I've been blogging here for 14 years, and during that time there were some pretty low times in Toronto sports. Just four years ago I wrote this about the new bottom for Toronto sports teams. Things were very, very bad for the big five.In 2016, things got a whole lot better. In fact, there's something great to report about every team in the big five not nicknamed the Argos. Although we didn't win a championship, we were close!
Ten years after their birth, TFC hosted the MLS Cup final, losing a heartbreaker to Seattle. That second leg against Montreal in the semi-final was absolutely thrilling.
Toronto Blue Jays
For the second year in a row, the Blue Jays played in the ALCS. Unlike the hype train of 2015, this didn't seem likely in September as we sputtered into the playoffs, but an Edwin walk-off against Baltimore in the wildcard game and a sweep of the Rangers in the ALDS helped recapture the joy of the previous year.
For the first time in franchise history, the Raptors won a best-of-seven playoff series. And we did it twice! We even took two games against Cleveland in the conference finals, making this far and away the best Raptors season, ever.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season, the Leafs were bad. Very, very bad. This is a good thing, as it helped us land Auston Matthews with the first overall pick in the draft. Now, with Matthews, Marner and Nylander, the future actually looks bright and the present is a lot of fun, too.
Let's not ruin this entry with an Argos update.
In addition to successful developments for the big four teams in this city, Toronto hosted the Grey Cup, World Cup of Hockey and World Juniors. 2016 was a very good year for Toronto sports. Let's hope for a championship in 2017.
I'm writing this entry out of frustration. My pal Freddie P thinks I'm "a fool" because I told him TFC was more popular in Toronto than the Argos. In my humble opinion, TFC is more popular than the Argonauts in this city. Fred, obviously, strongly disagrees.
Fred bases 100% of his argument on the fact the Argos get higher national television ratings. He has no other metric to point to, and he's correct in that an Argos game will be credited with many more eyeballs than a TFC match across this fine nation. But those numbers are national in a ratings system that heavily favours an older demographic. Every other metric, anecdotal evidence and common sense tells you Fred is dreaming in technicolour.
Very quickly, in this moment of frustration, I tweeted the following:
In Toronto, which team has the largest fan base? TFC or Argos? My friend is adamant the Argos do and I'm adamant he's lost his mind.— Toronto Mike (@torontomike) October 27, 2016
There were many responses validating my opinion.
@torontomike I respect the Argos history and wish they had more support but there is no comparison. TFC by miles.— James (@JamesD_TO) October 27, 2016
@torontomike i think your friend might be trolling you. And lost his mind.— Joe Manocchio (@joelapalooza) October 27, 2016
@torontomike He's lost his mind. Just look at fan attendance for one. Then ask abt season subscribers.— Francis Low (@frlowca) October 27, 2016
@torontomike if your friend thinks Borden is still Prime Minister then it will all add up to you.— Justin Clevett (@Clevareno) October 27, 2016
@torontomike TFC by far— Jason (@JHagholm1) October 27, 2016
@torontomike its for sure TFC— Tim (@tokum23) October 27, 2016
@torontomike Toronto FC. The Argos have lost their appeal in this city.— Andrew Sheehy (@andrewsheehy228) October 27, 2016
@torontomike He has lost his mind. The Argos and the CFL do not exist in Toronto. TSN CFL ratings are not coming from the GTA.— Mark Hill (@Inhocmark) October 27, 2016
@torontomike No contest - TFC— MattCundill (@MattCundill) October 27, 2016
There were a couple of tweets referring to the aforementioned national television ratings, which is undeniable, but the overwhelming majority think Fred has lost his marbles.
In Toronto, the 416 Toronto with John Tory as mayor, which team has more fans: TFC or Argos?
In the world of professional sports, I'm focused on the Jays vs. Red Sox this afternoon. A win and we'll host the wild card game Tuesday. This is a big game.
I was just biking with my two older kids and we were chatting about the Jays. My 14-year old son is more excited about Auston Matthews' debut with the Leafs tonight. My daughter will "follow" the game on Instagram. This led to each of us ranking Toronto's big 6 teams in terms of personal preference.
