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Argos struggle with fan support
The Argos' future will depend on tackling the "minor league tag," he says.
Maybe a successful title defence? The team can take a big step by beating the Hamilton Tiger Cats on Thanksgiving Monday and clinching a bye to the Eastern Conference final.
In the early 1990s under the star powered ownership of Bruce McNall, John Candy and Wayne Gretzky, the then Skydome was the place to be with more than 35,000 fans routinely passing through its turnstiles.
Today Clemons is the vice chair of the Argos and probably the team's biggest fan. "You know if you look at the major innovations in the game they have all started in the Canadian Football League. You look at the shotgun formations, that's the CFL, you look at the mobile quarterback, the guy who runs around and does all these things, that started here. Then you look at these new all receiver sets that we now have Peyton Manning and these guys doing, well we were doing that 25 years ago."
Back in those days, the Argonauts had a promising running back who would come to be known simply as "Pinball" and a star receiver in Rocket Ismail who was lured north of the border with an $18.2 million contract, still the richest in CFL history.
since there have been positive signs in the form of solid TV ratings and a three year stretch of 30,000 plus fans a game between 2005 and 2007, but the franchise has been largely unable to sustain the Nike Air Max 1 Black And Green
"I am heartbroken that it doesn't work better here. "Today is the Argo's birthday. 140 years. This team deserves better than this fate somehow."
After a brief stint in the NFL, Clemons joined the Argos in 1989 and never looked back, falling in love with the Canadian game and becoming one of the most popular professional athletes in the history of the city.
If anyone knows the answer to bringing back the buzz surrounding CFL football in Toronto it might be Michael "Pinball" Clemons.
"I want to win as much as anybody, but I don't want to have a 6 and 3 record at home and have the average score be 13 9," Rudge says. "This is about excitement. We are selling emotion here."
Less than a year after capturing the 100th Grey Cup in front of a sold out Rogers Centre, the Toronto Argonauts have again fallen out of favour with Toronto's Nike Air Max 97 Grey Camo
Under Rudge's leadership, the Argos have transformed from a moribund franchise that had finished seventh in an eight team league the season prior to his arrival to a championship team built around a gun slinging quarterback in Ricky Ray and a star receiver and kick returner in Chad Owens.
"For some reason, we tend to associate better with New York, Los Angeles and Miami than we do with Winnipeg, Calgary and Regina and the fact is that we are not great despite of what's around us but we are great because of what is around us," Clemons says. "You know, we have this wonderful product here that is something the NFL can never be. The Canadian Football League is one of the most significant cultural institutions in the country and the Toronto Argonauts are the oldest pro football team on the planet. Our challenge is just staying relevant."
"We just can't seem to ever get firing on all cylinders. Anyone who was lucky enough to be at the Grey Cup game last year knows that it can be a lot of fun in here with a big crowd," Hayman says. "It was loud, it was exciting, it was a great game, the good guys won. You would think that would translate into more people. I just don't get it."
More important, Rudge says, the team is playing exciting football, recently polishing off a four game winning streak on the road where they came from behind in every single game.
sports going public.
Selling the uniqueness of the Canadian game
Attendance is flat, tickets are easy to come by and with news that the team will be out of the Rogers Centre and maybe the downtown core at the end of 2017 owner David Braley has said he has spoken with four different municipalities about a home for the team after Rogers made it clear that it wouldn't renew its latest lease the risk of falling out of the conversation completely is omnipresent.
This season the Argos have Nike Air Max 1 Ultra Moire Qs 3m averaged 22,324 fans through their first seven home games at the 45,746 seat Rogers Centre, down about 891 fans a game from the same point last season and good enough for seventh place in the eight team CFL.
Some of the Argos' struggles can probably be attributed to the dates they have been stuck with as tenants at the Rogers Centre rather than owners of their own stadium this year the team had to play two Tuesday home games and were unable to play on Labour Day as is tradition in the CFL.
Clemons, who was born in Florida but makes his home in Oakville, says there is an "apathy" that exists with regards to the CFL in Toronto and a school of thought that says our game is somehow inferior to that of the NFL.
In the mid 1990s the Argos' attendance started to slip as Candy passed away, McNall was convicted of fraud and Gretzky was forced to sell the team. With the Argos in flux and the CFL in the midst of an unsuccessful foray into the American market, the team averaged a paltry 16,841 fans a game in 1994 and then 16,659 in 1995.
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"The game itself is exciting, the product is first class, the brand has been a part of this community for a long time and as an organization we are probably more integrated into the community and more active in the community than any other sports franchise," Rudge says. "It is not going to happen overnight, but If we win again this year, if we continue to build an exciting product and if we eventually get ourselves into a new stadium that is better designed for football I think we will get back to the point where we have 25,000 or 30,000 people (per game) and Argo football is as big as it used to be."
The post Grey Cup boost just hasn't materialized.
At least on the surface, there is reason for hope.
A little over two years after taking over the top job with the double blue, Rudge is realistic about the Argos' place in the city's sporting hierarchy, admitting that the team has slipped to the "C list from the A list," but the former head of the Canadian Olympic Committee who oversaw an unexpected gold rush in Vancouver also believes the franchise is capable of beating the odds, pointing to rising TV ratings, solid community programs and an exciting product on the field as factors that are in the Argos' favour.
Still, one has to wonder why the defending champions who sit atop the CFL's Eastern Conference with a 9 5 record, regularly play to half filled stadiums in a city so starved for sporting success. "You know we keep pushing that bloody rock up the hill and it keeps rolling back down on us."
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