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The Bears' Next Opponent: The Toronto Williams?

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A look at how the Bills are drawing in Toronto, and a tongue-in-cheek a look at team names -- ferocious or not.

Toronto is a major North American city by any standard. Its skyline features the world's tallest free-standing structure, the CN Tower. In all the English-speaking world, only New York and London have larger theater districts. It's the home of the NBA Raptors and MLB Blue Jays. There's a beautiful downtown stadium, the Rogers Centre, with a fully retractable roof that is already set up to host football games; in addition to hosting the Blue Jays, it's home to the CFL Toronto Argonauts.

So why doesn't Toronto have its own NFL franchise?

It's not from lack of trying. Canadian communications giant Rogers is in the middle of a five-year, $78 million contract with the Bills to host one regular-season game each year, plus the occasional preseason game. The NFL sees the value of the market (outside of Los Angeles, it's the largest North American city without a team), and Toronto residents are happily joining in the week-long festival atmosphere, that Rogers is working tirelessly to promote. But in spite of all those efforts, ticket sales are still lagging; below face value tickets are readily available on the Internet. Since Rogers has promised the NFL a sellout, the company had to buy up remaining unsold tickets to avoid the embarrassment of having the game blacked out on its own local cable channels.

It's not for a lack of interest in football, either. The CFL is a thriving (albeit smaller market) league. It's popular enough that it's planning to add a franchise in Ottawa, the nation's capital, in the near future. And it's certainly not a disinterest in American football. Head west to Vancouver and you'll see plenty of people in Seahawks jerseys. In the east, in Newfoundland and New Brunswick (while Canadians call Newfoudlanders 'Newfies,' they don't term people from New Brunswick 'Newbies'), the Patriots have lots of fans. A lot of people in Ontario, Toronto's province, are fond enough of the NFL that they even follow the hapless Detroit Lions.

The economy is a contributing factor, naturally. Ticket prices are higher in Canada than in the U.S. And while Canada's economy is recovering a shade faster than the American one, it can still be hard to justify purchasing seats in the nose-bleed sections that start at $125, especially to cheer on the Bills.

The Bills are 0-7, and their season is all but over. To make things even worse, they've yet to win a regular-season game in Toronto; they're 0-2 at the Rogers Centre. Despite all the marketing and pre-game hoopla, the general response has been apathy. Even if Canadians were starving for their own NFL franchise, the Bills don't give you very much bang for your buck ... or in this case for your 'loonie,' the affectionate nickname Canadians give to their dollar coin, which pictures a Canadian loon on one side.

If this team were to make the move to Toronto, what would they call themselves? Buffalo Bills is a sad pun of a moniker, and obviously wouldn't travel very well. "Toronto Bills" would be even more nonsensical than the Jazz keeping its New Orleans name when they moved to very un-jazzy Salt Lake City. They would have to go the route of the Houston Oilers, who wisely renamed themselves the Titans when they pulled up stakes and headed to Tennessee.

The thing is, Canadians as a society are simply not very demonstrative. They have a sense of decorum... of politesse. Perhaps it's from remaining part of the British Commonwealth for so long. But perhaps not (there's that decorum again). It's possible Canada remains a part of the Commonwealth just to avoid making the Queen feel bad, as they tend to think she's a nice enough old gal.

But don't let their reticence fool you. Canadians are not weak. They live in a climate that can be especially harsh, with winters that range anywhere to from four months long to always, depending on how far North you live. Canadian soldiers are deployed around the world as the U.N.'s 'go-to guys' for peace keeping missions that are rarely very peaceful. The national sport is hockey, the only sport that incorporates fistfighting along with ice skating. And fans of the CFL find NFL rules like the 'fair catch' a little soft.

Canadians have even been known to have a riot once in awhile if the G-20 comes to town, or if their team does well in the playoffs (Montreal only).

So while Canadians are tough, you'd never know it looking at the names of sports teams north of the border. In the U.S. many teams have been named to suggest ferocity. With few exceptions (Cubs, Packers, Banana Slugs for example), the intent is to conjure up imagery either deadly (Diamondbacks, Sharks) or explosive (Jets, Supersonics). Those are names designed to intimidate.

In Canada, the names seem designed merely to identify. Some tend towards national pride: Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks. Even the name Toronto Maple Leafs is a nod towards love of flag and country, along with a reference to historical commerce. There are Flames and Oilers, Blue Jays and Rough Riders. Nothing too boastful.

The University of Ottawa named its teams after a Canadian political post, the Governor General -- for short, the Gee-Gee's. The sound of this team's name doesn't evoke notions of toughness as much as it does notions of Broadway musicals. As far as I know, their fight song is not 'Thank Heaven For Little Girls'.

The CFL has the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (often shortened to "Ti-Cats"), which would sound more dangerous if you left out the 'Cats' because aside from being another musical reference, cats are only scary to mice and people with sensitive noses. As it is, 'Giant Tiger', a national discount-store in Canada, has a fiercer name.

Toronto has the Raptors, a menacing-sounding name, but unless you're on Jurassic Park island, you're unlikely to be threatened by one these days.

So obviously a Toronto NFL franchise would be looking for a good, tough-sounding name. And being as courteous as they are, I'm sure Canadians would be open to hearing your suggestions.