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 lived through the debacle of losing an NFL franchise, the Baltimore Colts. Until the CFL Stallions came to Baltimore I has supported the Philadelphia Eagles. I can understand your pain.
The Stallions drew about 30,000 fans prior to their move to Montreal, brought on by the establishment of the Ravens. I still follow the Alouettes as my adopted CFL team.
For the most part the CFL is a pure passing league. It has a lot of action packed into 60 seconds of play.Since the playing field is large you can get plenty of scoring with just 3 downs. The players are as skilled as NFL players but the skill set is a little different due to the league differences.
The CFL wants to expand to ten teams. Most likely the Maritime provinces. The problem has been that Hallifax-Monkton has not come up with money for a new stadium and may not have an ownership group that can provide stability.
Here is my advice for "bending the ear" of CFl officials regarding a second USA expansion;
1, Be willing to give up on the "Rams". The NFL sued Jim Speros regarding the name Colts.
He did not have the same amount of financial deep pockets as the Billionaires who own the NFL franchises. So Stallions was born.
2. Be willing to become the 10th franchise in the CFL, probably Eastern division. If you get a CFL franchise and it is successful other USA cities may follow.
3. You need a STRONG ownership group.
4. Don't "Mickey Mouse" the stadium. Have a field conform to CFL requirements.
5. You will probable need to show a base of solid 30,000 season ticket holders. No need for PSLs!
Good luck to all Pro football fans in St. Louis and other cities screwed by the NFL..