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55 Yard Line

Toronto Star series on city’s teams ignores Argonauts, illustrating challenges they face

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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Can Ricky Ray lead the Argos back to prominence in Toronto?

Playing in Canada's largest city provides the Toronto Argonauts with both challenges and opportunities. On the opportunity side, there's a massive population for them to draw from, larger than anywhere else in Canada. On the challenge side, though, there are so many other sports options for the Argonauts to compete with for fans, advertising dollars and media coverage. They're often overshadowed by other local teams, and that's why you get pieces like the Toronto Star's current series on the city's struggling sports franchises; the only mention of the Argonauts at all in sports editor Jon Filson's introduction to the series, titled "New low for pro sports in Toronto," is his aside that "And in years ahead, maybe it's even possible the city's best franchise will no longer play in the CFL, AHL or NLL."

While that line's certainly a shot at the CFL, it's hard to say The Star should be forced to include the Argonauts here. As this is a series on teams that keep missing the playoffs, the 2012 Boatmen (who have locked up a home playoff game despite their less-than-incredible 8-9 record) don't really fit the narrative. In fact, given the other teams' struggles, maybe this is a crowd they don't want to be included in. Moreover, media outlets don't necessarily have an obligation to cover everything, and in the case of Toronto, it's particularly difficult to do so.

In addition to the four teams that are focused on in this series, the city also boasts the Argonauts, the National Lacrosse League's Toronto Rock and the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies, plus numerous other teams (yes, they still have a Lingerie Football League team despite last year's disaster). That's obviously going to require decisions on what to focus on, whether in a particular piece or in general. The Star's made their call here; if their readers don't like it, there are plenty of other outlets that make CFL coverage more of a priority. (To be fair to the paper, Bob Mitchell does a good job on the Argonauts' beat, and they did also send Damien Cox to Saturday's game. No word on if he's still bored by the current CFL's spectacular lack of bankruptcies and failing franchises.)

What's more notable than this particular omission is that it demonstrates how easy it is for media outlets to write off the Argonauts. Sure, they're hosting the 100th Grey Cup in less than a month, but if you want a reason to exclude this team from a larger piece or give it less coverage in general, there are plenty of reasons you could cite, ranging from "they don't draw enough fans" to "articles about them don't click well enough" to "they play in a Canada-only league". The Leafs and Jays will get coverage regardless of what they do, while the Raptors and Toronto FC have been seeing plenty of coverage lately despite their struggles, but the Argonauts are a lot easier to overlook. The amount of local sports competition they have doesn't help, either.

However, there are opportunities for the CFL in Toronto as well. According to Statistics Canada, the city proper (630 square kilometres) had a population of 2,615,060 in 2011, while the census metropolitan area had 5,583,064 people, both the largest numbers in Canada. If 1/100th of the populace in the city proper alone came out to an Argonauts' game, that would be an attendance of 26,150, which would be quite solid by CFL standards. Of course, many less than that tend to show up: the Argos' last home game on Oct. 19 had an announced attendance of just 23,419, and that was one of their better numbers this season. Still, you get the feeling that if this team ever got on a consistent, proper roll, they could get more of the city excited about them. They're never going to win over all of Toronto, but they've made notable city-wide before: 1991, 1971, 1997 and even 2004 (to an extent) are just a few of the examples of Argos' teams that were dominant on the field and got plenty of attention as a result. When you get to that level, you're far less likely to be left out of articles like this. If the Argonauts want to be considered to be in or near the top tier of Toronto's sports franchises, it's all going to start with putting together a consistently good on-field product.

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