My 14-Year Old Son's Rankings
My 12-Year Old Daughter's Rankings
Straight from the mouths of babes, as they say. Despite the fact I watch most Jays games and talk about the team often, the team is a distant third on each of their lists.
You can lead a horse to water...
Television ratings are a very inexact science. Radio ratings, too, but this is about Monday's CFL matchup between the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Ti-Cats. It was the Labour Day Classic, so you knew many across this country would be tuning in.
A small collective of unknown people across this country carry PPM devices to record what they watch. Then, this number is extrapolated to estimate the number of viewers in total. It's like polling, and seems to discount streamers and such. Like I said, it's a very inexact science.
I follow Steve Simmons on Twitter, and saw this tweet from him. 2.9 million people tuned in, he wrote. That's an incredible number!
2.9 million was the audience on Labour Day for the Argos-Ticats game on @TSN_Sports. So, yes, people are indeed watching the CFL.— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) September 7, 2016
Maybe Steve was wrong? After all, he's been wrong before. A little digging reveals the source of this information. The official CFL account had tweeted that 2.9 million Canadians had tuned in to watch a regular season CFL match. Wow.
But wait, there's more. Arash Madani, who covers the CFL for Rogers Sportsnet, claims the actual number is substantially less. He has it at 902,000. That's a lot of people watching the CFL, but a far cry from 2.9 million. Arash claims this is the actual number.
Want accurate TV numbers for the #CFL on Labour Day? Argos-Ticats did 902,000 on English TV. The Stamps-Esks did 781,000.— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) September 8, 2016
In actuality, no #CFL game has done a million viewers yet this season. One did in 2015 and that was Labour Day.— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) September 8, 2016
So, what gives? Why is the CFL tweeting 2.9 million watched if the ratings tell us 902,000 watched?
I've spoken with the CFL's Director of Communications. He's explained the discrepancy. The average audience was 902,000, and a total of 2.9 million Canadians watched some of the coverage.
In my opinion, this wasn't clear in the tweets from @CFL or Steve Simmons, but Arash is playing a little dumb here himself. He likely knew exactly where the CFL got the 2.9 million figure.
It's more Rogers vs. Bell games. Grab some popcorn and hear me and Dave Hodge talk about it here.
I feel I need to preface this entry by stating I'm not a CFL-hater. I was at Pinball's last game, I took my son to see Ricky Williams and I generally root for the Argonauts' success. The fact is, my overall interest in both the CFL and NFL has waned over the past decade. I've learned I'm not really a football guy.
Periodically, as discussed on my podcast, someone will argue with me that the Argos are more popular in Toronto than the Raptors. Almost all evidence points to the opposite, and when I'd mention the fact the Argos struggle mightily at the gate, I'd always be told "wait until they're at BMO!".
Well, the Argos played their second regular season game at BMO Field last night in front of 12,373. Last August, when 14,748 attended a game at the dome, The Toronto Star wrote it was "the team’s smallest draw for a Rogers Centre regular-season game since 2003". The excuses for that 14,748 were plentiful, from a lack of marketing dollars to a transfer of ownership.
With an even smaller crowd last night at BMO Field, there are precisely three excuses being bandied about. The first is that it was a hot night, even though it was actually a pleasant temp at BMO Field, which is close to Lake Ontario. The second is that it was a Wednesday night. Funny, but the Raptors never had a problem selling out on Wednesday nights, and they play 41 regular season games at home vs. the Argos' 10. So let's focus on the third excuse, which is that Toronto doesn't particularly care for its CFL team.
I wish this wasn't true, and hoped the move to BMO Field would result in the buzz and attendence TFC enjoys, but 12,373 is a telling number. Afterall, it was only the second regular season game at BMO Field, and the excitement is already gone. And that number, 12,373, is less than the self-imposed Raptors cap on seasons tickets. That's right, there are more Raptors season ticket holders than there were people at the second ever regular season Argo game at BMO Field.
