Give Ottawa back its football!

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:53 PM ET

The familiar scene is of three guys, in their 40s, having a beer and talking sports in an Ottawa bar. 

It is one week before the 2010 CFL season opens, and they are  former season-ticket holders at Frank Clair Stadium who also used to travel to Grey Cup weeks around the country, very much enjoying themselves at the great national party. 

They knew the CFL back then, watching games on TV every weekend and even making the odd trip to Ivor Wynne Stadium, but now, five years after the death of the Renegades, they cannot boast that claim.

They are becoming CFL illiterate.

The three are joined by an Ottawa sportswriter and together, the group tries to name the starting quarterback on each CFL team. 

Casey Printers in B.C. Henry Burris in Calgary. Either Ricky Bell or Jason Maas, probably Bell, in Edmonton. Anthony Cavillo in Montreal. Kevin Glenn in Hamilton.

But in Winnipeg, Toronto, Saskatchewan ... no clue.

They attempt to rhyme off the starting running backs, only to realize they don’t know any. Kickers? Defensive players? Forget it. This is both very sad and embarrassing.

People here are losing their grip on Canada’s game, and for that to be happening in the capital of the country is just not right.

Look, I have a hard time believing any TV ratings that suggest the CFL is more popular than the NFL anywhere but Saskatchewan, let alone in a happening city like Ottawa.

For pure entertainment, most weeks the CFL gets the nod, but I think the four-down game attracts more viewers and interest partly because the talent is superior, but primarily because of the bets and pools that are available.

That aside, the CFL is Canada’s game, and Canada’s game belongs in Canada’s capital, and on behalf of sports fans in this region I am hereby asking city councillors to remember that Monday.

We are asking one last time that they give Ottawa its summer game back.

Despite all the stumbling and bumbling done over 25 of the past 30 years by the Rough Riders and Renegades, there was always a fan base strong enough to support a team, always a solid core of 12,000-15,000 folks attending games at old and crumbling Frank Clair Stadium.

They want the chance to do it again.

Now, simply by being consistent with earlier decisions, council can vote to not only return pro football to Ottawa but also have what promises to be one of the cosiest, most beautiful houses in the country to watch it in.

The proposed jewel on the canal would surely make everyone proud. The football team? Finally, the combination should work. 

For years it was said that the troubles encountered by the Ottawa football team stemmed from its ownership. Needed at the top more than anything was local people with deep pockets. Well, those prayers have been answered by John Ruddy, Roger Greenberg, William Shenkman and Jeff Hunt  — aka Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG). They are putting their strong, established reputations on the line.

OSEG is also excited about bringing pro soccer to the city, an interesting venture that will attract thousands to Lansdowne every summer. But such an experiment, while very successful in Toronto and Montreal, has yet to be tested in this market. 

The Ottawa football team, on the other hand, will pack the 24,000-seat stadium, if at first only to give customers a chance to check out the new digs.

Twenty-four thousand is not a lot to expect when the novelty wears off, either. 

The situation is right. The time is right. The stars have aligned.

The league is on coming off a tremendous 2009, attracting more than two million paying customers for the eighth straight season. Not since 1976-83 has the CFL enjoyed such a stretch of popularity.

As well, an average of more than three million people watched the four games on TSN each week, and 14 million — or 40% of the population — tuned in to last November’s Grey Cup game. 

Sports fans all over the country think watching the CFL is a cool thing to do. Those in the major cities can enjoy the experience in person. They have a team they can call their own. Those in Ottawa want and deserve that chance again, too.

Clearly, the monotonous balderdash coming from Clive Doucet and Alex Cullen is more about their  personal agendas than views shared by the majority. 

Canada’s game belongs in the nation’s capital. It’s up to council to make it happen. NOW.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos