I have a friend named Sean Leathong who is pretending to be a television anchor in Hamilton, and he posed me this challenge a little while ago: "Can you write an article about how Toronto should get an NFL team? I've never heard anyone make a compelling argument."
Well, not only am I going to argue for an NFL team in Toronto, but I'm going to also jump light years ahead to a whole other ballpark, or field, and say that not only should Toronto have an NFL team, but it should host the Super Bowl.
(By the end of my article, I may actually believe it myself.)
Reason #1: Torontonians Love Football
Toronto is the fourth largest metropolitan city in North America, and it's one of the continent's only true sports megalopolises. It loves it all, and it loves them all. And, Toronto has the amenities that makes sports impossible to escape. Come here, and you'll realize that not only do the women in Toronto know more about the Toronto Raptors than you do, but they know more about the Raptors than ESPN does (*that's not saying that women don't know anything about sports, but I think it's just a generally believed/brainwashed stereotype that women aren't as into sports as dudes are).
Real Sports is the greatest sports bar the world has ever seen (besides some possible honky tonk in Dubai that, I'm sure, not only covers the Deutsch hockey league and cricket, but obscure sports like dodgeball, snake charming, and basketball, too).
Toronto also loves its football, which you won't truly understand until you go there, spend time there, and live there. Toronto is viewed as the hockey capital of the world (and it is), but it loves football equally. Torontonians know more about the University of Miami Hurricanes than Florida and Cuba combined.
Torontonians consciously decided to despise the Toronto Argonauts just so the NFL would bring them a real football team instead. It's like a guy shoving his hand in the face of his mistress while his wife stands there, watching him with her arms folded. "I swear, baby, she never meant anything to me! It's always been YOU!"
I left Vancouver for the University of Western Ontario when I was 17 years old, and I left with dual citizenship -- a head full of hockey and a gitch full of gridiron. One foot in the Country of Hockey, another in the Nation of Football.
I thought I loved football and I thought I loved American sports, even college sports. My friends in Vancouver never understood me or why I cheered for the Michigan Wolverines in football and the Arizona Wildcats in basketball, probably because they were too focused on planting trees or throwing out their unfinished, vente Starbucks coffees, or other things West Coasters typically do.
However, I never knew I would be the minority, that I would have to prove to everyone in Ontario that I loved football and that I knew what I was talking about. I never knew I'd have to spend nights researching college football history just to keep up with everyone in Political Science the next day, or that coming up with full-length, fact-based opinions on whether the Ohio State Buckeyes deserved their 2003 Fiesta Bowl was just an expected chore.
During the day, we couldn't put four paragraphs together about Canada's Notwithstanding Clause. At night, we were writing competing essays about football.
Only a month into my first year, the floor in my historically horny residence at Saugeen-Maitland Hall televised our own version of Pardon the Interruption. Guys in Toronto play Madden every minute of every day, and they can tell you the full name of every pixelated referee on the screen.
Reason #2: Toronto Needs It
Let's call a spade a jack... Toronto is cursed by sports. They have thrown their whole life and fortune into the Toronto Maple Leafs, who haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1967. That means that when the Leafs last won the Cup, there were only six teams in the NHL and games weren't yet broadcast in colour. The Blue Jays won two World Series in 1992 and 1993, but haven't made the playoffs since then and play to an empty ballpark every night because of an attempt at vicious obedience on the part of Toronto sports fans. The Raptors are irrelevant to the NBA, and Toronto FC would have trouble beating teams in the United Soccer League.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Argonauts have won more Grey Cups than any other franchise in CFL history, and the majority of Torontonians despise them because of what they represent: the nickname "Boatmen," the 1980's, and a roadblock en route to NFL ownership.
Toronto has a multi-sport fan base with the might of Zeus, and the city is just dying to throw it at something... anything... everything. An NFL team would lick up the profits like a dog owner who's eaten a bowl of bacon.
Not only that, but an NFL team (and the Super Bowl... remember, we'll get to that) would give Toronto an excuse to finally fix that once-futuristic-and-now-putrid eyesore that is the SkyDome, er, the Rogers Center. The SkyDome is a relic, a relic that you could tell was once marveled over because it had a "retractable" roof and was meant for baseball. Now cities and teams have resorted to building real ballparks with real character (i.e. Milwaukee's Miller Park, Pittsburgh's PNC Park, and Angel Stadium) and the SkyDome is officially competing for the title of Major League Baseball's Worst Stadium with the likes of Tropicana Field (Tampa) and Oakland Coliseum.