I was kindly offered passes to the first game at BMO Field, but had to decline to attend my son's graduation ceremony. I engaged the Argonauts PR person, suggesting that perhaps I take my kids to last night's game instead, so I could write about the experience here. By all accounts, it's a great venue for football. The response from the Argos left me rather dismayed.
The next time someone tells me Toronto prefers the Argos to the Raptors, I'm not even going to engage. It's not even close, and 12,373 for game number two speaks volumes.
Good luck, Argos. You have plenty of work ahead of you.
I'm an unabashed Toronto sports fan. I've been root, root, rooting for the home teams for as long as I can remember.
This past month has reminded me of the three-tiers of pro-sports in Toronto. There's group A, consisting of the Leafs, Blue Jays and Raptors, and group B, composed of TFC and the Argos. There's also a group C, which includes the Marlies and Rock.
When a team in group A makes the playoffs, it's a big deal. Most of the city gets incredibly excited and rallies behind our boys. I personally won't miss a minute of Leafs, Blue Jays or Raptors playoff action if I can help it.
When a team in group B makes the playoffs, you're happy, but there sure isn't a buzz in the city. TFC recently played their first playoff game ever, and if you weren't paying attention you likely missed it. I actually tuned into 3 minutes of this game before realizing we were getting trounced and I didn't really care. The Argos played a semi-final game yesterday, and if it wasn't for a few tweets I saw, I still wouldn't know what happened.
And don't get me started on group C. I'm mildly curious about the Marlies because I'm interested in how Leafs prospects like William Nylander are performing, but I couldn't tell you how many titles the Rock have won or when they last won without Googling it.
So yes, TFC and the Argos recently lost playoff games, but this city barely noticed and hardly cared. But when one of the big three make it, you won't be able to ignore it.
Just last month I was ranting about the banner MLSE was raising in the ACC for Bon Jovi. It's all starting to make a little more sense.
Current Buffalo Bills owner, Ralph Wilson, is 95-years old. As soon as he kicks the bucket, Jon Bon Jovi may lead a group of investors who will buy the franchise and move it to Toronto. MLSE "would likely build and operate an NFL-caliber stadium in Toronto, possibly near Downsview Park or Woodbine Racetrack."
But what of the Argos? That same National Post article suggests MLSE may buy the Argonauts and move the team from the Rogers Centre to the smaller BMO Field. One hand washes the other, as Dr. Nick Riviera would say.
Ok fine, bring the Bills to Toronto and build a new NFL stadium in Toronto, just don't put one penny of our money toward the operation. I'm pretty sure MLSE's pockets are deep enough to handle this one on their own.
Toronto Sports fans, I have good news. It seems we bounced off the bottom in August and things are looking up.
At that time, the Jays, Leafs, Raptors, TFC and Argos were all in pretty dire straits. You'll have to click back for details. I called it a "brand new low", but as I type this today I'm pleased to report the Argos are Grey Cup champs, the Blue Jays are entering the pre-season as World Series favourites and both the Leafs and Raptors are on four game winning streaks. Heck, the Leafs might even make the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
And let me tell you as someone who is watching both the Leafs and Raptors these days, they're both entertaining and full of hope, something that's been sorely lacking the past few years. The Toronto professional sports scene is suddenly respectable again.
Go Jays Go! And go Leafs, Raptors and Argos, too! I'm not sure about TFC, but the other teams are headed in the right direction.
It was the perfect storm. The Argos hosted the 100th Grey Cup and won it with a convincing 35-22 win over the Calgary Stampeders. And with no Leafs in sight to overshadow the event with a 3-game winning streak or anything like that, the spotlight belongs to the deserving Argonauts.
The parade to celebrate the club’s 16th Grey Cup win, it’s first since 2004, will begin at Wellington St. & Yonge St. (west side) and travel west to Bay St. It will then turn north and proceed up Bay St. The parade will culminate on stage in Nathan Phillips Square where Mayor Ford will read a proclamation announcing November 27, 2012 to be Toronto Argonauts Day.
It all begins at 11:30am tomorrow. Congrats again, Argos. This was fun!
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