To begin with, allow me to say that, although I have not abandoned the NFL, myself and several of my friends and family members have embraced the Great Northern Game and hold our CFL fandom well above that of the NFL. After all-- the NFL is a good stopgap measure for me between the Grey Cup and the start of the Australian Football League season in March!
Next, I am NOT a Rams fan. I am a displaced Washington fan originally from Virginia. That being said, I have lived in the St. Louis area long enough to have seen TWO teams bail on us, as well as being shafted during expansion in the 90's that would have made the Stallions our very own home-grown NFL franchise!
Continuing, There's a REASON that it's known as the No Fun League. The NFL has become so uptight and stodgy in how it plays and officiates the game that it's rarely fun to watch football anymore. Excessive celebrating? Fines if your sock rolls down during a play? Too much boozing and fighting in the stands? Don't EVEN get me started on concussions and the general health of former pro football players.....
Further, I am a devoted and ravenous fan of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and am the proud possessor of a 101st Grey Cup Championship ring from 2013 (even though it's a replica Darian Durant ring, I wear it proudly as a member of Rider Nation!). I proudly wear both home and road jerseys emblazoned with the number 13 upon them, because Rider nation are considered by the team to be the 13th Man, having gone so far as to retire the number 13 in honour of The Fans.
All that said in the interest of full disclosure, let me also say that I would put all of that aside, or at least on the back burner, to become a devoted and ravenous fan of a St. Louis CFL expansion team!!!
Where to begin with my thoughts?!?
First off, I think the initial CFL USA expansion was an abject failure outside of Baltimore because it was done all wrong! It was merely a cash grab as an effort to save foundering Canadian teams (that worked!), and they gave franchises to pretty much anyone who's cheque cleared!
Second, save for Baltimore, the markets were all wrong! They were largely southern cities and regions known for fierce loyalty to well-established and storied NCAA programs. And everyone was confused as to why attendance vanished once college seasons started in Shreveport, Birmingham, Memphis, etc.
Third, the stadiums SUCKED for Canadian Football! The disaster of the Liberty Bowl stands out most notably because of it being practically confined to an American gridiron. Being well before the advent of the soccer-specific stadium, college and former pro stadiums could not accommodate a Canadian field. The Toronto Argonauts moving into BMO Field and sharing it with FC Toronto, the Canadians have shown us the way!
Fourth, again, save for Baltimore, each and every CFL USA team did not hire even ONE person familiar with the Canadian game to be a part of either the coaching or managerial staff. Especially with the southern teams, nostalgia won out over common sense and former NCAA coaching and playing figures were hired and had absolutely no idea how to manage and coach the Canadian game. Baltimore started with Jim Popp as GM and hired coaches and staff with CFL experience, and they went to the freakin' Grey Cup both years they existed, and are the only non-Canadian team to ever win the Earl's Jug!!!
And fifth and lastly, the CFL expanded too far and too fast. Sensibly, the Sacramento Gold Miners were the first US based team to play in the CFL, joining in 1993. They hired the wrong people, their stadium was not suited for Canadian football, the market was ridiculous, but they were the only one. The next year, teams were added in San Antonio, Shreveport, Memphis, Birmingham, etc., and it was a disorganized cluster f***. Much like every other pro football league and what the local press dubbed "oddball sports" like Arenaball Stampede and the Vipers of RHI and the like, they went too far too fast and doomed themselves to failure.
And now, my thoughts IN FAVOUR of a new CFL expansion effort, particularly into St. Louis!!!
1) St. Louis has been burned TWICE now by the No Fun League. No matter what we do as a sports community, and despite any empty promises the NFL makes, we will NEVER see another NFL franchise based in the St. Louis, MO, area again. This is fact. Most sports and business media sources agree (ESPN, USA Today, Yahoo! Sports, Wall Street Journal, etc.).
2) Both times we DID have an NFL team, we wound up with someone else's unwanted garbage. The Gridbirds? Chicago's afterthought, relocated to St. Louis and played as much as they could off of the novelty of two pro sports teams with the same name and colours. Then, Phoenix wound up with someone else's unwanted garbage. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Next, we get the Rams, someone else's unwanted garbage. Aside from three marvelous and seemingly miraculous seasons, they promptly went back to being the doormats of the NFC. Yeah, 1999 was an awesome football year here, and it was a taste of what football could have been in St. Louis, but it was a flash in the pan that fizzled out as quickly as it started. If we DID wind up with another team (don't hold your breath!), again, it would be someone else's unwanted garbage that would never be successful on the field.
