The Canadian Football League had one of its most incredible, if not the most incredible Grey Cup game this past Sunday as the Ottawa Redblacks beat the Calgary Stampeders 39-33 in overtime. Calgary, who was heavily favoured, trailed 27-7 in the third quarter before charging back and sending this exciting game into a fifth quarter. But herein lies the main issue with the struggling CFL. The CFL never has a problem with what happens on the field but with what happens off of it. For the entire week prior to kickoff, there was not much hype surrounding the game. Sorry, that’s a bit of lie. There was hype but it came in the form of disgust as sports show hosts kept discussing the Pizza Pizza advertisement. How upset would you be if you bought the cheapest tickets ($89) only to see that there was a pizza deal for $29.99 and you get 2 free Grey Cup tickets on top of that? If that is the main story heading into your biggest game, then yes, there is a problem with football and the CFL in Toronto.
I know I am not the biggest football fan out but there was little discussion on the airwaves or internet regarding the Grey Cup. Obviously, I could have searched for this information, but the main point here is how much information about the CFL and the Grey Cup game would filter down to me (and therefore other people) by happenstance. This would be my own personal social experiment in what importance the CFL has in this city. I wasn’t looking to see who tweeted about the third string safety, but what significant pieces of data were out there. Important information like who were the two teams playing? Seriously, I didn’t know until days before it was Calgary and Ottawa. I listen to sports radio to and from work which is a collective 90 minutes each day and I heard more about pizza ticket sales (from both stations) than I did about the game itself. I had no clue (actually, I still don’t know) who the halftime entertainment was. Please tell me if you do. I did know that the Tenors were singing the national anthem (minus the rogue tenor) because social media had pointed that out to me after the band’s fiasco in changing the lyrics. But the last key piece of information I did not know until last week was the fact that the game was being played in Toronto and unfortunately, at BMO stadium instead of the Rogers Centre. Actually, with Bell/TSN owning the rights and the Toronto Argonauts, that kind of makes sense. But for me… being more of a TFC football fan than Toronto Argonauts football fan, this was a recipe for disaster.
— Corrie Banman (@CorrieBanman) November 24, 2016
The fear I have starts from the beginning of the year when it was announced that the Argos were going to play out of the same stadium as their soccer brethren. The fear was that the condition of the pitch would be very poor each time the CFL played there. To be fair, I have not heard much, if any concerns about the pitch this entire year. It is therefore an honest question as to why am I am bringing it up now. It isn’t that I am complaining about it (but I will on Thursday if it becomes a factor) it is just that I am very worried about it because of the stakes involved. The first and foremost reason is that there will only be three days between games and if I am not mistaken, that is a very short time frame to get things in order and to give the field (real grass) a time to set properly. The fact that it is being done in December adds to that fear as we do live in Canada and this isn’t a prime season for grass. Finally, we saw what happened last week in Montreal with the dangerous condition of the pitch and the disgraceful mis-drawn lines. MLS and these Canadian soccer teams cannot afford any more “bush league” setbacks and having the Grey Cup football trample the field before TFC’s football is just a great potential for disaster.
On the positive side, there is on thing that this football has similar to the other. They both can provide a highly entertaining game that is greatly underrated. I do expect the Reds to play a much better game than last week to become the Eastern Conference Champions. The Impact however are a solid, experienced squad and they themselves could just as easily advance to the finals. Let’s hope the pitch is up to the task and allows for both to play at their best.
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