauts. I have noticed that when I write about football (NFL mostly) it is usually with a negative, cynical slant. Since I do not know anything of this team, I didn’t want my biases to interfere. Unfortunately, these biases are a little harder to ignore than I imagined, so I enlisted the help of a friend of mine. Jose Alfonso Taboada (@taboada93) covers the Toronto Argonauts for Tip of the Tower. If someone can provide an unbiased, concise report on this team, it will be him.
Jose Alfonso Taboada under the bright lights at BMO Field
So for those who have not been following since the beginning of the season and need an update, let me introduce you to your “sort of new” Toronto Argonauts:
Q: The Argos are fighting for first place in the East this year after having a few poor seasons. What are some of the reasons for the turn around?
A: Well for starters their defence has been spectacular. Additions like former NFL player Victor Butler has been a great help, leading the league in sacks for a great period of time, despite being out for roughly 4-6 weeks. He just made his return against the Eskimos. Other players like Cleyon Laing and Bear Woods also have strengthened their defensive unit as well. Unfortunately, the record doesn’t show that and they’re in the top three for sacks, total points allowed and forced fumbles.
In terms of offence, former Alouette S.J. Green has been amazing and he’s second in the league in receiving yards. The one thing that has just recently been improved is the offensive line. It’s been a tough season for them but in their last game, the O-Line showed great improvement, giving Ricky some great protection and having some key blocks that allowed James Wilder Jr to run up for 76 yards. Might be thanks to their new O-Line coach Jonathan Himebauch but only time will tell.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 16, 2017
Q: How has the move to BMO Field helped/hindered the Argonauts experience?
A: Personally, I find the experience at BMO much better than Rogers Centre. Knowing how close fans are to the players (unlike at Rogers Centre) gives them a chance to interact with the team; like the tunnel from the locker room onto the field. At the end of Saturday games, you’ll see most Argos players stay back to interact with the younger fans. You’ll even have players come back out after changing to mingle. I think just to summarize, it helps the Argonauts that their fans are closer to them for better interaction. Every time I have to go to Coach Marc Trestman’s presser at the end of games, it’s always a battle through the sea of fans as I need to walk up that tunnel with the players and then sneak by the crowd. It’s great to see how many fans want to see the Argos up close. You’ll see players high-fiving fans, some autographs, photos, even just small talk.
Q: A lot has been written about the attendance or lack there of this year. Is the criticism unfair? Do you see it improving and if so why?
A: Oh the fan attendance. It’s tough indeed and I personally don’t blame what’s been said. The only two days that have had a decent attendance was the Doug Flutie Bobblehead Day (15,801) and the CNE promotion day on August 19th (16,326). However, this past Saturday, was their highest attendance in a non-promotional day since their home opener (13,182). I think it’s slowly improving knowing that despite a record of 5-7, they’re still in a playoff race and it looks like it’ll come down to the wire. They do have a very important game this Saturday against the Alouettes and it most likely will set the tone for the division title, I think we’ll get another slight increase in attendance.
Q: Finally, if you were Argos PR what would you say to a cynic like me to get me out to a game?
A: Go. Just go at least once. It’s a very tight race for the division title and you’ll find more opportunities to interact with players than other teams in Toronto. You’ll see the Argonaut faithful with their cowbells making noise. If anything, what got me to continue to go to games were these great group of season ticket holders that were like family and got fans who they knew were new around them into the game. You’ll find that in any part of the stands. A CFL game does have tons of action and moments that get you off your seat (even to which I need to remind myself that there’s no cheering in the press box).
One thing that Jose did not reflect upon (as most people who work the game don’t) is the tailgate party held beforehand. It may not be anywhere near in comparison to the tailgate parties that go on in the US, but $4 a beer is the cheapest price I have seen in any sporting event in a long, long time.
It is great to see the team make the game more of an event than just a game, but the on field product is equally important in attracting fans. Hopefully more will come out as they are fighting for top spot in the East and facing the Montreal Alouettes.
That may even convince a cynic like me.
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