3) Had we been granted the Stallions as an expansion team, we would STILL have NFL football, and, success or no, they would be an irreplaceable part of the sports fabric of St. Louis. Look at Cardinal baseball-- the team was born here, it has history here, it thrives here. Blues hockey-- the team was born here, it has history here, it thrives here. Both the Cardinals and the Blues are, and always HAVE been, OUR teams!!! From day one, they were St. Louis teams! NOT someone else's unwanted garbage!!! Even when the Blues almost moved to Saskatoon in the 80's, the NHL put a stop to it! If that expansion team had become the St. Louis Stallions instead of the Jacksonville Jaguars, we wouldn't be in this situation, and the Stallions would be like the Cardinals and the Blues, because they would be our very own!
4) A CFL expansion team would be our very own, from the ground up, born and bred here. There are NO Canadian teams that would ever move to a US market. There would be riots! (Besides-- the St. Louis Roughriders or the St. Louis Argonauts just don't sound good.) Our football team would be born of a St. Louis identity, and we could shape it into whatever we, as a sports community and fan base, want it to be! Think Ernie Hayes on the organ at Busch Stadium playing "Here Come The Kings" as the clydesdales circle the field. Think of how playing "When The Blues Go Marching In" is played after every Blues goal since 1967. Think of Ron Baechele, aka "Towel Man", counting off goals and throwing t-shirts at hockey games. What will be the tradition we build at our CFL team's games?!? Let's find out!!!
5) The Dome is still a damn good sports facility!!! It's only 20 years old!!! The Riders have been playing on the same field with an ever expanding stadium since 1910!!! And they're only NOW building a new stadium!!! The Dome has hosted numerous international soccer matches with room to spare. Much like BC Place in Vancouver and the former SkyDome in Toronto, the end zone seats pull back to accommodate the deeper end zones. And ALSO like BC Place, we could even only use the lower bowl of the Dome for home games. BC Place hangs baffles and curtains from the mezzanine for Lions games in recent seasons. Just because the Dome seats 60,000 doesn't mean we have to HAVE 60,000. If nothing else, we have a home for a team for many, many years!
6) Again, BC Place has shown us the way as far as renovation is concerned-- they went from an inflated roof just like the Metrodome in Minneapolis, to a retractable roof in the span of one season, utilizing a fairly decent temporary stadium during that time. Look it up-- it could DEFINITELY be an option for the Dome here!
7) If we also get an MLS expansion team, the two teams could definitely share the stadium! Again, BMO Field in Toronto is showing us the way! The Argos will call BMO Field home starting this June after 26 years in the cavernous expanse of the SkyDome. Smaller stadium, the only grass field currently used in the CFL, and a more intimate game day experience makes this a win-win for the Argos and their fans! If we build a shared MLS/CFL stadium here, the only thing we'd need is a minimum of 20,000 seats and end zone seating that retracts to accommodate the deeper end zones.
8) If expansion is done properly and slowly this time around, it will DEFINITELY work! Throwing six brand new teams into the CFL mix at once can NOT happen again. If the market is right (and St. Louis IS right!), facilities are right (they ARE!), and the right people with CFL or CIS experience are brought in to manage, run, and coach the team (They BETTER be!!!), a St. Louis CFL team will thrive here!!!
Thank you for your time in reading this lengthy diatribe! I apologize for being so wordy.
But please know that I am 100% on board in trying to bring a CFL team to St. Louis!
I would love to a St Louis get an CFL team. And would also love to see it expand to the US in general. I do think the CFL is going to be resistant to all this due to what happened the first time and to not piss off the NFL. They don't want to give them a reason to relocste to canada.
Perhaps setting up a CFL clone league to be a Neo AFL..With the goal of eventually established a working agreement with rhe CFL. Similar to the early days of MLB with the American League and National League. The winners of each league playing in a World Bowel for the Grey or World Cup would be the first major step. But such a project would need a good plan, solid financial backing, and a good tv deal. Otherwise you end up like the UFL and other failed football leagues.
Teams in St Louis (Stallions), San Diego (Lightingbolts), and Oakland (Pirates) would be a good start. If the Raiders stay put you could replace Oak with Las Vegas (All Stars). Other cities to expand to are San Antonio (Rampage) Oklahoma City (Gold Rush), and Portland (Kings) ..Six teams would probably be a good number to start. I know Oklahoma is in Sooner country but the city is usually a good sports market. Most of these teams are more towards the west so expanding East Word should be saved for later. You could go wild and try Mexico City (Luchadors) but that is also high risk reward.
