Renegades!Ottawa’s new CFL team is to be called the RedBlacks.

My first observation is how terrible we have become at naming teams. There’s really no excuse for it. At the college level a number of schools have had to find new mascots because the old ones were Indian-related. Those names have been utterly bland: Red Wolves, Warhawks, Mustangs, Warriors, etc. Warhawks is okay, but the rest stink (and Warhawks is like the Redhawks replacement that too many other Indian-mascotted teams chose. Schools, though, should work on having more unique mascots. Some of the newer schools do (Grand Canyon Aardvarks, UC-Irvine Anteaters, UTSA Roadrunners) At the professional level, there seems to be a choice between the bland (NFL, except the Ravens) or obnoxious (NBA, expansion before last).

So along those lines, hooray for Ottawa which chose a name that is (a) unique and (b) a plural noun. Even if I have no idea what a RedBlack is supposed to be. And think innercaps are stupid. And kind of wonder why they didn’t go with their previous franchise name.

Which brings me to the other question, which is why they’re putting a team back in Ottawa when they have twice failed there. I mean, two NFL teams have left Los Angeles but no doubt the NFL will land another team there again at some point, but that’s Los Angeles. Ottawa is Ottawa. The nation’s capital, with a population just shy of that of Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Birmingham, Alabama. Of course, this is the CFL where the population demands are less stringent. Regina has a population of Prescott, Arizona. Where? Exactly. Maybe you’ve heard of Idaho Falls, which is about in the same ballpark. No? Burlington, Vermont then. Presumably, the entire province of Saskatchewan has their back, though, so that’s a population of El Paso.

Canada is kind of weird.

My big question is why not expand into the markets in the United States. They tried that, though, and it was an abysmal failure. Even so, I wonder if they might reconsider with the following stipulations: Northern cities only[1], cities without any professional teams[2], and expand one at a time[3]. It seems possible that some northern cities might feel more a “part” of something called the Canadian Football League and be more likely to embrace that team. It would also keep travel expenses down and help keep east-west alignment rather than the creation of a “south” division. The second thing would be taking a page out of the NBA, which has had success with numerous franchises in towns where there is little competition.

In an age where cable networks are looking for content, I think there’s a decent chance that things could go better this time around.

The divisions within the CFL are a bit of an issue. One which having a team in Ottawa actually solves. With only eight teams, they have to have four teams in each division. That means separating Winnipeg and Saskatchewan who are rivals. Adding Ottawa means that Winnipeg can go back to the western division. Of course, that creates a bit of a problem for my designs on CFL expansion as a number of decent candidates are in the west.

Boise, Idaho is one of the first places I would look. Not only is there no professional team in Boise, there are not any nearby. The only two problems are that (a) Boise is in the west and (b) the Boise State Broncos.

Though Portland, Oregon breaks the “no other sports team” rule, it is nonetheless worth considering. Unlike Boise, there’s no significant college team in Portland. The primary competition would be the Ducks and Beavers of college ball.

Another consideration would be Spokane, Washington. Spokane roots for the Seahawks, but is a significant city in its own right. The only other issue (besides being in the west) is Washington State, which isn’t too far away. They presently have an Arena team, so you’d have to wait for that to pass before considering Spokane.

That’s the west. What’s available in the east?

The candidate that most comes to mind is Portland, Maine. No NFL team. Not even a college team. It’s Patriots Country, though. But they have never had a professional sports team of any sort. On the other hand, maybe there’s a reason for that.

Really, most of the other places in the east have serious NFL competition even if there is no team in their city. Grand Rapids has the Lions, Fort Wayne has the Colts. Milwaukee has the Packers (and an Arena team for now). Columbus has the Buckeyes. Des Moines has easy access to two college teams plus are a perpetual site for Arena League teams. Sioux Falls could be put in the east division, but is not much larger than Regina and is smaller than Halifax, the largest Canadian city without a team (other than Ottawa).

But between all of these options I would think that there would be a city or two that’s not too far removed from Canada. The attendance requirements in the CFL are not all that great. You only need about 30,000 people to show up, and you’re doing pretty well. And with TV content at a premium, I’d think that the money would be there for more teams and more games.

Unlike my other idea[4], I think it could be a financial winner.

[1] Previous CFL sites included Birmingham, Sacramento, Shreveport, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and Memphis.

