CFL's worst nightmare

What impact will the Buffalo Bills have on the CFL in general, and the Argos in particular? (SUN...

What impact will the Buffalo Bills have on the CFL in general, and the Argos in particular? (SUN MEDIA/Stan Behal)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:10 PM ET

So much for the heady days of the CFL.

After a couple years without any fires to put out, marked by rising attendance and TV ratings, the party is over.

Alarm bells are ringing in Toronto, and this blaze might eventually make the previous ones look like a solitary candle on a birthday cake.

Five years from now, the Grey Cup will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Beyond that, pay your money and take your chances on the survival of the league and its championship game, as we know it.

Yesterday, the NFL's Buffalo Bills made it official: over the next five years, they'll play five regular season and three preseason games in Toronto on a "trial basis," as Bills owner Ralph Wilson said at a news conference in the Big Smoke.

"A dream come true for the city, the province and for southern Ontario," media mogul Ted Rogers called it.

And the CFL's worst nightmare.

The NFL has its foothold, now. And if you ask me, nothing is going to stop it from climbing right over the three-down game to set up permanent shop in the heart of Canada, gobbling up the lion's share of Toronto's sports marketing pie -- and leaving the CFL with the crumbs.

You can stick your head in the sand if you wish. Pretend it won't happen. Or convince yourself the two leagues can somehow coexist.

But if I were the people who run the three-down game, I'd be circling the wagons and getting into survival mode.

I get the feeling they're starting to.

First, Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young refused to be part of the Buffalo plan. Good for him. Showed more balls than the Argonauts owners have.

The Argos will try to attract new season ticket holders by giving them first rights to the NFL games. Talk about sleeping with the enemy.

To be fair, with the game in their backyard they had little choice but to swallow hard and make the most of it.

The rest of the league can only sit by and watch, biting its collective nails.

Tuesday, CFL governors held a conference call, from which Blue Bomber CEO Lyle Bauer emerged with equal parts resignation and determination.

"If people think you're going to be able to stop it, that just isn't going to happen in this day and age," Bauer said. "So the governors will work together with the commissioner to see what the best scenario is. Obviously, it would change the way we do business.

"But there's people that are very vocal about the protection of three-down football and the Canadian institution, and we're one of them. We'll do our speaking where it needs to be spoken, and not for media purposes."

Well, a little more screaming from the rooftop might not be a bad idea.

Seems to me we need more people like B.C. Lions president Bobby Ackles, who's been walking around with a sign that reads, "The End is Near."

Disregarding the possibility of being fined by CFL commissioner Mark Cohon, Ackles warns whoever will listen that the NFL's Toronto plan is the beginning of CFL armageddon: first the Argos and Ticats go, then the CFL's national TV deal. Eventually, death by financial starvation.

"I don't want to see us throw up our skirt -- how often do we do that in Canada?" Ackles said. "I'm not going to let it go. I'll keep trying."

Ackles, though, admits he's not sure what anyone can do.

If a Toronto billionaire wants to buy the Bills, who'll be available to the highest bidder upon the death of their 89-year-old owner, who's going to stop him?

Certainly not eight guys who run teams in Canada.

The only force powerful enough is the one that makes the laws in this country.

Yes, this may eventually come down to your local politician.

Now that's scary.


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