The CFL's seen some good April Fool's Day pranks over the years, but the Toronto Argonauts might have done the best one yet Wednesday, announcing a fake game against the NFL's Buffalo Bills. They did so with a pretty great release. Here are the key parts of it:
The Toronto Argonauts Football Club has thrown down the gauntlet today, announcing that the team will take part in an exhibition matchup on May 29 against the Buffalo Bills of the NFL. The game is a throwback to the cross-league matchups of the past, when NFL and AFL teams travelled to Canada for seven games against CFL squads between 1950 and 1961. This time around, the battle shifts to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, where the teams will alternate between CFL and NFL rules each half.
“We’re extremely excited about this opportunity and we think our fans should be excited too” said Argonauts Senior Vice President David Bedford. “We first established a partnership with the Buffalo franchise through the Bills in Toronto series, and we’re excited to be taking the next logical step with a head-to-head matchup between our teams.”
This one works on a few levels. The Bills have generally been a threat to the Argos over the years, especially when they were still doing the Bills-in-Toronto series (which was anything but a partnership!). There also was the threat of a potential ownership group trying to move the Bills to Toronto permanently. While that particular scenario is all but dead thanks to the focus from new Bills' owners Terry and Kim Pegula on keeping the team in Buffalo, the chances of the NFL heading to Toronto with a different team aren't dead, so this is a clever way to respond to those stories.
This also is a nice nod to the history of cross-border games, which isn't made up. Yes, CFL teams used to occasionally play exhibition games against NFL teams, with six cross-border games between those leagues taking place in the 1950s and 1960s. The best and most notable one for our purposes here wasn't one of those six, though, as the CFL lost all of those games. Instead, it involved the Bills (who were then in the rebel American Football League), who lost 38-21 to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in August 1961. So, this works as an imaginary chance for the Bills to avenge that loss.
Keep in mind that new Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan has played into this too, as shortly after taking the Bills' job in January, he went on Toronto's TSN 1050 and said he'd play the Argos...in hockey. As remarked on then, we're not going to get actual cross-border games back any time soon, as there's nothing for either the NFL or CFL to gain from them and a lot to potentially lose, but this is a funny April Fool's prank to play (even if it's been done before, notably in 2008 by Hamilton). That wasn't all the Argos did Wednesday, though; the way they shot down a similar prank from the Ottawa Redblacks was also pretty clever.
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) April 1, 2015
— Toronto Argonauts (@TorontoArgos) April 1, 2015
Well played, Argos, well played.