[2] Of the above, half had teams in other leagues. Now it’s just Shreveport and Birmingham that don’t. Never, ever put a football team in Birmingham. The CFL is lucky it survived. Every other league that’s put a team in that city folded quickly. Why did the original Arena League last so long? They never put a team in Birmingham, that’s why.

[3] After early success in Sacramento, the CFL expanded everywhere at once.

[4] That would be dismantling the playoffs. Because playoffs ruin everything.

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11 Responses to American Football Internationale

  1. Peter says:

    How about New York City? No, it’s not a joke. Sure, there are two NFL teams, but the home games are always sold out. People who don’t have season tickets (for which there are multi-year waiting lists) can’t attend games without paying exorbitant fees to ticket brokers. There’s no college football closer than Rutgers and Army, both an inconvenient distance away. And it should go without saying that the huge population base should make it relatively easy to attract 30K people per game.

    • trumwill says:

      I had actually thought of New York! Actually, I’d thought of cities with teams that might prefer a more low-rent solution. And then I thought about New York what with both of its teams being in New Jersey.

      I left it off the list for one reason: The New York Sentinels failed.

    • Mike Hunt Rice says:

      The Giants no longer have a season-ticket waiting list. All season tickets are sold via PSL.

      Public transportation from NYC to Rutgers is excellent. People from NYC just don’t care about Rutgers. Hell, ESPN just turned down broadcasting College GameDay from Rutgers this week in exchange for broadcasting from North Dakota State.

      The CFL was also successful in Baltimore. I guess this gave Art Modell bright ideas, because the Ravens were soon “born”.

      As for putting a team in NYC, the NFL would put the kibosh on that right away. Also, there is nowhere good in the NYC DMA for a team to play. No one wants to drive out to Hofstra.

      I think you should look to major league cities that don’t currently host the NFL. Portland OR jumps out at me.

      The next tier could be AAA cities, such as Scranton.

      • trumwill says:

        The NFL teams have never been able to stop smaller league teams from popping up in New York, though.

        Portland, Oregon, is on the wrong side of the country. Portland, Maine isn’t, though.

  2. Did the CFL’s expansion in the US coincide with any degree of marketing or television exposure? What good is expanding if your only viewers are still Canadians? Digital cable and satellite packages now gives up multiple platforms for sports with more nationwide networks (NBC and Fox Sports 1), but I still question if Canadian football can work in the states. Hell, Canadians watch the NFL too…

    The nation’s capital, with a population just shy of that of Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Birmingham, Alabama.

    Ottawa is the fourth largest city (and metro area) by population in Canada, so why it may seem small to Americans, to Canadians, it’s a large city. Hell, even to some Europeans, it’s a large city.

    • trumwill says:

      The CFL season does have a head start on the NFL, so the season is well under way by the time the NFL season starts. They also play a lot of their games on weeknights where their only competition is typically non-premier college football.

  3. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Two offbeat comments.

    My college’s nickname is the Bulldogs. Boring, and one of the most common nicknames in college sports. For a short time we had a really fantastic sculpture of a yak in our student union, made by an alum out of scrap metal and wire. It was a really awesome yak, and I thought we should keep it around and rename our teams. Seriously, how many colleges are the Yaks? And those are some damn tough critters. But everyone looked at me like I was crazy.

    The CFL tried to expand into the U.S.? Man, I am continually amazed at how much I missed between ’88 and 2000, years in which I moved to San Francisco and for boring reasons hardly heard contemporary popular music or watched any TV for several years, then was furiously working and finishing my B.A., then went to grad school. I mean, there are just so many pop songs, television shows, and cultural events from my ’20s and ’30s that I still don’t know about that sometimes it’s a bit spooky.

    • trumwill says:

      None of my alma mater had interesting mascots (a popular cat, a popular bird, and a popular warrior). All have more than one FBS team with that name. There are four Bulldogs, by the way, surpassed only by Tigers, which there are five. I agree that Yaks would be a good mascot.

      Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette) used to be the Bulldogs. They changed it at some point, perhaps because Louisiana Tech was also the Bulldogs. Anyway, now they’re the Ragin’ Cajuns, which is one of the best team names in the South.

  4. Peter says:

    California-Irvine has the best college team nickname, the Anteaters. They don’t play football, however.

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