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.
12,373 announced for the Wednesday night #CFL game at BMO Field. #Argos pic.twitter.com/m5lCUHvuFn— Empty Seats Galore (@EmptySeatsPics) July 14, 2016
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.