With a little bit of fixin' and elbow grease (and, seriously, just a little effort for a change), the Rogers Center can return to being a fully functional living organism.
Reason #3: Economics, Stupid!
Toronto is the fourth biggest city in North America, which becomes a dumb argument when you realize that the second biggest city in North America doesn't have an NFL team either. But, really, why let two cities suffer when both should prosper? I'm sure Jesus said that...
The Toronto metropolitan area has over 5,000,000 people, Ontario has over 13,000,000 and Canada has almost 35,000,000 people. What do the second and third have to do with the first? Well, not only could you guarantee the NFL that all of Ontario would be behind you, and not only would you lap up a significant portion of Canadians that would root for the country's only NFL team, but you're talking about putting an NFL franchise in a city that accounts for one seventh of its entire country.
Sure, Ottawa is the capital of Canada (sure, sure), but Toronto really is the capital of Canada. Toronto makes Ottawa look like Canberra. Toronto is so important to Canada, it makes New York City's importance to America look like Annapolis, Maryland. Toronto is more important to Canada than the wrist is to the hand. Toronto accounts for so much of Canada's attention, world standing, and wealth, that it routinely gives things to Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary and then tells those cities that they thought of them first... the NHL Awards, Drake, and authentic pizza... stuff like that.
Toronto is the dad in the family of Canada who's paying for his kid's university. "Well, they'll be on their own someday..."
To argue against Toronto being good enough, crazed enough, or profitable enough to host an NFL franchise, you'd have to either be delusional, be Robert Duvall, or be a Buffalo Bills fan (assuming that, you know, the Bills would either be the new Toronto team, or they'd lose their Niagara fan base).
The Super Bowl
I know I'm really stretching my buck by declaring that Toronto deserves to host the Super Bowl, but if you aim for the moon you'll still hit the stars (right?).
Listen, what better platform to showcase Toronto's football potential than the Holiest Holy of America?
While the Rogers Center looks terrible on television during those "Bills in Canada" games (or whatever they're called), it would be a simple fix to make it better for one day of the year. So, you bring the bleachers in a little, you throw some green food dye in the grass, and you spruce the place up a little.
And, besides, can you really argue against Toronto as a host city when the last few years have featured such nightlife-loving gems as Indianapolis, Detroit, and Glendale? Those place make Toronto look like Las Vegas, a city that geography whiz Chipper Jones pointed out is not Toronto.
Additionally, those places look great on television for the Super Bowl because of the way FOX, NBC and CBS film the setting. They focus on the best and brightest parts of those cities, and they add little effects on iMovie to make the city shine and sparkle.
In Toronto, you don't even need effects. The city has one of the world's greatest skylines, and it's a cultural explosion. Hey, if ESPN can make Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa look like paradises before the BCS Championship, they can make Toronto look like the Garden of Eden.
The only problem with this, of course, is that Toronto is not in the United States. It's not "traditional" America. (Although, is Miami?) And, of course, a non-American Super Bowl would seem like blasphemy in a place that is so concerned with reminding us all of how patriotic its citizens are that it holds an annual interview with the President before every Super Bowl.
That's the nature of the country, though. On Dec. 31, 1958, Cuba was the new face of American outreach and an exotic locale of business and pleasure. On Jan. 1, 1959, it was a socialist farce that could not be touched, invested in, or visited.
The point? Anything can be American -- or Canadian -- when it's convenient and profitable. The Super Bowl is no different, and it would certainly be profitable.
On top of that, this game is about spectacle. It's about "new-ness." It's about grabbing attention.
If the game were really about integrity, then why would GoDaddy.com still be advertising during every commercial break?
In 2011, the game was hosted at the brand-new Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. In 2014, it will be hosted in brand-spanking-new MetLife Stadium in New York (well, East Rutherford, New Jersey). Why? Because of the spectacle of it all. Because they were and are new. Because the Super Bowl is about money and flash and fireworks, drive and Drives and diners and dives. Jerry Jones, America's team, the Superdome, the Rose Bowl, and all that stuff...
So, if this is really about spectacle, then bring it to Toronto and go for broke. Or, if this is really about football, then bring it to Toronto and let North America's most starved and desperately fanatical football market sink its teeth into it. You can't lose, either way.
Take a chance, a socialist little chance, on us.
You'll be surprised at how much you like it up here.
A version of this article was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.