Tough day for CFL supporters, this is.
How do they explain away the full house, or close to full house, at the Rogers Centre for the Bills and Redskins on Sunday, an enthusiastic full house, at that? Even if you accept the general wisdom that the house is papered, you still have to get the people to go, and there is no way on earth the Argonauts could ever dream of attracting an audience like that for a regular season match.
If you believe the customer is always right, and if you believe that the actual bodies in seats at Argo games have been dipping below five figures, then there's some rather direct messages being sent here.
One, the public doesn't like what the Argos are selling (who would?). Two, they will buy (at astronomical prices) tickets for a non-Toronto NFL team. Three, there's a larger football appetite in the city ready to be serviced if somebody - the CFL, the NFL, the Argos, the Bills - can figure a way to service it.
The Argos, ever since David Braley bought the team, have faded into near irrelevance. It's almost as if once it appeared the Bills in Toronto Series was unlikely to be a direct and damaging threat to the CFL in southern Ontario, the Argos stopped trying, or at least trying as hard as they had during the David Cynamon/Howard Sokolowski/Keith Pelley years.
That doesn't mean there isn't an appetite for the Argos out there., however. It was interesting that my 13-year-old son went with his friend to the game and had a blast. They found the whole NFL atmosphere in a packed stadium thrilling. But what souvenir did they buy and bring home? Argo caps. I'm not precisely sure what that means, other than predicting the consumer habits of 13-year-old boys is pointless, but it suggests they haven't ruled out in their minds the possibility that the Argos and CFL might be a product that interests them.
So again, there's an appetite for football out there in the GTA. On Sunday, it was fed by the NFL and the Bills. Theoretically, the Argos could do the same, or something similar, but they would have to work a lot harder to make it happen, certainly a lot harder than they're working now.
A great deal of faith seems to have been placed in the notion that the 100th Grey Cup game in Toronto next season will heal all wounds, or at least make Toronto CFL-centric long enough for Braley to cash in on the big game for a second straight year. And maybe the 2012 Grey Cup will be a huge success.
Next year, however, it will be juxtaposed more directly with the final game of the Bills in Toronto Series. That's a comparison the CFL will want to ensure shines a favourable light on its product or the football market in these parts could change for good.