Your going to need to find big allies. Sinclair Broadcasting has a syndicated sports networks that airs lower college games. Plus they just bough the Tennis Network on cable that may or may not be rebranded to general sports.Perhaps ypu could get them to air and invest in the league . This would be starting off small. But perhaps you could try to grow together.
Other goals should be to get high profile business man to invest in the league and even own teams. Mark Cuban would be a good option to try. He has money and owns AXS TV. Another cable relationship to potentially build. Vince Macmahon would be another namento get involved . He would probably never be accepted in the NFL. But he has money and yet another network looking for original programming in WWE Network ( albit online streaming). Trump is obviously out of the question. But there are other business owners to persue.
I agree. The CFL needs to pick up its pace as far as expansion is concerned. I understand why they´re hesitant in expanding again into the US, but the circumstances are different now given the stability of the league. Get/find investors and potential owners who are serious about getting a CFL franchise into St. Louis (and other US markets), then everything should fall into place. Obviously, going too far south isn´t the “smart” thing to do. The CFL needs to do a study on which US cities are ideal/more suited for the league. Personally, new teams would give the league a much needed face lift. St. Louis definitely fits that bill.
I don't think the NFL has any claim to the St. Louis market. It willingly abandoned and then trashed STL on the way out the door. It's not like the situation when the Colts left Baltimore in the middle of the night. I think the CFL is our best shot at professional football. All of the previous start up leagues have failed. The last time I looked at their website, the AFL was down to four teams. The CFL is an established league. I think trying to pair it up with MLS teams might work. Both leagues have similar attendance expectations and the CFL playing field is similar. Also, I don't think there is that much overlap in their perspective markets. Each sport has a different following, for the most part.
Great cities and names but I don´t think Las Vegas, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Mexico City would work as CFL cities. I have my doubts about San Diego and especially Oakland given that the NFL has left and then returned to this city. I agree, six teams would be an excellent number of teams to start, just need a decent TV deal and some good investors.
San Diego market freeing up now with loss of the Chargers is big and the reaction of fans there is identical to St. Louis. The vast majority are angry with both the owner and the NFL and it's all but guaranteed that NFL viewership will be down significantly for the 2017 season and beyond in San Diego. That market could be a goldmine for the CFL and the NFL doesn't want to leave it. Here's another key piece - the city of San Diego still owes more than $50 million on its stadium bonds and will be left holding the bag even after the Chargers pay the $12 million or so penalty to break the lease with the city. St. Louis is in the same boat with the dome. The CFL now has available two ex-NFL US cities with football stadiums in dire need of tenants, although St. Louis does get more convention revenue with the Rams gone. Throw in Oakland and San Antonio and that makes four extremely viable and attractive US markets for the CFL. The league's TV contract will also be up for renewal in 2021. That deal is currently C$40 million per year with TSN or C$4.1 million per each of the nine franchises. Another interesting angle for St. Louis is that a CFL ownership group could potentially partner with the local MLS group for a combined use stadium and try to solve the shortfall of funding for that stadium created by the new governor killing any state subsidy. The beauty of the CFL for potential US investment groups is you don't have to be a billionaire to be an owner or part of an ownership group - the expansion fee for the Ottawa team that started in 2014 was about C$7 million and the current salary cap is C$5.1 million. Opportunities are out there and it will be interesting to see if the CFL takes advantage.
As a Canadian, it would be great to see the CFL in San Diego as well as in St. Louis. Great cities great football fans. One of the major problems with the CFL is that it´s run by too many “old thinkers”. They need to be convinced that opportunities exist for the league to grow and evolve outside of the Canadian borders. The league needs to increase its membership. Now, does the CFL approach St. Louis and San Diego or does St. Louis and San Diego approach the CFL?
It would be great to have a few US teams in the league - particularly if the right Baltimore-like markets and patient owners could be identified. We still have a loyal Baltimore contingent travel each year to the Grey Cup game.
How realistic is it for the CFL to expand to San Diego and Oakland? NFL would probably do everything to block the CFL from expanding into these cities.
Its a shame that US TV Networks aren't willing to invest in secondary sports leagues to try and build new live ratings sources. They won't pay the tv rights fees that would need for a league like this to survive off the bat.